The Fragile and Sometimes Fleeting Power of Influence

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil~ Ephesians 5:15-16

 Unless you have spent the last week on another planet, you have likely heard that Josh Duggar reality television star and former spokesman for the Family Research Council has confessed to something that is best defined as serial infidelity.

 Mr. Duggar was forced to own up to his actions when a security breach revealed he was a longtime member of the website Ashley Madison. Ashley Madison is a business created for the singular and skeezy purpose of facilitating adulterous affairs. The hacker is believed by many to be a bitter spouse whose assumed domestic tranquility was shattered by Ashley Madison. I was reminded as this little narrative unfolded that God is still in the business of seeing to it that folks reap what they sow.

 My initial response to the scandal was sorrow. I was heartbroken to learn that yet another high-profile Christian leader was caught living a life of almost absurd duplicity. Adultery is a terrible sin. Signing up for membership with a website that exists for the purpose of helping people commit adultery is the most inexcusable form of premeditated sin there is. Josh Duggar compounded his many sins by falsely presenting himself to the world as a paragon of Christian virtue and an authority on traditional family values while sleeping with strangers.

 This is a tragic situation. I do not know, nor am I fit to judge the state of Josh Duggar’s heart or the condition of his soul. I refuse to go there.

 What I do know is that that Josh Duggar was blessed with an abundance of the most valuable gift any Christian can be given: influence. He squandered his influence in a series of astonishingly bad choices that has wrecked devastation in some obvious and not so obvious ways.  

 There are countless victims caught in this foul mess. My heart goes out to his wife. That poor woman is caught in the unenviable position of having no really great choices at this point. Whatever she chooses to do will be tough and painful. It will also be judged as incorrect by a whole lot of people who have never walked in her shoes.

 Then there are his Mom and Dad. Whatever missteps they may have made as parents, no one really deserves the level of parental humiliation they are experiencing. The folks at Family Research Council have their own set of issues thanks to Josh Duggar. They gave a kid a job and now they are left to dig themselves out of what can only be described as a public relations nightmare.

 Then there are the not-so-innocent victims in this mess. It is difficult to muster compassion for the women Josh Duggar had sex with. Nonetheless, they are human beings made in the image of God with eternal souls. It is unlikely any of those women will repent and turn to Jesus after one of God’s spokespersons behaved in such a hypocritical and ungentlemanly fashion.

 Perhaps the most hapless victim in this whole ugly mess is the average Christian who is just doing his or her level best to serve God, bless others and live a righteous life. Being salt and light in this world just got a whole lot harder for these folks. All thanks to the actions of one person.

 The Bible depicts Christians as a body (1st Corinthians 12:27). This means that essentially Christians of all types are a single unit made up of many parts (people). Because Christians are, for all intents and purposes, a single entity, when one Christian sins it makes all Christians look bad. Christians look really bad right now.

 Sadly, Josh Duggar is not the first believer in recent years to fail morally. He is one of many on a long list of Christians whose behavior has reflected badly on Jesus and other Christians. I do not know what specifics led to Josh Duggar’s downfall. His upbringing, easy access to pornography, the declining culture and lack of personal accountability have all been mentioned as possible contributors.

 I suspect the real issue is twofold. First, he got into the in the routine of concentrating most of his spiritual attention on outward appearances and behaviors rather than inward thoughts and attitudes (Matthew 23:25). It is also possible that Josh Duggar bought into the popular but erroneous notion that because God forgives sin, sin is without actual consequences for a Christian.

 Few are blessed with the kind of opportunities to impact the world that Josh Duggar was given. However, every Christian has spiritual influence over someone. We can lose that influence in the span of one bad choice when we forget that one consequence of sin is loss of positive influence. If we want to keep our influence, we have to be willing to give us much attention to inner thoughts and attitudes as we do to outward appearances, and have the guts to tell ourselves “no” sometimes.














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