An aspect of being a Christian that can be frustrating is changing one’s own behavior. There is a certain sting that accompanies the reminder that Christians should not act improperly or like worldly people act. As a teenager I had a couple of buddies from church that spent a great amount of time together. One summer night we were walking around town after curfew and I came up with an idea. First we found a car with the doors unlocked. Then we locked all the doors and placed a stick between the driver seat and the horn and shut the door. Then we ran to a safe hiding place to watch the commotion. At the time this was very funny to us but the next day we realized it was inappropriate behavior. We did not know the target and had no intention of creating harm. I would like to say that was the only stupid prank we pulled but that would be untruthful. In fact that was not the only ill-conceived idea that week. Memories of my younger years are filled with reckless behavior all in the name of fun, usually beginning with the words “I have an idea.” It was by God’s grace no serious injuries occurred. As I reflect back on life it is easy to see times that others followed my lead. I can honestly say it was not always negative influence.
Most of us are in a leader role either by vocation, as a parent, or a group activity. At some point in time most everyone has an influence on others. How a person leads is a direct reflection of what that person believes. Within religious activity is the desire for behavior modification. My youthful years were spent in a state of mental conflict between personal and spiritual desire. The problem was my core values were centered on momentary gratification. I wanted to act the way my pastor said a Christian should act but my desire to push the limits of authority were stronger than the desire to change. It was very fortunate that the fear of going to jail was stronger than my desire to achieve the next thrill. In retrospect it’s easy to see how some core values created boundaries. Some unchanging personal rules are preserve human life, do not harm other people’s property, and do not take what belongs to others. In the times we spent walking around after curfew it never came up in conversation or action to vandalize or steal. The car horn incident was the closest to an act of intentional vandalism. As I have become more mature, at least spiritually, my values have changed. Pushing personal limits will always be a part of who I am, but now the focus is more on God’s plan for my life.
In his book ‘Leadership Prayers’ author Richard Kriegbaum makes the following observation: Values control behavior. We act on the basis of what we believe really matters, what is right and good. Whoever influences the core values in a group is, in fact, the leader. That process must begin with the values God instills in the leader.
No person has the ability to change their behavior without changing what they believe. Without Christ in my life and the Holy Spirit to guide me it would not be possible to escape personal desire. The battle between flesh and spirit is as old as humanity. King David wrote a psalm of penitence after being confronted by a prophet about a moral failing. One verse of that prayer is Psalm 51:10; Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a right spirit within me. This should be the prayer of all of us who are in a position of leadership or influence.
Rev. Burt Schwab