By DANNY MINTON
January 30, 1933, is a date very few of us have in our list of dates to remember. However, of all the dates in the 20th century, that day would stand out as a day that changed the world. On that day, an unlikely candidate became chosen as chancellor of Germany. Even though the date may not come to mind, the name, Adolf Hitler, remains forever in the minds of history.
Adolf did not want to go into civil service in Germany like his father but wanted to be a painter. When his father died, he began to develop his skills. When his mother passed, Adolf moved to Vienna at 19 and painted landscapes to sell. Hitler, a highly decorated World War I soldier, served as a volunteer reserve infantryman in Belgium. After the war, he joined a propaganda effort of a German worker’s party whose aim was to unite the working-class people. One of his propaganda campaign successes involved developing the National Socialist German Workers Party, the Nazi Party.
In 1923 he was arrested for leading the group to overthrow the right-wing party in power. He would spend nine months of a five-year sentence in prison. It was there that he wrote the first volume of his book, “Mein Kampf” or “My Struggle.” It was here that he shared in-depth his nationalistic and anti-Semitic views. In this and the second volume, he would speak of overtaking the poor Slavic countries around them. He outlined how Germany could change the world. The “Mein Kampf” books would become one of the bestselling books in Germany.
You know the results. One man influenced a nation that led to World War II. A war reaching around the world, in which millions of innocent people lost their lives, with countries worldwide losing sons and daughters. He almost destroyed the country he loved and, in the end, took his own life.
“Influencers” have always been around, having followers who listen, believe, and are “influenced” by what they see and hear. Today, like Germany of the 1930s, we see it in politics around the globe, men and women, trying to convince us that their view is correct.
Television commercials have used influencers since the 1970s. Actors and sports figures appear on our screens supporting products of all kinds. Advertisers use their popularity to influence people to try their products. After all, if a well-known person endorses something, it must be a great product; Right? Then there are those on social media who call themselves “influencers.” Someway they get millions of followers and then get advertisers to pay them or give them free products to promote their product on their site. Everywhere we turn, people are trying to influence our minds to choose their product or ideas.
Of course, we are all influencers in some way. Parents are one of the most prominent groups of influencers. As we rear our children, their early learning comes from observing mom and dad. Often our likes and dislikes become passed down to our children. Our prejudices, beliefs, likes and dislikes, and attitudes impact how our children think. How we influence them determines how they approach the influence of those they meet outside the family. Influence travels through teachers, ministers, politicians, commercials, and so-called “experts” across social media.
Jesus was one of the greatest influencers of all time. He influenced people by words and actions. Jesus’ influence was never for money or power. His influence took on the form of making the world a better place, one where God became a priority in our lives. He desired for people to be influenced by the good instead of sin. In Romans 7, Paul writes of his struggle with the influence of sin versus God. “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.” Romans 7:25 (NIV2011)
Berea was not a city easily influenced by Paul. In Acts 17, they listened but then studied, making sure what they heard was true. Luke then writes, “Therefore many of them believed, along with a number of prominent Greek women and men.” Acts 17:12 (NASB) “The Message” uses the term “women and men of influence” to describe the prominent men and women. Even in those times, people found themselves under the influence of certain groups over others.
Today, as Christians, we are to be influencers, not for money, but God and Jesus. Jesus instructed his disciples to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” Mark 16:15 Paul writes to the Corinthian church, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” 2 Corinthians 5:20 (NASB)
Our influence does not come primarily from words but by actions. People need to see Jesus living in us, visualizing how Christ affects our lives. How we handle disappointment, failure, and hard times presents a picture of how we lean on Christ. On the other hand, how we handle success, good fortune, and popularity can show others our priorities.
When first published, Adolf Hitler’s second volume of “Mein Kampf” had slow sales. However, as his popularity expanded, it became Germany’s second most bought book. Its sales were surpassed only by one book. That book? The Bible.
The influence of Adolf Hitler remains in the dark ages of the past. The impact of Jesus lives on through His Word and His followers. After all, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8 (NASB)
Danny Minton is Pastoral Minister and Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