(August 2015) Unfortunately for folks in southwestern Colorado and several surrounding states, the trouble that's come to them is more than a matter that can be solved by staying out of the Los Animas River. Due to a mishap by some federally-supervised workers, a blowout in the Gold King Mine in the mountains above Silverton has resulted in millions of gallons of toxins, include mercury and arsenic, being sent downstream into water supplies.
This mishap has contaminated domestic wells and endangered fish and livestock. It has negatively impacted tourist industries that rely on customers who raft, canoe, and fish in the river. It has impacted irrigation and city water intake facilities. All of this from a single incident in a mine hundreds of miles away from many of the affected areas.
No one knows how this situation will ultimately be resolved, or how much it will cost. Although the problem started in a relatively small, remote area, it has become a national story. And as the river continues to flow, the troubles will likely continue to compound.
Have you considered the power of your influence? A single negative conversation, an impulsive act, or a thought unchecked can lead to outcomes that are impossible to anticipate. So many in Scripture have learned of the destructive power of being a negative spiritual influence the hard way. David learned it (2 Samuel 11:1-2). The young lads from Bethel learned it (2 Kings 2:23-24). Judas learned it (Matthew 26:15).
It can cause spiritual babes to stumble (Matthew 18:6), the offender to stumble (Matthew 18:8), and the world to blaspheme (2 Samuel 12:14). No amount of remorse, regret, or retreat can undo its toxicity.
If you find yourself in the “clean up” stage, realize that with time and effort you can work to counteract the impact of poor influence. There may be lingering consequences, but you can mitigate that through genuine repentance. It doesn’t have to end catastrophically, as it did for Judas. Let it end triumphantly, as it did for Peter.
Keep in mind, too, that a positive influence works the same way (Matthew 13:33). A kind, righteous thought, word, or deed can trigger a powerful effect that leads the lost to be saved and those on the broad way to change course. You may never see the end result of your influence, but rest assured that a life well lived will touch more lives than you think.