“For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray” (Galatians 2:12-13 NIV).
One of the uncomfortable realities of life often involves the decisions we make when we allow others to set our standards. Those decisions may sometimes lead us to make unwise choices or do something inappropriate simply because “everyone else is doing it.” For this reason, its important to recognize a distinguishing feature that characterizes many types of human interaction: either we are influencing others or they are influencing us.
For instance, there are some who enjoy a huge circle of influence by virtue of their creative talents. That group would include many prominent authors, musicians, and filmmakers, among others. These individuals possess the ability to influence millions as they communicate their beliefs through books, concerts, movies, videos, or downloads.
But it isn’t necessary to be famous to impact others in this manner. You see, everyone has a circle of influence, even if it is only among a small group of friends or acquaintances. For example, our circle of influence might include a group of classmates or co-workers. It may include a wife, a husband, a child, a teammate, or a family member. In today’s era of high speed internet access, our influence might extend well beyond traditional geographic boundaries to include thousands (or even millions) of others.
The point is that everyone has the potential to be a peer leader within his or her circle of influence. That influence (however small) can be used to impact others and set the right example to follow. Unfortunately, Galatians 2:12-13 tells us that Peter the Apostle allowed an outside group to influence him into a decision that didn’t honor God. Thus, Peter set the wrong example in this area and his decision subsequently impacted others who “…became hypocrites along with him” (CJB).
While others may not choose to follow our example, we should prayerfully seek to be the kind of people who set a God-honoring standard in our relationships with others. We can find a good strategy to set that kind of standard in the New Testament book of 1 Corinthians: “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).