Here it is! The end of the year! With it comes all the countdowns and end of the year reflections. One of the year-end traditions is Time Magazine’s Person of the Year that highlights that year’s most influential person. You may not notice it but many notable people have been on the cover of the magazine. From Mahatma Gandhi (1930) and Winston Churchill (1940) to Adolf Hitler (1938) and Joseph Stalin (1940, 1942). Presidents, scientists, Nobel Peace Prize winners, and groups of people like the American Fighting Man (1950) and You (2006). This year, they selected Greta Thunberg, the youngest to ever be named. Greta is a 16-year-old climate change activist from Sweden. She organized students to strike for climate change and became famous for her “how dare you” address to the 2018 United Nations Climate Change Conference. Whether or not she impacted our lives for anything other than a good meme is debatable. However, who has influenced our lives this year?
As is common, at the end of a year we will take a moment and look back at what this year held for us. We count the year by units of time. What if we counted it by the encounters with people in our lives? Of those encounters, how many were significant? It could be that someone said something that stuck with you. It may have been positive or negative, but it caused a great change in your life. It could be that influence came at the hand of unexpected change in the life of someone close to you. When we look back, we can see that our lives are heavily influenced by those around us. This raises the question, who are we keeping around us?
It has been said, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” In our spiritual lives, this is not sound advice. We need to keep those close that will move us “to love and good deeds” (Heb. 10:24). The immediate context of that verse is the general assembly of the church (Heb. 10:25). If we looked back on 2019, what percentage of Sundays were we in worship with the saints? How many times did I fellowship with my brothers and sisters? Would that have made a difference in our lives?
There are many things that are out of our control. There are people that unknowingly influence us throughout the year, and we can’t change that. We can control who we spend time with. We can choose to be around people that are going to help us on our Christian walk (John 13:34; Rom. 12:10; Gal. 6:2). We need to stay away from those that would be a negative influence as much as is in our control (Prov. 16:29; 28:10). Let’s look back on our year and see who our person of the year has been. Christ will always be our greatest influence, but others can help (1 Cor. 11:1).