As Christians, we're called to be salt and light. This means that we're preserving the culture as we illuminate the gospel. But how do we do that? How can we be an influence that brings the best out of the people around us and makes it easier for them to discover and follow Jesus?
In his first letter to the church at Corinth, Paul says, "Do not be misled: 'Bad company corrupts good character'" (1 Corinthians 15:33). If he's right, then the opposite should also be true. Good company builds up good character!
Here are four suggestions that will help you inspire goodness in others.
1. Show and tell
The gospel is a story that must be told. Paul tells us that, "faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ" (Romans 10:17). For people to come to faith in Jesus, we need to tell them about Jesus.
But they also need to see the fruit of the gospel at work in our lives. When we exhibit integrity in the midst of temptation, kindness in response to abuse, and forgiveness in return for harm, we demonstrate the transformative power of salvation. We tell the world around us, "The gospel isn't just something I believe. It's something that's changing me from the inside out."
This doesn't mean that we need to be perfect all the time, but we do need to be aware that people are taking their cue from us. When they see how serious we are about our faith and how it impacts every area of our lives, they're more apt to take it seriously themselves.
2. Demonstrate vulnerability and honest reflection
Throughout Scripture, we're told that God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble (Proverbs 3:34, 11:2, Isaiah 2:12, James 4:10). We need to fight the urge to pretend we’re holier than we are or that we've got it more together than everyone else.
When we stumble—and we will—we need to own it, confess, and move forward. We shouldn't point the finger or gloss over our mistakes. It's so rare to see people take responsibility for their missteps that when it actually happens, people are pleasantly surprised.
James tells us that we are to "confess our sins to one another and pray for each other so you may be healed" (James 5:16). The idea that sharing my faults with others can bring healing is counter-cultural. It needs to be seen to be believed. We should strive to exhibit that level of vulnerability.
3. Maintain a positive attitude
We live in a pretty negative world. If we focus on all that's wrong, it’s easy to become disheartened and pessimistic. In fact, Jesus warns about the last days saying, "Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold" (Matthew 24:12). This doesn't mean that people's wickedness would make them incapable of love. He means that in response to the world's inequity, people would respond by closing their hearts.
But our attitude about life demonstrates where we've placed our trust. We don't have to look at the world as people without hope. On the contrary, Paul says that God has blessed us "in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ" (Ephesians 1:3b).
We should follow Paul's admonition: "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things" (Philippians 4:8). This is how we maintain our perspective in a world surrounded by so much negativity. And our attitude will have a significant impact on others in our lives.
4. Defend others
One essential truth of the gospel is that everyone is valuable and worth the sacrifice Jesus paid for them. When we begin to see others through this lens, people notice.
If they're not careful, it's easy for Christians to fall into gossiping, backbiting, and negative criticism. What we fail to realize is that how we treat each other communicates something important about our faith. Jesus said it this way, "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:35).
When we avoid gossiping about others and are quick to defend them, we're telling the people around us that we're safe to confide in and trustworthy. By choosing to build people up instead of tearing them down, we encourage the same behavior from others.
The key to being a good influence
If we want to encourage and influence others, we’ll also need people who can mentor and guide us. We should keep our eyes peeled for people who exude characteristics we want to see more of in our own lives. When we find them, we should do what we can to spend time with them and soak up their example.
The Christian life is both caught and taught. We need good solid teaching, but we also need mentors who will model the Christian life. This is why Paul tells the Corinthians, "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1).
We need to seek out mature believers who will demonstrate what following Jesus looks like, and then we need to model that behavior to those around us. The better we get at this, the more we’ll become salt and light.
If you are interested in learning how to further influence someone personally, consider discipling them. Begin by reading, "Discipleship Making 101: Begin with the End in Mind."