Standing for something, something real
Authors note: I'm a philosophical novice and therefore light in discussing some of the deeper things, like the nature of competing worldviews. Yes, I'm aware that you can Google this topic and access 2.95 million possible reference sites in just one second. Having done so I'm still a product of being raised by Esther and The Chester, being educated in a conservative military environment, receiving two advanced degrees in Christian religious education, and serving for thirty five years as pastor of four wonderful Baptist congregations. So, when I talk about values, please know that my orientation is a biblical Christian worldview and my sense of values is grounded in Scripture. One day a friend sent me a note about my blog and accused me of stating that people who are not Christians do not have values. This, of course, is not true. Everyone has values. In the instance of talking influence, my basic bent is naturally toward the Christian worldview. But, yes, non-Christians can certainly have values and are often people of great influence. Oliver Wendell Holmes, the noted jurist was a Darwinian atheist. Mahatma Gandhi was a venerated Hindu. Winston Churchill wasn't an active Christian but affirmed some affinity for Christian values. And, the list goes on. Still, when mentioning values in the life of influential people, I lean toward a biblical worldview.
By values, I mean the basic core beliefs that are the filter for human thought and behavior. They're the principles or standards that guide our lives. Some people refer to our values as our life compass, the direction pointer that overlays our decisions and choices, the boundaries of this life. It is my contention that truly influential people are typically people with values, defining notions about the meaning of their lives. Others are influenced by them because they buy into their values.
Let me get this out of the way. Some will argue that values are the first spark of genuine
influence and not seconded to humility. In my opinion, humility is first because Jesus
said that self denial was the first step of following him (see Luke 9:23). But, there's an
additional layer in the matter of sparking our personal influence. You see, values are the
hand that we can reach out to others. With humility that hand is one of Gospel
compassion, truth spoken with love, kindness, Good News offered with peace and hope,
even when given with conviction and power. Without humility, these values are often a
fist. So, in my experience, and in what is consistent with Scripture, humility is the first
spark of influence, and values are the second.
Someone has said that influence in the exhalation of character. And, of course, character is a product of our values. Humans, as they say, must stand for something, or they will, in fact, fall for anything. It's more than a cheap cliche too. It is why values are so significant in the influence of others. Christian values are are derived from God's perfect word and validated in the teachings and life of Jesus. He said these values are like building a house on a rock, an abode that cannot be swept away by the currents or tides of the times (see Luke 6:46-49). In this instance the word of Christ provides another basic truth about values and influence---
1. Our values are validated by our lives.
Jesus wanted to know why they didn't do what they said. They called him
"Lord, Lord" but didn't obey him. So, he was emphasizing that our influence is
conditioned by how our words and actions resonate.
2. Our values must be unambiguous.
When the controversy about glossolalia divided the church at Corinth the
Apostle Paul advised them to be clear in their language and speech of worship.
He wrote, "And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for
battle?" (1 Corinthians 14:8). It may be a stretch, but this verse offers guidance
for how we present ourselves to an unbelieving world. If we are to influence
that world, we must clearly articulate the basis of our beliefs. Our values must
be clearly stated.
3. Our values must reflect what pleases God.
Once again, the Apostle Paul has written to the churches about the temptation
to please men rather than God. in his letter to the church at Galatia he wrote,
"For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please
man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ"
(Galatians 1:10). There is a constant temptation to shape our values by what
is popular in culture rather than what pleases God.
4. Our values must not be spoken in harsh or angry language.
There's a good bit of Scriptural guidance about speaking the truth of the
Kingdom to the world around us. Paul wrote, "Rather, speaking the truth in
love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ"
(Ephesians 4:15). He also wrote, "Let your speech always be gracious,
seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each
person" (Colossians 4:6). This doesn't translate to our ignoring the
responsibility to speak truth to this world. Hey, the Gospel is already an
offense, or scandalon, to the world system. We don't have to extend a fist to
make it more so. I've known influential people who could tell me the heart-
wrenching truth and I would hug and thank them when it was done. They
spoke with grace.
5. Our values must be consistent.
God doesn't change (see Numbers 23:19; Malachi 3:6). Neither does his word
(ses Isaiah 40:8 and Matthew 5:18). Believers are learning and growing into his
likeness with ever increasing glory (see 2 Corinthians 3:18). This means that
our values do escalate with our growth and discipleship. But, our values are
consistently his. They cannot be shifting with the wind if we are to influence
the world around us.
Ours is suddenly a values starved world. Look at the political candidates for a fresh reminder of the emptiness of the moral compass so prevalent today. But, people with values can strongly influence others. We must stand for something, something real, in order to shine brightly.