When God came in the flesh, the world saw man as God wanted all men to be. Jesus was the perfect man. His character comprised just those traits ideal man should have. If men aspire to be perfect, they have but to observe and emulate what Christ thought about, the ways he talked and what he had to say, and what he did. This includes those negative qualities so politically incorrect to those of any age who walk in darkness. Worldly wisdom had so warped man’s understanding and judgment that the moral attributes found in Jesus’ life were the very traits men despised most―and still do.
Vain Reasoning And Blinded To The Truth
By inspiration, the apostle Paul explains why this is true: “They … became vain in their reasonings, and their senseless heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and … exchanged the truth of God for a lie. … Even as they refused to have God in their knowledge, God gave them up unto a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not fitting (Rom. 1:21-23,25,28).
Another great truth helps us understand why worldly people have such warped concepts of what is right and wrong―correct and unacceptable. The god of this world (Satan) has blinded them to the truth (2 Cor. 4:4). Paul wrote about the man of sin (an agent of Satan): …whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie; that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thess. 2:9-12).
The Divine Character
Because Jesus is unfashionable to worldly men whose ideals, morality, and wisdom are flawed, they try to recast His character into their own mold. This is not the first time men have tried to force deity into conforming to man’s marred standard of what they think is the perfect man. Hundreds of years before Jesus was born, God charged the people of Israel with doing the same thing: “Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such a one as thyself” (Psa. 50:21).
Jesus’ character traits He enjoins His followers to assimilate in their own lives have never been popular with people estranged from God. Those qualities valued by God are the ones most despised by the world, but they are the very attributes that distinguish Christians from other men and make them as novel as Jesus was. Paul wrote, concerning those at odds with God:
“…(They) became vain in their reasonings, and their senseless heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God for the likeness of an image of corruptible man, and of birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts unto uncleanness, that their bodies should be dishonored among themselves; for that they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen” (Rom. 1:20-25).
Worldly Men Are Hostile To The Divine Ideal
Worldly men are exceedingly poor judges of what constitutes acceptable character traits. This is why the more negative, aggressive traits Christ and His apostles demonstrated and endorsed are especially obnoxious to most people. Worldly wisdom has so influenced great numbers of professed Christians that they refuse to preach or practice these qualities. Rejecting what the scriptures teach, they have shown how unlike Christ and hostile to the divine ideal they really are.
For instance, they believe the lie that everyone, and especially their brethren in Christ, must speak only in a positive way and reject everything negative. Isn’t it odd? They adamantly insist that this should characterize everyone―except themselves. They are so blinded they do not realize their own criticism of others is negative―a no-no, according to them. When they tell those who will listen to their lying words that they must not be negative, the critics are being negative.
Those Who Ignore God’s Word
These unbelievers ignore the testimony of God’s own book. They portray Christ as a mealy-mouthed, milquetoast coward who would never say anything to upset others. Such people are as distressed as His first-century disciples, and not a little ashamed, that Jesus would label those who misled and deceived the unsuspecting as being the “offspring of vipers” (Matt. 12:34) or some such term. Jesus even called Peter a very unflattering name, “Satan.” In the same verse, He made another negative statement when He told Peter He was not minding the things of God (Matt. 16:23).
In the preceding chapter, Jesus charged the Pharisees with ignoring the will of God (Matt. 15:3-6). Then He called them hypocrites (v. 7) and said their worship was vain (v. 9). These were the leaders of Israel! It was in this context that the spiritual weakness of the disciples, and Jesus’ response to it are shown: Then came the disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, when they heard this saying? But he answered and said, Every plant which my heavenly Father planted not, shall be rooted up. Let them alone: they are blind guides (another unflattering, negative statement; AB). And if the blind guide the blind, both shall fall into a pit (Matt. 15:12-14).
Afraid Of Offending Men
The disciples were deeply concerned about offending such influential men. They would have avoided it had the matter been left to them. Jesus pointed out that these Jewish leaders were teaching what God had not authorized (plants which God had not planted), and that such teaching would be uprooted―no ifs, ands, or buts! Then Jesus told them to leave these blind guides alone. If they did not, they too would find themselves in the same pit of religious error into which the false teachers had fallen.
The Battle Between Truth And Error
So much was at stake in this great battle between truth and error―the destiny of men’s souls. Jesus, the champion of truth, could not remain silent and let Satan win the day. He would not allow His disciples to do it either because of some misplaced allegiance to a code of etiquette dictated by worldly wisdom. Jesus said what needed to be said when it needed to be said. Thus, He showed that some things are more important than humanly imposed rules. Could anything demonstrate more vividly that man-made edicts―even those honored by cultured society―are to be ignored if they would frustrate God’s will by keeping one from doing what needs to be done. This does not mean a Christian can be mean-spirited, malicious, slanderous, or hateful in what he says or does. He is commanded to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15), and to be gentle, forbearing, and meek toward all men (2 Tim. 2:24f; 1 Pet. 3:15). He is to consider himself as he corrects others, realizing he may also need correction in the future (Gal. 6:1f).
At the same time, he is told to “speak the things which befit the sound doctrine” (Tit. 2:1), and to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3). Even liberals are familiar with 2 Timothy 4:2. They may despise it, but they know it is there: “Preach the word; be urgent in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.”
Wolves In Sheep’s Clothing
Modem infidels in sheep’s clothing would never tell a fornicator he (she) was lost unless he repented and obeyed the Lord―especially if the sinner was a big contributor. After all, they might lose the contribution! Isn’t that more important than where an immortal soul might spend eternity? They would never, ever upset those who had the power to get a preacher fired or have a member ostracized. They reason (?) that such sinners must not be made to feel guilty―or that they must obey God’s will if they would be saved.
Judging by their speech and actions, it is not amiss to charge that such false brethren today are just as distressed as Jesus’ disciples were when He told sinners (and that included all men) that they were lost. Jesus convicted men of sin and called them to repentance. He exposed false teachers, hypocrites, and religious charlatans of every stripe in no uncertain terms.
Today, do these wolves in the body of Christ believe anyone is lost and faces a devil’s hell unless he is reconciled to God (Col. 1:21,22)? Does it ever occur to these blind leaders that sinners might repent if they were confronted with the condition of their souls and what the will of God requires of them? Could it be they have no faith in the transforming power of the gospel or the ability of God to accomplish His will through His word? God said:
“For as the rain cometh down and…watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, and giveth seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth; it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it” (Isa. 55:10f).
Jesus’ character had many sides. He was meek and humble; He was loving and patient―the Lamb of God (John 1:29). He was also courageous, unwavering, and strong―the Lion of Judah (Rev. 5:5). He never courted popularity at the expense of what men needed to hear―and they needed to hear the truth about the sin in their hearts and lives. They needed to know that God demands faithful obedience if one is to be saved. Jesus told men what they had to believe and do in order to be forgiven of their sin and be reconciled to God. We cannot do less, and we can be sure that faithfulness to God will not make us any more popular than it did Him.
Our Master said: “Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! For in the same manner did their fathers to the false prophets” (Luke 6:26). Again, Jesus warned: “If ye were of the world, the world would love its own; but because ye are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, A servant is not greater than his lord. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15: 18-20).