For those of us who pay attention to the approach of the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread, this particular time of the year is generally filled with a great deal of self-reflection and self-examination, even for those who are not generally given to that sort of approach as a regular practice. It is conventional for us to think of leavening as an agent of corruption , as symbolic of sin and death, whether we look at its effect on the lifespan of the bread that we enjoy to eat so much or whether we reflect on the pride of the Pharisees and the Sadducees. However, if we are to be fair, leavening is also viewed as a good thing in Matthew 13:33, which reads: “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.” While leaven is used in the bible as a symbol of sin and corruption, it is also used as a symbol of the subtle and hidden influence of God’s ways in human societies and institutions. The question for us is, what kind of leaven are we? Do we quietly and subtly influence the world around us due to our godly example, or are we agents of corruption in the larger world around us?
As frequent readers of this blog are aware of, I write often about the effect of literature and music and art (as well as politics) on the moral state of our civilization . As creative people, our art (in whatever medium we work) exerts an influence on others. Sometimes this influence is for the better and sometimes it is for the worse. We create in our longing, in our fear, and in our brokenness. In our search for love and wholeness we paint a picture of our struggles and experiences, and even if our intent is not to glorify the sort of lives we have lived, our art will influence others to follow our example. This sort of power, which can easily go to our heads, is something we ought to be very cautious about. It is far easier for us to be persuaded that the way we live our lives is the right way, and that others ought to accept it and copy it without any sort of criticism, than it is for those ways to be right. And it is not only our good example, but also our struggles and weaknesses that tend to be emulated, whether we have influence as parents or teachers or artists or other authorities.
For a variety of reasons, I often reflect without a great deal of resolution or satisfaction about what sort of influence I have had on others over the course of my life, and in my day-to-day existence. Whether I reflect on my personal example to those who see me at church and work (or other places), or whether I reflect on my writing or on my teaching, or whether I reflect on the company I like to keep, I am concerned about their influence on me and my influence on them. It is hard to be satisfied with such matters, because they are so complicated. We can appreciate the fun and innocence of youth, however much we may lack both in our own lives, but we must also be aware of the fact that our example and our instruction and our mere existence in the lives of others can have a profound influence that is not always what we (or others) would desire. As a result, we must be careful to master our own behavior before we can be a fit example for others to follow, lest we corrupt those we would wish to appreciate and inspire.
As Christians we are called to have an influence on the world around us. From the time that the law was first given, the intention of the giving of God’s laws, and God’s Holy Spirit, was the spread of God’s ways from a small starter lump of leavening throughout the whole world. Our example, and the blessings that flow to us because of it, were meant to provoke jealousy for others to want to do what we are doing in order to receive the results of what we do. In order to do that we have to become agents of influencing others to follow the example of Jesus Christ exhibited in our lives. We cannot do this if we are agents of corruption, spreading the example of our sins through our example. As those of us who are people of authority and influence suffer a higher degree of scrutiny as a result of the gifts and opportunities we have been given, let us all take heed to our example and reflect on it seriously, and modify our behavior accordingly as we fall short of the standard.
 See, for example:
 See, for example: