A few years ago in Roanoke, Virginia, I heard a local news report about the struggles of a local eating establishment. Apparently, some patrons saw mice scurrying around the restaurant in Ratatouille fashion. Health inspectors condemned the eatery, but soon cleared it to reopen. Strangely, the patrons were not flocking back to dine there. Go figure. The owner was interviewed, reassuring the TV audience that it was as safe and clean a place as could be in which to eat. He likened it to what happens in the wake of an airplane crash. People stop flying that carrier, though inspections and safety procedures done internally after the crash actually increases safety. That could be, I guess. But, I didn’t blame Mr. and Mrs. Consumer. Rats on the floor and downed airliners get your attention. You tend to remember the details.
Consider a few names: Woody Hayes, Gary Hart, John Rocker, Steve Bartman. Milli Vanilli, Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder, George Custer, Mark Sanford, and Dan Quayle (and his “potatoe” spelling feat). All of these folks except Custer lived beyond their infamous moments, but they are best known for their moment of notoriety. They may have tried to “exterminate the rats” and “inspect the fleet,” but it did not matter. They neutralized their influence and in some cases polarized themselves through their comments or actions. In most cases, these individuals are associated with some gaffe, misbehavior, or foolish choice.
We may not be able to foresee the consequences of our actions when we do them, nor can we choose what the consequences will be. In dimmer spotlights, average people have harmed their influence for Christ through a few moments of intemperance, dishonesty, rashness, volatility, immorality, or thoughtlessness. A careless word may permanently alienate us from another. A moment of indiscretion can cling to us throughout the rest of our lives. An expression of outrage toward a clerk, store employee, or like professional may keep a soul from Calvary. May we never lose sight of the power of our influence. It is powerful, but fragile. It is eternal, but that can be good or bad depending on how we use it. If we lose our handle on it, it will drop and shatter. We can try to clean up, but the stains and remnants may still be visible. Let us cherish a good name and maintain proper influence. Without them, we make our job as Christians very difficult.