Psalm 69:6 May those who hope in you
not be disgraced because of me,
O Lord, the Lord Almighty;
may those who seek you
not be put to shame because of me,
O God of Israel.
This needs to be a regular part of the prayers of any church leader, but it unfortunately doesn’t seem to be for too many. As John Donne wrote way back in 1624, no man is an island; what we do always involves and impacts others, whether we realize it or not. David had experienced the reality of this many times himself. The fact that he prayed this doesn’t mean he always lived it out! He certainly wasn’t thinking of anyone but himself when he spotted Bathsheba and called her to him! Generally, the more visible a person is, the greater their influence, but even the most anonymous person impacts those they encounter. Looking at it negatively, if we fail to fulfill the purposes for which we were created, we are depriving others of blessing that God has intended. That’s why the New Testament speaks so frequently of our being parts of the Body of Christ, with Paul explaining that metaphor in some detail in 1 Corinthians 12 and elsewhere. We don’t think about how the different parts of our physical bodies affect each other, but injury or disease point it out to us very strongly! Different cultures place different emphasis on this, with American culture tending to the individualistic and Japanese culture tending to the group, but ultimately, each individual is personally accountable to God for their actions, which certainly includes how they impact the group. Americans need to realize they aren’t as independent as they like to think, and Japanese need to realize that going with the group doesn’t absolve them of individual responsibility.
Growing up as an American in Japan, attending a US Air Force dependents school while being in Japanese society otherwise, I probably have been more aware of this issue than many are. However, I have made countless self-centered, selfish decisions in spite of that. Having been a school teacher and pastor for the past 40 years, it’s been my job to influence people! On top of that, as a Caucasian in Japan, I have been very visible all my life. Anonymity has never been an option, as has been driven home in the multiple times I have overheard a total stranger telling someone else all about me! I can’t escape influencing others, so I need to be humble before God, praying this prayer from my heart, so that God alone may be glorified.
Father, thank You for this reminder. I pray that my influence would indeed draw people to You, and in no way drive them away or give them an excuse to despise You or Your children. Thank You. Praise God!