It is natural to sympathize with the underdog — the fellow who is persecuted or "picked-on." Let US understand again how this applies to God's Church.
HAVE you ever had what is known as a "suffering hero" complex? Chances are, you probably have. Most of us have it once in a great while, but quickly solve our problem and get over it. But with some people, this complex becomes a FIXED MENTAL HABIT. When these people are denied what they want — EVEN THOUGH THEY DON'T DESERVE IT — they begin to feel sorry for themselves and to place the blame on others. They usually set out immediately to win sympathy for their "cause." They often lead a great many others into an attitude of bitterness toward those who are supposed to be persecuting them — the "underdogs." Psychologists are quite familiar with this complex. Every organization or business of any size has its share of "suffering heroes." Every political party and religious group has its share. And, in nearly every case, one factor seems to be constant with these underdogs. THEY PLACE THE BLAME FOR THEIR TROUBLES AND LACK OF SUCCESS UPON THEIR LEADERS, WHOSE POSITION AND SUCCESS THEY SECRETLY ENVY. BUT THEY ARE UNWILLING OR UNABLE TO PAY THE PRICE TO PRODUCE THE RESULTS WHICH WOULD ENTITLE THEM TO SIMILAR POSITION AND SUCCESS.
Even after conversion, you have the same human nature to contend with that you always did. Only you then have the help of God's Spirit in overcoming it. BUT the fact remains that even brethren in God's church are subject to all the temptations and deceits of HUMAN NATURE — one of which is the tendency of some to regard themselves as persecuted "martyrs" or "suffering heroes," if they are unable to have their OWN WAY in church matters or problems with their brethren. These people get their "feelings" hurt and feel persecuted if they are not allowed to do as THEY PLEASE. Jesus Christ was NEVER inclined to get his feelings hurt when He wasn't allowed to have his OWN way. Just before He had to give His LIFE in an agonizing death on the cross, Jesus prayed, "Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not MY WILL, BUT THINE BE DONE" (Luke 22:42). Jesus was still flesh and blood, and He dreaded what was coming. But He surrendered His OWN will, that GOD'S will might be done. Jesus wasn't too concerned about His "feelings" or having His OWN way that night before the crucifixion. If He had been, WE WOULD BE WITHOUT A SAVIOR! In spite of Jesus' example, some who call themselves Christians are continually getting their feelings hurt, either by imagining that they are being persecuted, or by sympathizing with someone else whom they mistakenly believe is an "underdog." A good example of this might be a case in which a couple who have come into association with God's church in the past, are later found to be living in adultery. One of them may have a living husband or wife. Upon realizing this situation, God's ministers should immediately take it up with the couple — find out if the previous marriage was binding according to God's laws — and if so, try to give the couple any advice or help possible to aid them in BREAKING UP their ADULTEROUS union. This is only to HELP them keep God's laws, and to keep God's church CLEAN and PURE from sin. But it is only HUMAN NATURE for such a couple to start feeling sorry for themselves. They will feel that they are being singled out for "persecution," and will often accuse God's ministers of trying to HURT them. They will resort to every device of HUMAN REASON to try to show others why their living in ADULTERY is all right. By making others feel that it is a PERSONAL disagreement, and that they are the "underdog," they win sympathy. Why?
