Unfortunately for folks in southwestern Colorado and several surrounding states, it’s more than a matter of staying out of the Los Animas River. Due to a mishap by some federally-supervised workers in which there was a blowout in the Gold King Mine in the mountains above Silverton, millions of gallons of toxins that include mercury and arsenic are in downstream water supplies. It has contaminated domestic wells and endangered fish and livestock. It has negatively impacted tourist industries that rely on customers who raft, canoe, and fish in the river. It has impacted irrigation and city water intake facilities. All from a single incident in a mine hundreds of miles away from some of the affected areas.
Who knows how this will ultimately be resolved, but a lot of people and money will be thrown at the matter until it is finally resolved. A problem that started in a relatively small, remote area has finally become a national story. As the river continues to flow, the troubles continue to compound.
Have you considered the power of your influence? A single conversation, an impulsive act in a moment’s time, or a thought unchecked and fed all can lead to outcomes that spill into a lot of lives and potentially do damage that could not be anticipated. David learned this (2 Sam. 11:1-2). The young lads from Bethel learned this (2 Ki. 2:23-24). Judas learned this (Mat. 26:15). So many others in Scripture, from thoughts to words to deeds, learned of the destructive power of negative spiritual influence. It can cause spiritual babes to stumble (Mat. 18:6), the offender to stumble (Mat. 18:8), the world to blaspheme (2 Sam. 12:14), and so much more. No amount of remorse, regret, and retreat can undo the toxic damage it does.
If you find yourself in the “clean up” stage, realize that with time and effort you can work to counteract the impact of poor influence. There may be lingering consequences, but you can mitigate that through genuine repentance. It doesn’t have to end catastrophically, as it did for Judas. It can end triumphantly, as it did for Peter.
Keep in mind, too, that positive influence works the same way (Mat. 13:33). A kind, righteous thought, word, or deed can trigger a powerful effect that leads the lost to be saved and those on the broad way to turn onto the narrow way. You may never know it in this life or see the end result of it in your lifetime. May the great power of our influence drive us to our knees and fill our thoughts with how we may use our lives to bless and help the lives of others, knowing that, for good or bad, our lives touch way more lives than we think.