Every person should have a circle of close friends. Our pastor talked about the circles of influence in our lives two Sundays ago. Our small group also was studying and discussing this. I found it challenging to place people in those circles of influence. Of course, God is in the very center. Jesus set a perfect example in His circles of influence.
Influence goes both ways. Where those people lay in my circles are influenced by me, and also have an influence on me. I’ve been thinking and praying on this recently and God has been revealing things about myself in the process.
Last Sunday he spoke about the acronym H.W.L.F. I had no idea what those letters stood for, though I did know W.W.J.D. Turns out H.W.L.F. is the answer to W.W.J.D (what would Jesus do?) Answer: He would love first. What stood out to me in this sermon was love and acceptance are not equal. Loving is often wrongly equated with blanket acceptance.
I began thinking about loving first and the people in my circles, wondering how often I accept people into my circle even if they have beliefs not in line with mine because I care about them. In doing so, how much influence are they having on me? I know this happens because sometimes my thoughts will lean toward acceptance when I know it is wrong. These are the people I need to move into other circles in my life. As I understand this, people might need to move into different circles during my lifetime. This is difficult for me. How do my circles look right now? Are there changes I need to make?
If you don’t know what these circles are, picture a bullseye target like used in archery or darts. The bullseye (inner circle) should be God. The next circle is the inner circle and consists of only a small number. Jesus had Peter, James and John. These He confided in and were the ones with Him in His darkest moment. Next Jesus had the 12 apostles. This circle might contain closest friends and family. The next circle for Jesus contained the 72 disciples He sent ahead of Him by pairs into the towns He was going to visit. This circle represents 72 people in our life: friends, family, coworkers and so on. The final and largest circle might contain 500 people, like social media followers, acquaintances, extended family, store clerks, and so on.
Sometimes I tend to take things too literal. Defining the circles of influence in my life is a harrowing process because there are so many people in my life I love! Isn’t this what we are to do? To love God and to love our neighbors? Loving first is a challenge when it comes to our enemies. Loving without expecting anything in return is even more difficult. Just when I think I’m becoming more like Jesus, God reminds me how much I still have to learn.