How it Starts
Because nearly everyone tends to sympathize with an "underdog," and because too few people realize that in GOD'S CHURCH such disagreements are not between the people and a human "preacher," but actually against GOD HIMSELF and the WAY of God! In plain language, anyone who sympathizes with such people is sympathizing with Satan the Devil! Naturally, when we speak of "sympathizing" with evil, we mean the attitude of CONDONING and AGREEING WITH the wrong principle involved. We SHOULD have compassion on sinners, just as Christ did. BUT HEREIN LIES THE TROUBLE. Most people confuse the LOVE we should have for those who err with an ACTIVE SYMPATHY for their WRONG way of life. God LOVES those of us who are His children. Yet, we read in Hebrews 12:6 that, "whom the Lord LOVETH, he CHASTENETH, and SCOURGETH every son whom he receiveth." God's chastening isn't something that we enjoy. But He does it, nevertheless, for our ultimate GOOD. In like manner, the true ministers of Jesus Christ have the RESPONSIBILITY of correcting and rebuking the church (Titus 2:15). As we have fully explained in previous articles, Jesus gave his ministers the AUTHORITY, under God, to make binding decisions in their function of teaching and directing the church (Mat. 16:19; 18:18). In matters involving the governing and directing of the Church Christians are commanded to OBEY those whom Christ has used in FAITHFULLY preaching the Word to them and in bringing them to the truth (Heb. 13:7,17). Such TRUE MINISTERS are responsible to Christ for ruling His church, and He will guide them through the Holy Spirit. So, like Jesus, a true minister should — and with God's help always WILL — use his authority in LOVE and for the upbuilding of the church. But God's ministers have to make a great many decisions in directing the work of the gospel which may be misconstrued if all the facts are not known, OR if HUMAN REASON is used to PERVERT the facts. That is WHY some misunderstandings may develop even in God's church from time to time, and WHY some person who thinks he is "wronged" will often seek the sympathy of others who are prone to help an "underdog." These things CAN happen in God's own church because He has decreed that we still have our HUMAN NATURE, vanity, and selfish desires to overcome. God wants us to build CHARACTER by overcoming this nature, and solving the problems it causes.
A Common Error
Problems arise because brethren often misunderstand the difficulties that God's servants face in carrying on a world wide ministry. They often do not realize the AUTHORITY vested in ministers by Christ to preserve ORDER and GOVERNMENT in carrying out this mission, and in directing His church. Some who, unknown to themselves, are not qualified and who lack understanding want to take it upon themselves to enter the ministry, or to FORCE THEMSELVES into an active place in God's work. These people usually mean business and their "feelings" are hurt if they are not placed in whatever position THEY think they should have. They overlook the fact that GOD chooses whom He will. Here again, if God's ministers do not satisfy THEIR HUMAN DESIRES, then they often turn sour, feel "persecuted," and go around to other brethren seeking sympathy as an "underdog" who is being "picked on." You might be surprised at the number of "self-called" individuals who think they should take over one of GOD'S churches and make it THEIR OWN church, or take over some other position in the Church of GOD. All such individuals — and all of you brethren — should realize that GOD RULES HIS CHURCH! He always has, and He always will. The Father has appointed Jesus Christ as the living Head of His church (Eph. 5:23; Col. 1:18). The true church is the BODY of Jesus Christ (I Cor. 12:27). It is the organism through which He carries on His work.
PHOTO: THE AMBASSADOR ORCHESTRA under the direction of Russel Reiner. This is one of hundreds of surprising pictures you will see in the forthcoming 1960 ENVOY. Read about his year's ENVOY on the next page! - (See photo page 10 of PDF)
No one should try to "appoint" HIMSELF as a minister, an elder, a teacher, or to any other position in God's church. The apostle Paul tells us, "And GOD HATH SET some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healing, helps, governments, diversities of tongues (I Cor. 12:28). Here we find that it is GOD who "sets" those in positions of authority in His church. How do we know when GOD has done the appointing? Do we find scriptural examples of how God directs His work?
In Luke 6:12-16, we find the account of how Jesus prayed all night to God for guidance before "he CHOSE twelve, whom he also named apostles." Not one of these men appointed himself. Jesus CHOSE each one. Later, He told them, "Ye have not chosen me, BUT I HAVE CHOSEN YOU" (John 15:16). After Jesus ascended to heaven and the church began to grow, the apostles found that too much of their time was being taken up with physical service which could be performed by others. So they asked the 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" (Acts 6:3). Notice that these men were APPOINTED by the apostles, who had already been specially CALLED and CHOSEN by Jesus. They did NOT appoint themselves. Later, a man named Saul was feverishly engaged in persecuting and destroying the church when he was struck down and blinded by Christ, and brought to repentance. One of the disciples, Ananias, was told in a vision: "He (Paul) is a CHOSEN vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel" (Acts 9:15). The apostle Paul was specially chosen by God, but this was revealed to one who was ALREADY in God's church. Later, God revealed to the prophets and teachers at Antioch that He wanted Paul and Barnabas separated for a special work. Notice that IN EVERY CASE God revealed any "calling" to those who were ALREADY in authority in His church — either the apostles themselves, or the prophets, or the elders and teachers whom they had appointed through GOD'S DIRECTION. God's church was governed and supervised FROM THE TOP DOWN. When CALLING OR CHOOSING someone for an office in the church, God ALWAYS worked through those He had ALREADY SET IN AUTHORITY. That way there would be no division or confusion in His church. That is GOD'S WAY — the REVEALED Bible way. Let us follow it!
