Did the fornicator think that his singular actions were affecting the whole congregation? Not only did he not think so, but neither did the whole congregation! None of them, it seems, understood how his sin was having a damaging effect upon them!
We, however, must begin to think in this way. We are one body, and what each part does and how he does it affects the efficiency, effectiveness, and purity of the whole. In Corinth it played a major role in puffing up, confusing, and dividing the congregation—jeopardizing the spiritual health of all!
This is so important that God includes it in the Ten Commandments! "You shall not bow down to [idols] nor serve them. For I, the LORD you God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me" (Exodus 20:5). God warns that evil will reach out, spread and afflict unborn generations. The effects of drugs, smoking, alcohol, medicines, x-rays, and poor diets upon the unborn are well known. However, we often fail to think of the effect of example. Do we care what we pass on to our children? Remember, it will very likely increase.
But notice the other side of this principle as revealed in the same commandment: ". . . but showing mercy to thousands [of generations], to those who love Me and keep My commandments" (verse 6). In His mercy God has provided that the good we do goes a long, long way—almost immeasurably farther than our evil deeds. God is sovereign over His creation, actively participating in stopping evil before it destroys us. At the same time, He is active in producing good in us toward His Kingdom.
Why does God tell us so much about the kings of Israel and Judah? One reason is that each king reflected the attitudes and conduct of the entire nation, so He can describe the whole nation in microcosm. An equally important reason is to show that the nation reflected its leadership. If the nation was led by a David, Hezekiah, or Josiah, things went well. If the leadership fell to an Ahab or Manasseh, the country degenerated quickly.
God is showing that there is a ripple effect within the nation; the moral and spiritual quality of its leadership radiates out toward the people (Proverbs 29:2). Ralph Waldo Emerson writes, "An institution is the lengthened shadow of one man." Parents need to take note of this. What kind of ripple effect is influencing your children?