We will mess this up P-L-E-N-T-Y of times in our lives! Did I say plenty?
There was a question or statement that was presented Wednesday night that can be overwhelming to think upon when one looks at the Bible as a whole. “Can we sometimes do the exact right thing but it still be done in the wrong way as to lead someone away solely based upon the attitude in which we gave our efforts?”
To keep it a little less muddy we will look at just the New Testament. What do I mean by muddy? There are many examples of Christ and His followers proclaiming the Word in the Gospel accounts. In the book of Acts we read of Christians doing the same among a broader spectrum of people (Jews and Gentiles from all areas). In the epistles of Paul, James, Peter, John and Jude you can read a plethora of different worldly attitudes among the brethren, but also of those in the world. On top of that we have letter after letter written concerning false teachers and the damage inflicted by them. (2 Corinthians, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Jude) In the New Testament we have examples of good and honest hearts, we have examples of some of the most vile, selfish and wicked people, and then everything in between.
In Philippians 1:18 Paul makes a bold statement about those that are preaching Christ with the wrong attitude. “Notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.” Notice the different attitudes Paul mentions: (a) Verse 14 – Many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold (to some in the church, this could be a dangerous attitude) to speak the word without fear. (b) Verse 15 – Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: (c) Verse 16 – The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: (d) Verse 17 – But the other of love…So many different attitudes yet along with Paul preaching and teaching in prison, he says in verse 12 – these things, “have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the Gospel.” This is preaching and teaching the Gospel of Christ, one may say. Hit them with truth and then more truth, give it to them good! Concerning teaching to brethren, Paul said, “Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?” (Galatians 4:16) What about Christ speaking to his Jewish brethren? “But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth.” (John 8:40)
Yes, I went from one extreme to the other. That is my point! We have a great responsibility as Christians in teaching the Gospel. We will mess up plenty in our attitudes toward others. I will say it again, we will mess up P-L-E-N-T-Y in our attitudes toward others. Our attitude may be judged in many different ways by many different people. Who is right? What may offend one or two in a Bible class may be dead on for the other hundred in class. How many times as brothers or sisters do we go to the one that may have done the offending and talk with them, as the Bible tells us to do? (Mat. 18:15)
Preaching a sermon about baptism will not offend the 200 Christians in the auditorium, but it may and probably will offend the one or two baptist visitors. What if they walk away saying they will never return? The preacher has taught it as truth and something that is so simple to understand and those of, “like precious faith” will say amen over and over. Yet those of the denominational world, those two that were in the audience, will say, “What a display of arrogance and pride.” Well, what is the difference of those things being said one on one? We all have our opinions in this area. Each one of us can be dangerous in this area of thought. Someone may go overboard with scripture and have the attitude of, “I’m going to be right at any cost.” Some may teach and give opinions concerning the love of God saying, “This is all that matters,” giving no scriptural references.
The best I can come up with is when we talk to brethren we need to remember Ephesians 4:1-3 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is plenty of scripture concerning unity, being humble, longsuffering and love concerning those in Christ. This is not a grey area, but how others view our actions and attitudes is! That is why leadership in the church is important. The shepherds set the example and guide the sheep in the way they should go, NOT causing more conflict, as Paul warned in Acts 20:28-32.
Now, back to teaching the Gospel to others. Our attitudes as seen by others are grey areas. How can one be sure? In Acts 2:37 there were hearts that were pricked in a good way by what Peter had said. Then in chapter three Peter preached the Gospel to the people, and there were those in chapter four that were grieved and laid hold of them and cast them into prison. The priests, the Sadducees, and the captain of the temple were not happy campers. Peter was preaching the same Gospel as in chapter two. Then in Acts 4:8-12 Peter testified against them again lifting up and glorifying Christ. And as if that wasn’t enough, in chapter five there were those filled with indignation because of what the apostles were doing and again laid hands on them and put them in prison. Can you imagine the faces of the high priests when Peter and the other apostles told them, “We ought to obey God rather than men.” And again the Gospel was taught to these same high priests and again not only indignation came upon them, but they were cut to the heart, and took council to slay them! If worldly people judged the attitudes of the apostles, what do you think the judgment would have been? If Christians judged the apostles’ actions, what would their conclusion have been? But do you know what? Some of those religious leaders probably came back for more, as those in Christ’s time did.
Oh, I could go on and on and on. Truth is for certain; it cannot be denied by a good and honest heart. Attitudes and opinions are grey areas when judged by others. Maybe the word is subjective. Attitudes and opinions are subjective in the eyes of others. Truth is not! The Gospel is not! What a great responsibility we have as Christians! We must be perfect in the eyes of others. As Christians we must remain faithful before God, but perfect in the eyes of others.
There are a few things I know for sure concerning our attitudes before the world: (1) Jesus told his disciples, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:34-35) We must love each other! (1 John 3:11-18) 18 My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. This love must begin with us! It must begin in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and and ground of the truth. (1 Tim. 3:15) Who are we, if anything at all, if we are not imitators of Christ? In Christ we see the love of the truth, and in us (Christians) the world sees the love of God because we love each other. Do they see a loving God, or a hypocritical God (because of our actions and attitudes)?
(2) The prior point was concerning the church, but now we need to be individual examples to others. Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. (Jude 21) Keep “yourselves” in the love of God. The world must see us as Christians. We must walk as Christians. Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us…(Eph. 5:1-2) We must be set apart from the world in our actions, our attitudes, and our calling (Eph. 4:1,17; 2 Pet. 1:10; 2 Thes. 2:14). We are washed, we are sanctified, we are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Cor. 6:11) We must be so different from the world that we attract those with a good and honest heart to the Gospel. Maybe by our love for each other and our example before men this might happen.
(3) When we do have that opportunity, we can take advice from Jude. Verse 22 – And of some have compassion, making a difference. There are many ways and “options” to teach someone the Gospel. Some we do reach out of pure love. Some we reach out of showing compassion maybe at a time of loss in their life. Ephesians 2 mentions those with no hope. What a great way of teaching Christ, by showing someone compassion and that there is hope in this world. Many haven’t come to the realization that there is truly a heaven and a hell. Wouldn’t it be compassionate to teach one about a loving God and a place of an eternal abode?
(4) What about those that are hard headed? Can we teach them about wickedness and sin and the eternal punishment of Hell? Jude 23 And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh. This is where some like to stake their claim in teaching and here only. Is it wrong? Does it work? Must we be well rounded all the time? I guess the scary question is how many people have you talked to about Christ lately? Is someone in the position to “judge one’s attitude” if they have not done anything for the Kingdom? Herein is my father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. (John 15:8)
Whether one wants to admit it or not, we are given much freedom in the area of evangelism. We are given all kinds of examples from one extreme to the other in teaching the Truth. We need to be extremely careful in judging one’s way of teaching and his or her motives. Someone may offend you and you may blame their attitude. How was your attitude? Notice over and over that the main point in scripture concerning teaching the Gospel was “Christ was preached.” Notice how many people were offended. Remember, if you could ask those souls which are probably now in torments what the attitude of the one that offered them the Gospel was, now they would probably say, “At least they offered me an opportunity to obey.”
Did I happen to write earlier that we will mess up P-L-E-N-T-Y in our attitudes towards others?