If it wasn't so tragic it would be funny how we always think we are the exception. It doesn't matter how old we are or from what generation, we always think we can get away with something that others cannot. For years I was told that I needed to be careful about the people I hung out with, the movies I watched, the books I read and the music I listened to. I never believed it. I read anything that looked interesting and watched whatever came out and it did a number on me.
We find this in Scripture:
Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” (1 Corinthians 15:33)
It's there because it is the truth. Whatever you submit yourself to will have an effect on you. It isn't that we lack intelligence or that we are brainless droids, it's simply that most people are open to suggestion. That is why advertising works. Wait a second. You probably think you are immune to that as well, right? I was raised in an area of the country where Coca-Cola was the dominant advertiser. It is what my family drank. Before I quit soft drinks Coke was the only thing I would drink. Same with my tooth paste brand. It was what I was raised with because it was advertised the most and until I married I was a devote believer in only one brand being of any use. I do not consider myself weak. I am a very strong character; stubborn as a mule, my dad used to say (probably still says it). But even the strongest, most stubborn people can be influenced.
You don't realize it but you are being shaped by everyone in your life, the things you watch, the things you listen to, the things you read. We need to make wise choices and parents need to help their children make those wise choices until they have the maturity to make the choices on their own. It is amazing the number of parents who will allow their children to watch things that are damaging just because it is popular, their friends watch it or because parents think their children are exceptionally mature. They have no idea the hidden damage they are causing in their children, what influences they are allowing to take root, and how much they are contributing to the corruption of their mind and heart.
There is a reason the Scriptures guide us with this:
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. (Colossians 3:1)
This is an awesome passage; you should read the whole thing. After we are told to set our hearts we are told to do the same thing with our minds:
Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. (Colossians 3:2)
And why should we do this? Because of what we claim to be. Because we say that we are followers of Jesus. Because as followers of Jesus we do not think, perceive or pursue things like non-believers:
For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:3)
And in case you were not sure what it meant to be a follower of Jesus:
When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:4)
That's important right there: "When Christ, who is your life...". We tend to forget. Church becomes something we do, not something we are. Jesus is a concept not our reality because if he was our reality a lot of things would change. We wouldn't be interested in entertaining ourselves with sin. What do I mean by that? We don't kill but we are entertained by murder. We don't have sex with a hundred different people but we are entertained by it in our prime time television drama shows. We don't believe in people living together but we accept it in our entertainment. We think homosexuality is wrong but we allow our children to see it as acceptable as they are entertained by it in almost every movie and television show they watch. See what I mean? All of this begins to influence us and we begin to accept it and maybe even practice it. Just consider some of the things our younger generation is beginning to accept because of the "bad character" they have been influenced by. Do you realize how many young people believe that a person can be a practicing homosexual and a follower of Jesus Christ? Do you know how many people believe it is possible to live with their boyfriend or girlfriend and still follow Jesus? This is all a result of the influence of the things they watch and read, not as a result of learning from Scripture or from the Holy Spirit.
Hate me for this if you want but the truth of the matter is we have allowed ourselves to be corrupted by bad character. If we want to love God with all our heart, to love our neighbour as ourselves and serve Jesus with our entire being, we need to start making wise choices of who we "hang out" with. We need to start turning off the TV, switching our music, looking at our friends, considering the books we read and start getting our hearts and minds back on Jesus. After all, we do claim that he is our everything.