Mandy Moore once starred in a movie called A Walk to Remember, playing a devout Christian girl dying of Leukemia who falls in love with a boy named Logan. At the beginning of the movie, Logan is running around with a pretty bad crowd and ends up getting into a lot of trouble with the law. But when he falls in love with Moore's character and his friends begin changing, he ends up becoming an entirely different person until, when he again starts interacting with his old friends, even they begin behaving in a much less unlawful way.
The character arc reminds me, in reverse, of another, much more tragic story from the book of 1 Kings. King Ahab was known as an evil king. Not only did he promote the worship of idols, he was also responsible for some terrible atrocities. But when you read Ahab's story, you get the sense that he's not all that bad a guy. In fact, much of the time you end up feeling sorry for the guy. In many ways, his life was epitomized by the story of Naboth's vineyard.
Naboth owned a vineyard right up near the palace and Ahab had always wanted a vineyard near the palace. So Ahab approached Naboth about selling the vineyard to him at a very good price or possibly trading him for another vineyard in a different location. Naboth refused because the land had belonged to his family for generations. So Ahab went home and pouted. He whined and moaned and complained but he accepted Naboth's refusal. Only when Ahab's wife Jezebel got involved did things go wrong. Jezebel reminded Ahab that he was king and suggested he could have whatever he wanted. Then she arranged for Naboth to meet an untimely and humiliating death before presenting Naboth's vineyard to Ahab, who was thrilled to receive it. (1 Kings 21). At the end of his life, Ahab was warned by a prophet that the Lord was going to judge him severely for his acts of wickedness. Ahab put on sackcloth and mourned in humility and God sent Ahab a reprieve.
Ahab really does seem more like a pathetic figure than an evil guy. Except for one little detail. His wife. 1 Kings 21:25 reads, "Still there was no one like Ahab, who devoted himself to do what was evil in the Lord's sight, because his wife Jezebel incited him" (HCSB). From then on, all the evil kings of Israel were compared to Ahab. You see, Ahab's problem wasn't that he had a mind that functioned in an evil way. Ahab's problem was that he allowed himself to be influenced by evil people, Jezebel in particular. Ahab allowed himself to be dragged along and then got involved with someone else's evil mindset until it became his own.
But Ahab is not alone. I see people every day who get into trouble because they are involved with the wrong people, whether friends, co-workers, classmates or boyfriends and girlfriends. Especially boyfriends and girlfriends. Trying to please someone else, they always find themselves in trouble for things they would never do on their own. Sometimes, they even know that the problem is a person or group they shouldn’t be with but they just "can't help" the need they feel to be with them. Sometimes they use the excuse that they are trying to witness to them or to influence them for Christ when everyone knows which direction the influence is really flowing.
Are you finding yourself in trouble for things you would never do on your own? When you find yourself in a bad or troublesome situation, is there a particular person or group that always seems to be around? If so, remove that person's influence from your life. Don't let yourself become another Ahab.