Another fundamental fact which few realize is that God always used men who were TRAINED and PREPARED for the work to which He called them. MOSES was reared in the Pharaoh's palace where he would be trained and schooled in the knowledge of the Egyptians — one of the most cultured peoples of that time (Exodus 2). DANIEL was instructed in all the wisdom and learning of the Chaldeans — the greatest nation of that era. (Dan. 1:4) The APOSTLES were first called "disciples" or students. They were trained and schooled for more than three years by Jesus Christ himself. PAUL, the apostle to the Gentiles, was prepared fur his mission by studying at the feet of Gamaliel — recognized as probably the greatest Jewish teacher of that time. In our day, HERBERT W. ARMSTRONG was prepared for his world-wide ministry by being led to enter the advertising and publishing field — where he received the special kind of training necessary to prepare him for conducting the international gospel crusade by radio, TV and the printing press. Then God miraculously opened the way for Ambassador College — where Mr. Armstrong could train young men to help him just as Jesus did, and as Paul did with the evangelists Timothy, Titus, Silas, and others. And now God has opened the way for a branch of Ambassador to be established in England. It is GOD'S revealed WILL — not human reason — which has led Mr. Armstrong to see the necessity of THOROUGHLY TRAINING those who are to be actively used in God's work. This principle holds true in regard to almost ANY office in God's church. In I Timothy 3:1-13, Paul instructs Timothy in the qualities which a man must have before he can be ordained as a local elder or deacon. Even of the deacons, Paul wrote, "And let these FIRST BE PROVED; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless" (verse 10). A deacon must be "proved" or "tested" in his ability and willingness to exercise his office in a "blameless" manner before being ordained. The evangelists were instructed to be SURE that any elder or deacon would submit to GOD'S GOVERNMENT before being ordained. Yes, God's ministers must be VERY CAREFUL whom they appoint to aid in the spiritual ministry of Jesus Christ. They must be CALLED of God, thoroughly TRAINED and PREPARED, and able to prove their reliability and COMPLETE WILLINGNESS TO OBEY GOD'S GOVERNMENT IN His church. As has been thoroughly explained in previous articles in The GOOD NEWS, Christ has promised to be with, and specially GUIDE, his called servants in matters of church government and discipline (Mat. 18:15-20). That is the WAY that CHRIST rules the true church. The example of how a supposedly converted couple found living in ADULTERY should be helped is only ONE example of the serious decisions and responsibilities which God's ministers must shoulder. There will be problems of people wanting a JOB in the work, of people seeking after OFFICES in the church to which God has NOT called them, of FALSE PROPHETS or DISGRUNTLED ELDERS trying to lead off the flock after THEMSELVES. All these problems will NOT be solved to the complete satisfaction of everyone. This is BECAUSE VERY FEW PEOPLE KEEP CLOSE ENOUGH TO GOD TO KNOW HIS WILL in directing the church. And when personal desires and ambitions enter into the picture, it is easy even for a converted person to let SELF-will get in the way of GOD'S will. These factors will give opportunity for those who CONTINUE in SELF-will to cry out that they are being treated unfairly, that they are "martyrs" or "underdogs." You need to realize this, and ask God to help you get ALL sides of the case before feeling very sorry for the "underdog."
Jesus Guides His Church!
