Your sphere of influence
by Mac McPhail Contributing columnist
“What are we going to do, Andy?”
If you are a fan of “The Andy Griffith Show,” I’m sure you’ve heard that said to Sheriff Andy Taylor many times. If you’re not, you are probably a Yankee just passing thru. Because if you are from this area, and are of a certain age, you were raised on watching the “Andy Griffith Show,” either when it was originally broadcast, or in reruns. You know all about Andy, Barney, Aunt Bee, little Opie and the rest of the Mayberry gang.
This summer, our church once again had a Wednesday night class based on the show and its moral values. I enjoy leading (Sorry, the correct church word is now “facilitating.”) the class, which finished up last week. There were good moral lessons in each episode and, of course, each episode was a lot of fun. One thing that was good about leading, I mean, facilitating, the class was that I got to pick out the episodes. That means no color episodes, only the black and white ones from the earlier years, when Barney was around.
Since the television show was named “The Andy Griffith Show,” obviously Sheriff Andy Taylor was its central character. In nearly every episode, when a situation came up, Andy was there to help solve the problem. It might be Barney being threatened by an escaped prisoner. Or it could be Andy’s little son, Opie, having to face a bully. Or maybe the Mayberry town council was in a jam. (Not a pickle, like Aunt Bee’s “kerosene” pickles.) Whatever the problem, whatever the situation, Andy was the one they all went to for help and advice. There may not have been many people outside of Mayberry who knew Andy Taylor. But in that small town, Andy was needed, Andy was listened to, and Andy had influence. Mayberry was Andy’s “sphere of influence.”
You may not believe it, but you also have a sphere of influence. Like Barney, it may be that co-worker you’re around every day. Like Opie, it may be that little child in your home, or that grandchild that you see all the time. Or like the town council, it may be people you see in your day to day life, maybe at church, at community gatherings, or just the people you meet on the street or in your neighborhood. The amount of influence, and whether it is positive or negative, depends on you.
There are forces trying to influence you and the rest of us everyday. Companies pay advertising agencies millions of dollars inorder to influence you to buy their product. Politicians also pay consultants to design campaigns to persuade you to vote for them. Whether the product is good or bad, whether the politician is capable or inept, they have the same intention. Their goal is to influence you to choose them.
But the negative influence that our culture is having on the world around us has much more serious consequences. I could name the things that we see that are unraveling the world around us, but you already know them. We see it and say, “What is this world coming to?” But the better question is, “What am I going to do about it?”
The New Living Translation of Jeremiah 15:19 in the Bible states, “You are to influence them, do not let them influence you!” That is more than just avoiding letting ourselves get caught up in the negative things that this culture promotes. It means that we are to be actively involved in promoting those things that positively influence the lives of those in our sphere of influence. And sometimes that’s not the easiest thing to do.
Back in the world of Mayberry, I’m sure there were times that Andy thought, “I’ve had it with you people. Leave me alone. It’s not my job to try to keep you folks straight.” But he didn’t. “The Andy Griffith Show” was just a TV show. Every episode always had a happy ending. In the world you and I live, there are no guaranteed happy endings. And there seem to be less and less happy endings these days because of the negative influence of the culture around us. It’s easy to become discouraged and retreat. But instead, we need to be more determined than ever to have a positive effect on the sphere of influence to those around us. And whenever possible, make that sphere even larger.
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