"He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything."
Colossians 1:18

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Saturday, May 11, 2013

I Have Some Things Say About Your Attitude (...Young Man)

I can say with unique authority that I know nothing of psychology - I would like to see someone argue with me on that.  As such, the ground upon which I venture today may seem tenuous, but I believe it can be supported from scripture nonetheless. 

Effectively, there is a link between the mind and the will, and that link is one's attitude.  The mind informs the will, and the will in turn directs the mind.  I perceive a situation with my mind, my attitude is formed, and that attitude dictates what I will do, or where my mind will go next.  We may say, then, that attitude influences the will, draws from the mind, and can even recast the emotions.  Attitude is not a trifling force.

One thing needs to be said, though - attitude is not a ring through my nose, by which I am led about by the various situations of life.  It can be, if I allow it; that is, if my attitude about my attitude is so defined, but attitude is essentially an active pursuit.  For proof of this, we can turn to the book of the Bible that uses the Greek verb pertaining to attitude, phroneo, most heavily - Paul's letter to the Philippians.  Let us examine each instance of phroneo individually:

  • Phil. 2:5 - "Have this attitude [that of humility] in yourselves, which was also in Christ Jesus."  This is an imperative to make our attitude one of humility, based upon the perfect example of our Lord.  God would not command an action that could not be controlled.
  • Phil. 3:15a - "Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude [of actively pursuing the goal of holiness]."  We must fashion our attitudes as believers around growth in righteousness. 
  • Phil. 3:19b - "[the enemies of the cross of Christ] set their minds on earthly things."  The ungodly, in contrast, fix their attitudes on the temporal, the fading, the selfish.
  • Phil. 1:7 - "For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me."  Paul has formed his attitude about the Philippians based upon their support of him, as well as their gospel work.
  • Phil. 4:10a - "But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me."  Paul is gladdened by their renewed attention toward him, which manifests itself practically in their financial support of his kingdom work.
  • Phil. 2:2a - "Make my joy complete by being of the same mind."  A sameness of attitude is essential in the church, if there is to be true unity.
  • Phil. 4:2 - "I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord."  Divisive attitudes bring about division in the church, such that Paul must appeal to the rest of the church in verse 3 to lend their aid in this situation.
In none of these verses does Paul even breathe the suggestion that attitude is passive, that we are helplessly tossed about, and sometimes capsized, upon an imperious ocean of impulses and effects.  Attitude is something that needs to be wrested, with an often constant spiritual vitality, back to a proper focus upon the things of the Lord.  We are not, then, victims of our attitudes as much as we have hobbled ourselves with our poor choices regarding our attitudes.  We need to keep our attitudes in check.

Of course, we see here in Philippians the sort of attitudes that we are to nurture.  We are to strive after humility and righteousness (and we cannot have just one or the other of these - it is simply impossible).  We must give esteem and support to the work of God's kingdom.  It is essential that we press toward a harmonious attitude in our churches, in order that unity might flourish (of course, this is God's kind of unity, not ours, as Paul makes clear throughout Philippians). 

Note that attitude gives way to action.  Attitudes predict actions, and actions illuminate attitudes.  The Philippians, in renewing their concern for Paul, begin once more to support his ministry.  Paul's attitude toward the Philippians prompts his glad and continual prayer.  His attitude about his own imperfections leads him to press on toward righteousness.  And this is the crucial and sometimes devastating truth about attitude:  it is never content to be cloistered within the quiet confines of one's heart and mind.  It must birth action appropriate to its own nature.  Attitude sparks joy, and selfless love, and endurance, or else it incubates the plagues of pessimism, discontent, and apathy. 

The implications are clear, and the stakes high.  Could they indeed be higher?  Attitudes make a church rise or fall; attitudes spurn or invite temptation.  Attitudes build either an indestructible joy or a rickety happiness, a centered, godly, love or a listless, circumstantial preference. 

How is your attitude, Christian?  And how is mine?


Anonymous said...

This is an excellent (and convicting!) post. Thank you!

Josh said...

So true about the convicting part, for me as well! Spurgeon once said, "The heart is the mainspring of the man, and if it be not in order, the entire nature is thrown out of gear." So true.

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