The Law of Influence By Association first hit me in an uncomfortable way when I saw something that initially looked cute. It was when my firstborn as a toddler face-palmed and let out an exasperated sigh to show his disappointment at something rather trivial. Cute pretty soon turned to disturbing when I realised where he had learned this mannerism!
¶ Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.
THE EFFECT OF ASSOCIATING
Spend enough time with someone whom you enjoy being with and you're likely to be influenced by them. We have some delightful nextdoor neighbours who happen to have children about the same age as our youngest child. They come over to play very regularly. Lately I've been noticing that our Ruby has changed the way she now speaks. She is imitating the way the older of the two girls speaks (which is fortunately very cultured and proper).
I urge you, then, nbe imitators of me.
First Corinthians 4:16
It was said of the first disciples that the people could tell 'they had been with Jesus'. It was evident in the way they spoke, they way they reasoned, they they treated people, and from their depth of their knowledge of the Scriptures.
¶ Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.
How would we be different from how we are now if we spent more time in the presence of Jesus? What if I could take you back to the time of Christ in the flesh on earth for just one day in which you could just watch Him, listen to Him, see Him talk to women, children, and the elderly - would that day make any difference to the rest of your days?
When the great Medical Missionary, David Livingstone, set off to explore the "Dark Continent" of Africa with two express aims of stopping the Slave Trade and discovering the source of the Nile, his colleagues at the Royal Geographical Society, in London, feared the worst when Livingstone (who had been appointed as the Queen's Consul For The East Coast of Africa) because by around 1870 he had not been heard from or sighted for quite some time. A New York Herald reporter, Henry Morton Stanley (pictured right), was told to go find Livingstone who had by this become internationally famous as an explorer. As Stanley made his way into the interior of Africa, the evidence of Livingstone's past activities were undeniable. Whole villages had been won to Christ at his preaching and hymns of the Church of Scotland were being heard sung around the camps in the dialects of the tribes-people.
Livingstone had long suffered the lingering effects of malaria. He had just exhausted his scant supplies of precious medicine to combat this dreaded virus. By the time Stanley eventually tracked him down, Livingstone had been urgently praying for a miracle. His prayers would soon be answered when Stanley and his expedition approached the village of Ujiji on the shore of Lake Tanganyika on November 10, 1871:
"We push on rapidly. We halt at a little brook, then ascend the long slope of a naked ridge, the very last of the myriads we have crossed. We arrive at the summit, travel across, and arrive at its western rim, and Ujiji is below us, embowered in the palms, only five hundred yards from us! At this grand moment we do not think of the hundreds of miles we have marched, of the hundreds of hills that we have ascended and descended, of the many forests we have traversed, of the jungles and thickets that annoyed us, of the fervid salt plains that blistered our feet, of the hot suns that scorched us, nor the dangers and difficulties now happily surmounted. Our hearts and our feelings are with our eyes, as we peer into the palms and try to make out in which hut or house lives the white man with the gray beard we heard about on the Malagarazi.
We are now about three hundred yards from the village of Ujiji, and the crowds are dense about me. Suddenly I hear a voice on my right say, 'Good morning, sir!'
Startled at hearing this greeting in the midst of such a crowd of black people, I turn sharply around in search of the man, and see him at my side, with the blackest of faces, but animated and joyous, - a man dressed in a long white shirt, with a turban of American sheeting around his woolly head, and I ask, 'Who the mischief are you?'
'I am Susi, the servant of Dr. Livingstone,' said he, smiling, and showing a gleaming row of teeth.
'What! Is Dr. Livingstone here?'
Stanley's Route 'In this village?'
'Yes, Sir' 'Are you sure?'
'Sure, sure, Sir. Why, I leave him just now.'
In the meantime the head of the expedition had halted, and Selim said to me: 'I see the Doctor, Sir. Oh, what an old man! He has got a white beard.' My heart beats fast, but I must not let my face betray my emotions, lest it shall detract from the dignity of a white man appearing under such extraordinary circumstances.
So I did that which I thought was most dignified. I pushed back the crowds, and, passing from the rear, walked down a living avenue of people until I came in front of the semicircle of Arabs, in the front of which stood the white man with the gray beard. As I advanced slowly toward him I noticed he was pale, looked wearied, had a gray beard, wore a bluish cap with a faded gold band round it, had on a red-sleeved waistcoat and a pair of gray tweed trousers. I would have run to him, only I was a coward in the presence of such a mob, - would have embraced him, only, he being an Englishman, I did not know how he would receive me; so I did what cowardice and false pride suggested was the best thing, - walked deliberately to him, took off my hat, and said, 'Dr. Livingstone, I presume?'."
Henry Morton Stanley, "How I Found Livingstone", The New York Herald, 1872
YOU'VE BEEN WITH HIM!
Stanley took copies of Livingstone's maps with him to England before returning to the United States. Presenting them to the Royal Geographic Society, he was accused of fraud and having fabricated his supposed encounters with Dr Livingstone. Dejected by their response, he was met by Livingstone's daughter who had travelled down to London to meet him before he left. As they talked and he retold her of his accounts of meeting her father she looked him in the eye and said, "I believe you. I believe that you have indeed met with my father!" She went on to explain that she could see some of her father's mannerisms in Stanley and hear some of his expressions in his voice. Influence by association.
¶ Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel,"
Second Timothy 2:8
Paul told Timothy not to forget Jesus. "Remember Jesus!" I guess this involves thinking about how Christ is revealed in the Scriptures. It is here that we meet Jesus. It is here that we get a front row position to watch how He treats the outcast, the despised, the religious, women, children, and His disciples. It is here we get to hear Him pray. It is hear we watch Him when He is alone. We see how He looks at people.
And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me."
When we remember Jesus we are struck by Someone who literally had the weight of the world's sin on His shoulders. He knew He was born to die. Yet He still cared for others. In this, He establishes the preeminent example of godly maturity. The thing that sets the mature apart from the spiritually weak is their ability to demonstrate compassion, care, and concern for others with their relatively small problems, when they themselves are having to deal with seemingly all-consuming problems. When you see Jesus doing this time and time again - and especially doing it as He came closer and closer to the time of His execution, you can't help but be impressed!
It's a challenge to remember Jesus when we are under pressure - when we are absorbed by our difficulties - and someone is telling us about the pressure they are under from what sounds almost trivial in comparison.
When we remember Jesus we recall that He showed care when He didn't have to and could have easily been excused for not doing so. Who can forget what He did for Malchus (Jn. 18:10) in the Garden of Gethsemane? If you look closely at Jesus you can't look at others the same again. As you remember Jesus, ask Him to help you to see people as He sees them. You'll be amazed at what will happen in your own heart when you do. And maybe The Example might use you as an example because the world desperately needs examples of those who have truly been with Christ.
They said to him, "Lord, let our eyes be opened."