Although Jesus specially promised to guide His ministers in exercising their authority to "bind" or "loose" in applying GOD'S LAW to a particular case, He did not promise that they would never make a mistake in appointing some to offices in the church. Paul told the Ephesian elders whom he ordained: "Of YOUR OWN SELVES shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them" (Acts 20:30). So even though they diligently seek God's direction, God's ministers today may make a few human errors in the appointments of elders, deacons, or others to offices in the church. BUT THAT IS FOR CHRIST TO JUDGE! God's ministers are RESPONSIBLE TO HIM. If God's ministers seem a little slow in appointing someone to an office in the church, or if they appear to have made a mistake in such an appointment — or in any other decision they may have to make, the truly CHRISTIAN thing for you to do is not to criticize and condemn, nor to bitterly think that we are persecuting a so-called "underdog," but to get down on your knees before God and ask HIM to show us HIS will, to REBUKE and CHASTEN us if necessary, and to GUIDE us in directing His church as He has promised to do. And while you are at it, you had better ask God also to show you if YOU are the one who is wrong! The Bible reveals that when individuals disagreed with God's called servants, THEY were nearly always the ones who were wrong. So MISTAKES WILL BE MADE. But God's Word shows that those who CRITICIZE or ACCUSE God's servants of being unfair will probably be the ones in the wrong. In the past, Jesus has ALWAYS directed His church and His true servants so that they were far more fair and just in directing the church than others would have been. Jesus is "the same yesterday, and TODAY, and FOR EVER" (Heb. 13:8). Think it over.
Help the Underdog
Knowing that the true Church of God is a spiritual organism which CHRIST rules and directs through His ministers, you should be very careful not to let Satan the Devil put a spirit of antagonism in you against them. Once God has shown you where HE is working in carrying the true gospel to the world, and WHOM He is using in this ministry, you should obey them in matters of church government and direction (Heb. 13:8). In matters of FAITH, you should follow them AS THEY FOLLOW CHRIST (I Cor. 11:1). This way leads to unity, peace, and love as God intends. It avoids STRIFE and CONFUSION which is of the Devil. If occasions arise where other brethren become disgruntled over a supposed injustice, you had better remind yourself that CHRIST has promised to guide His church into all truth — and ask Him to do it. If someone in the church feels that he is an "underdog," that he has been wronged or discriminated against by God's servants, and if he comes around to you for sympathy — you should HELP him. Yes, YOU SHOULD HELP THE "UNDERDOG"! HERE IS HOW. If you are careful to find the real CAUSE of his grievance, you will probably find that the individual is in some manner going contrary to the GOVERNMENT OF GOD. He may be trying to disobey some point of God's law. He may be holding a feeling of bitterness toward one of God's ministers because he was unwilling to be corrected on some point; or he may feel "persecuted" because he has not been allowed to APPOINT HIMSELF to some office or function in God's work FOR WHICH HE IS NOT QUALIFIED OR PREPARED. WHATEVER may be the reason, you will not help him by actively sympathizing with his supposed "cause." This will only make him feel more secure in his error, and seem to substantiate his feeling of bitterness. If possible, you should try to point out HIS OWN mistake, help him get his mind off his own selfish desires, and WARN him in a loving way that SUCH AN ATTITUDE AMONG GOD'S PEOPLE IS ONE WHICH SATAN THE DEVIL IS WORKING DAY AND NIGHT TO BRING ABOUT (I Peter 5:8). If you are members of a local congregation, you should discuss .he may help work out a solution before anything serious arises. If you are one of the many scattered brethren and such a problem should arise, write to us at God's "headquarters church" in Pasadena, and we will try to work out a solution, and will pray with you about it. Whatever you do, don't become this kind of "underdog" yourself, or let one make you embittered to the extent that you REJECT God's truth and thereby FORFEIT your right to eternal life. The "underdog" and his sympathizers may well be in danger of the LAKE OF FIRE. It seems that if people allow themselves to become embittered and reject a minister, THEY ALSO REJECT CHRIST'S MESSAGE! It just doesn't pay to fight God's true servants. When the men of Israel became angry because of Samuel's sons and wanted to reject Samuel, God said, "They have not rejected thee, but THEY HAVE REJECTED ME, THAT I SHOULD NOT REIGN OVER THEM" (I Sam. 8:7). The "underdog" problem will always be solved if the complete TRUTH of the particular case is made plain to every one, if brethren are willing to obey GOD'S WILL in directing the church through His called and chosen ministers, and if all of us PRAY EARNESTLY that God will protect His church and keep it free from all strife and division. Christ's BODY, the true church, is NOT to be divided (I Cor. 1:13). Only by working TOGETHER with LOVE and ZEAL can we carry out the world-wide mission that Christ has given to all of us in His church.