Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 16, 1960
NUMBER 7, PAGE 11b-14

Behavior Patterns

(From "The Seminole Evangel") Fred A. Amick, San Diego, California

Our attitude toward death is a yard stick for measuring our attitude toward life. In like manner, our reaction to physical illness is an indictment of our reaction to spiritual illness. Each of our responses to things physical is controlled by our sense of spiritual values.

To classify our various reactions to physical ailments can be helpful in overcoming our spiritual maladies. Since congregations are made up of individual Christians, it follows that congregations will behave like individuals behave when conditions are similar. Because of present day brotherhood disturbances, it is urgent that we study the reasons why some congregations are following their present courses of action.

For the purpose of this study, let us classify these physical behavior patterns and parallel them with some of our spiritual behavior patterns.

Symptom Magnifiers

As a boy, I often fancied myself to be suffering from some dreadful malady that adults had described in my hearing. My imagination worked overtime as I anxiously examined each minor symptom. All irregularities, however unimportant, filled me with foreboding. I was not able to distinguish between trivial disorders and serious infractions in my bodily system.

Some preachers and elders fall into this class. They fear the worst and interpret each small mishap as a harbinger of tragedy. Their wills to act constructively are paralyzed by the fear of "what this may lead to." If someone wants to put a steeple on the new church building, these over-cautious brethren see apostasy in the making. They seem never able to distinguish between a prejudice and a principle, and they make "living issues" out of the most inconsequential matters. They hold back the work and promote the gospel of fear.

Symptom Ignorers

During my later boyhood, such fears gave way to a careless, often reckless disregard for consequences. I had to be literally jolted into reality before I would heed the danger signals. No serious mishap had yet befallen me; there was no reason to think one ever would. I was so absorbed in the busy present and so hopeful of a glorious future, that I had no time for the warnings of danger issued by some anxiety-filled adult.

Many members of the church fall into this class. With them, it is not a question of any determined effort to ignore the danger signals; it is more a matter of misinterpretation — of failing to read the signs aright. They are so convinced that the church of Christ is right and that warnings are only the false alarms of a few "negative thinkers" that they see no cause for "all the fuss." These good brethren are so busy preaching the gospel" that they have no time to "quibble about some silly technicality," even though the most vital issues of faith are at stake and the brotherhood may be suffering from an advanced case of division.

Doctor Despisers

My father grew up in a backwoods community that had deeply imbibed the pioneer spirit. From him I acquired a distrust of doctors. "Pill Pushers" were to be called only in emergencies, and as soon as recovery allowed, were to be disobeyed. A certain independence that was essential to my sense of well being seemed to demand this reaction. Even when the doctor's advice was followed, it was done with certain reservations that were prompted by my own superior (?) good sense.

Members of the church have the same inherent weaknesses that people in the world possess. Our "id," our hunger to maintain identity, prompts us constantly to assert our independence. Even though we know that "Jehovah, He is God," we are prone to serve Him with certain reservations, and we may not realize that we possess them. If we can father a new plan for doing missionary work, or caring for the needy, or holding the young people, or financing the church, we glow with pride in our accomplishment and refuse to see that we have substituted the wisdom of man for the wisdom of God. If we can get some leading brethren to say, "This plan presents the greatest challenge of this generation," we are simply intoxicated with the magnitude of this new way to "reach the world for Christ." We begin to evaluate men's faith and zeal by the manner in which they react to our promotion. This love for our own prescribed remedy leads us to substitute expediency for faith, and we fail to realize that we have strayed from the wisdom of God. Our sincere love for those in sin is gradually supplanted by our desire to "outdo the denominations." The preacher who is not promoting, or assisting in, some world-wide brotherhood project is considered to be short in vision or negative in attitude. He will only be used by non-progressive and reactionary congregations. He will not appear on college lectureships.

Sedative Addicts

During an extended illness, my wife was assured by her physician that sedative he prescribed was not habit forming. However, he insisted that she take it as sparingly as possible and cease its use as soon as her recovery would justify. Why? Even though the drug was not powerful, the psychological effect of artificially inducing sleep, or learning to rely on a sedative as a means of relaxing nervous tension, could prove most detrimental, if not fatal, if practiced habitually.

The behavior of numerous leaders would indicate that they are addicted to the spiritual-sleeping-pill habit. They induce large numbers to follow suit men realize that symptoms of serious disorders are present among us but they fondly hope to avoid the plague by the childish expedient of ignoring it. "The institutional controversy," they will insist, "is not bothering our congregation. We simply do not want it agitated in our flock." Any honest attempt to study the questions, or to forewarn of danger, is the act of an agitator in the minds of these brethren.

This attitude would require that we wait until a disease has become an epidemic before we inoculate against it, or even recognize it for what it is. Telling people about polio, warning them of its tragic effects, and urging the use of vaccine, could hardly be classifed as rabble-rousing. Most people consider Dr. Salk a public benefactor; they would surely not describe him as "one born in the objective case, the kickative mood, and the negative gender." The real enemy of society would be the charming optimist who would insist, "There is no cause for alarm, folks. There is no polio in our town and we are not going to bring it in by talking about it. Our doctors have all been commanded to refuse to discuss it."

Ignoring a physical ailment does not dispose of the ailment. Some preventive and remedial work must be done against any disease to hold it in check. In the spiritual realm, the same principles of operation attain. Sin is a disease of the soul. If left to grow unchecked, "it brings forth death." (Jas 1:15). God's teachers and watchmen in every age have been under divine command to "Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and show my people their transgressions, and the house of Jacob their sins." (Isa. 58:1).

If the present strife among churches is caused only by the "heat lightning" of human opinion, then ignoring the difficulty in any congregation will not solve the problem. Furthermore, if these difficulties are the result of unscriptural organization and practices being forced in over the protests of God-fearing brethren, then the need to clarify understanding and warn against the departures is surely not lessened. No congregation, and no individual, can be isolated in a spiritual vacuum that is hermetically sealed against the germs of dissension. Facing the problem squarely carries our only hope of salvation. God's word is our doctor book, and its remedy must be applied if we are to survive as a people.

If your faith is too weak to undergo the stimulation of an honest investigations, then the survival of your faith is not your problem. The acquiring of faith is your problem. A faith that will not submit to honorable investigation is not faith; it is only a personal preference that is held in spite of the evidence! Its end is death!