By Tommy L. McClure
Please note that the word “wrong” is in quotation marks in the title, indicating an accommodative or adaptive use of the word.
Many sermons have been preached and scores of articles have been written on the subject of attitudes. Yet, I make no apology for adding another article to the list; the matters herein set forth need to be stressed repeatedly.
When faithful gospel preachers openly and vigorously oppose denominationalism, sins of immorality, sins of the tongue, digression, compromise, etc., they are often accused of having “the wrong attitude.” That the accusation may be, and probably is, just in some cases, will be readily granted by all fair-minded persons. On the other hand, all must admit that in many cases the accusation is untrue and unjust, and made by those who have the wrong attitude themselves for the purpose of lessening the influence of the person who has opposed their sinful practice or that of some of their close friends. In view of this all too prevalent condition among members of the Lord’s church, we need to go back to the divine blueprint and consider some statements that were made by servants of God, men guided by the Holy Spirit, in Bible times.
Stephen Before The Council
The account of Stephen before the Jewish council is available to all who will read (Acts 6,7). The kind of man Stephen was is made clear. The apostles said, “Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. . . . And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost. . . ” (Acts 6:3-5). Thus, the saints in Jerusalem regarded Stephen as a man “of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom; ” and Luke, the inspired historian, spoke of him as “a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost. ” Surely, the attitudes and manners of such a man are worth considering.
Stephen was not adverse to religious discussions as are some preacher-attitude criticizers of today. ” . . there arose certain of the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and of Asia, disputing with Stephen. And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake” (6:9,10).
Unable to make any progress for their cause by debating with Stephen, his enemies suborned (“secretly persuaded” – NIV) false witnesses who said, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses, and against God” (6:11). They further said, “This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place and the law” (6:13). This was done in a determined and desperate attempt to obstruct the onward march of truth! Needless to say, this was not the first or last time such has been done.
In chapter 7 Stephen gave a rather detailed resume of God’s dealings with the Israelites in which he emphasized God’s goodness toward them and their unfaithfulness toward Him. He concluded by saying, “Ye stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so did ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it” (7:51-53).
My, my! What a “bad” and “repulsive” attitude Stephen must have had! The very idea of telling people to their face that they are stiff-necked! The very thought of a preacher being so “unwise” and “harsh” as to call people betrayers and murderers and accuse them of being so depraved as to resist the Holy Spirit! “Had the charge been so,” Stephen should have known he “wouldn’t get anywhere” by making it, and would “only make bad matters worse.” Evidently, Stephen had not learned the “first lesson of tact.” And, as though all that weren’t enough, Stephen had such a “cruel” attitude that he tried his best to “embarrass” those 66patient listeners” by bringing up things their fathers had done before them, things over which they had no control whatsoever! What a “pity” that Stephen acted so “unwisely” and “drove so many precious souls away from the church! ” If he had just used a little “wisdom” and “spoken in a kinder tone of voice” many of these “poor lost souls” would be “saved” today! It is no wonder these people stoned Stephen; he “asked for it” and “had it coming to him.”
Who believes it? Not I, for one! Yet, this is the way some people talk about the attitude of preachers who vigorously condemn sins of which they (or some of their friends or relatives) are guilty. If Stephen were living today, I seriously doubt that he would last as long as a snow ball on the Fourth of July in some churches “of Christ” (?).
John The Baptist
John The Baptist stands near the top of the list of Bible characters who had the “wrong” attitude. He was so “harsh” and “bitter” that “. . when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, 0 generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also is the axe laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire” (Matt. 3:7-10).
Why the very idea of a preacher telling people to their face that they were a “generation of vipers!” How “unfortunate” it was that this “rash, name calling” preacher took such an “unfair advantage” of these “prominent people of the community.” Had John’s statements been directed by “prudence” and “love,” he could have influenced these “respectable citizens” to “accept him.” He should have known that their hearers are in danger of being cast into the fire!
Sounds silly, doesn’t it? Yet like statements are being made by the soft set in many congregations today when faithful preachers stand foursquare against error and sin.
The Apostle Paul
The apostle Paul is another Bible character who had the “wrong” attitude. In spite of his statement, “Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his” (Rom. 8:9), his attitude was very “unbecoming and repulsive.”
Luke reveals the fact that when Sergius Paulus, a prudent man called for Barnabas and Saul, and desired to hear the word of God, Elymas, the sorcerer, withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith (Acts 13:6-11). Just look at what Paul told him: “O full of all subtlety and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?” (v. 10) He could have said, “Sir, it appears to me that you might be in error on this matter and that the course you have taken might be ill-advised. However, I don’t want to appear to be offensive to anybody, so if you think best I’ll say nothing more to your friend. After all, I certainly don’t want to break up such a nice friendship as you men have established.” But no, not Paul! He was so “ill-tempered” that he turned on this “poor sorcerer” like a lion; he told him he was full, not just tainted with, but full of all subtlety and mischief; called him a child of the devil and an enemy of all righteousness; and, as if that were not enough to “hurt his feelings,” he accused him of perverting the right ways of the Lord! Paul was a “good one” to be talking about the Spirit of Christ!
Silly, isn’t it? As Paul said, “I speak after the manner of men” (Gal. 3:15). You know as well as do I that if a preacher were “guilty” of saying that (or something akin to it) today to the most ungodly rascal on earth, many churches “of Christ” (?) wouldn’t have him! Because of his “bad attitude,” it is very doubtful that the apostle Paul would be “owed to preach in any of the “marching” and “morally liberated” churches of the present time.
Among Bible characters who had the “wrong” attitude, the Lord Jesus Christ stands at the very top of the list. Note one example: “And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves” (Matt. 21:12,13).
Isn’t that something? How “rash” and “unwise” and “discourteous” can a person be? And, what makes it “look so bad” is that Jesus seemingly did that without any warning whatsoever. The very idea of taking such an “unfair advantage”! The very idea of “running people off” that way! Didn’t the Lord know He would never be able to have any “influence” over them in the future? Didn’t He know that He would never be able to teach them the truth if He “ran them off”? If the tables of the money changers and the seats of the dove sellers were offensive to the Lord, He could have kindly asked the men who operated them to set them aside and thus displayed a “Christian-like attitude.” If He had gone about it “in the right spirit” they might have taken them out without a murmur. But the Lord was one of those fellows who “didn’t know how to win friends and influence people” nor “how to get things done.” He was so “uncouth” that He literally turned the tables and seats over and accused the men who operated them of being a bunch of thieves! It’s a wonder He wasn’t crucified before He was!
Again, I have spoken “after the manner of men ” – men who have a distorted and unscriptural concept of love and the Spirit of Christ and who put a higher estimate on the friendship of worldings than on the truth of God’ Jesus Christ did not have the wrong attitude! Yet, if the Lord were on the earth and did such as that described in Matthew 21:12,13 – it matters not where He might do it – some professed Christians would cry: “Wrong attitude! Harsh! Unkind! Unchristian! No trace of the Spirit of Christ!”
This article has not been written for the purpose of defending any attitude that is really wrong or any action that is truly unchristian on the part of this preacher nor any other. It is written for the purpose of causing people to think; for the purpose of causing people to see both sides of the attitude question. Let’s all strive at all times to manifest the right attitude. That is surely important! But when our wrong doings are condemned, let’s make the necessary corrections, instead of trying to pass the matter off by saying, “That preacher just has the wrong attitude.”
Guardian of Truth XXX: 4, pp. 112-113
February 20, 1986