It is natural to sympathize with the underdog — the fellow who is persecuted or picked on. But why is the person in that position?
Have you ever had a "suffering hero" complex, a state of self-pity in which you feel everyone is down on you? Chances are, you probably have. Most of us have it once in a great while. But with some people, this complex becomes a fixed mental habit. When these persons are denied what they want — even though they may not 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 and often lead many others into an attitude of bitterness toward those who are supposed to be persecuting them.. Psychologists are quite familiar with this complex. Every organization or business of any size has its share. And, in nearly every case, one factor seems to be constant with these individuals. 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 that would entitle them to similar position and success.
Brethren in God's Church, even with God's Spirit, 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 other Church members. Jesus Christ was never inclined to feel put down and get in a bad attitude 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, 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.
How it starts
Nearly everyone tends to sympathize with an underdog, but 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! Most people confuse the love we should have for those who err with an active sympathy for their wrong way of life. 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. 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). Jesus gave His ministers the authority, under God, to make binding decisions in their function of teaching and directing the Church, (Matthew 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 (Hebrews 13:7, 17). Such true ministers are responsible to Christ for ruling His Church, and He will guide them with the Holy Spirit. 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. No one should try to appoint himself as a minister, an elder, a teacher or to any other position in God's Church.
How do we know when God is working with and directing an individual? The answer is found in the Scriptures. In Luke 6:12-16, we find the account of how Jesus prayed all night to God for guidance before "... he chose twelve, whom also he 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 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. Paul tells us, "And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues" (I Corinthians 12:28). Here we find that it is God who sets those in positions of authority in His Church. 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 (Daniel 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 for his mission by studying at the feet of Gamaliel, recognized as probably the greatest Jewish teacher of that time. In our day, Herbert Armstrong was prepared for his worldwide 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, television and the printing press. Christ has promised to be with and specially guide His called servants in matters of Church government and discipline (Matthew 18:15-20). That is the way that Christ rules the true Church. Even so, there will be problems in God's Church. And 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 desire 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, 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 to show you if you are the one who is wrong! The Bible reveals when individuals disagreed with God's called servants, they were nearly always the ones who were 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" (Hebrews 13:8). Think it over. Knowing that the true Church of God is a spiritual organism that Christ rules and directs through His ministers, we should be very careful not to let Satan put a spirit of antagonism in us 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. In matters of faith, you should follow them as they follow Christ (I Corinthians 11:1). This way leads to unity, peace and love as God intends. It avoids strife and confusion, which is of the devil.
Help the Underdog
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 he is an underdog, that the 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. Find the real reason for his attitude. 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 that the devil is working day and night to bring about (I Peter 5:8). Whatever you do, don't succumb to this underdog attitude 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 Samuel 8:7). The underdog problem will always be solved if the complete truth of the particular case is made plain to everyone, 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 Corinthians 1:13). Only by working together can we carry out the worldwide mission that Christ has given to all in His Church.