You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, for they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods.Deuteronomy 7:3-4a
Early in our Jerusalem days I was listening to our pre-school children playing with the neighbor children. Then I heard something that made me perk up my ears and raise my eyebrows. Jamie was speaking in the broadest imaginable Israeli accent. "Oh, look (pronounced Luke) at theeess!" he said.
My goodness, I thought, are my kids going to end up sounding like theeess? My husband Wayne can tell you that he knew, in the early days, if I was speaking to a Hebrew speaker on the phone, because I would unknowingly mimik their accent, even their sentence structure and grammar.
Jamie is in his thirties, and, thankfully speaks English properly and without an accent, as well as fluent Hebrew. I no longer speak to Israeli's in funny English, I speak to them in funny Hebrew. Interestingly, though, often when I turn to Hebrew, my tone changes and gets a little more assertive.
Like a chameleon, we take on the ways of those who surround us. Our tendency to do this varies with individuals, but this phenomenon is well known, and God knows it. We become like our spouse, our friends, our society, for better or for worse.
God wants it to be for better. That's why he warned against union with pagan peoples. And Paul warns "Do not be unequally yoked" (referring to marriages, business partners and other co-laboring relationships). When the television is our company, it downloads things into us without us realizing it. When we hang out with negative people, we find ourselves suddenly finding fault. When we are around materialistic people, suddenly a little coveting creeps in, and we are less content with what we have.
Paul also warns us in Romans 12:2
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Meditate on that.
Then he encourages us in Philipians 4:8
Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Think on this for a few minutes, and try to remember it throughout the day, forming a habit.
Help me, Lord, to receive my influences from you, and my godly brothers and sisters, and not from the world around me. And as I am transformed, may the influence be reversed, that good comes from me, affecting and rubbing off on others. I thank you that this is even possible, through You Who strengthens and renews me! Today, by Your grace, I will live to Your honor and glory.