Exploring Spiritual Formation: Attitude
Strolling through gift shops one summer, my husband George and I spotted a T-shirt which said, “Sometimes I wake up Grumpy, other times I let her sleep.” Wise husband that he is, George did not buy the shirt. Alas, my husband is a happy morning person, and each morning presents a major challenge: how will I respond to my husband’s innate cheerfulness? Will love or grumpiness win the day?
It may sound like a simple problem to overcome, but feelings are tricky things. They often show up unbidden and, if left unexamined (and unchecked), may morph into attitudes. And habitual attitudes often result in character qualities displayed for the world to see.
This presents a challenge: how can I prevent my typical morning grumpiness from turning into a sour disposition that infects everyone I meet? And what other attitudes do I harbor—even foster—that are harmful to my character and to those around me? If being a Christian means I am to put on the character of Jesus, then these are not inconsequential questions. Thankfully, Scripture is not silent on this issue.
According to Hebrews 4:12, God’s Word is able to judge the “attitudes of the heart” and thus reveal to us which attitudes are godly and which are not. And when we recognize an ungodly attitude, we’re not stuck with it because Ephesians 4:23 and Romans 12:2 indicate we can “be made new” in the attitude of our minds. Scripture can also help us see the outcomes of both good and bad attitudes.
A significant example of contrasting attitudes can be found in the lives of David and his son, Solomon. Though David sinned, his heart was always firmly devoted to God (1 Sam. 13:14; 1 Kings 11:4; Acts 13:22). Solomon’s attitude toward God was different. He chose to go his own way, and God cites Solomon’s attitude and subsequent behavior as the reasons his kingdom was torn away from him (1 Kings 11:11).
Unlike David, for whom sin was not a pattern of life, Solomon displayed a pattern of disobedience. It’s instructive that Solomon’s attitude seemed to change progressively for the worse. He first engaged in disobedience by choosing inappropriate wives (Deut. 7:3-4, 17:17; 1 Kings 11:1-3), then later engaged in forbidden worship (Exod. 20:1-6; 1 Kings 11:4-8).
Another example of contrasting attitudes can be seen in the lives of Martha and her sister, Mary. While Martha (who was distracted about serving her guests) is gently rebuked by Jesus for her anxious and troubled attitude, Mary is presented as an example of someone whose heart attitude prioritized focusing on—and listening to—Jesus (Luke 10:38-42).
Not surprisingly, the best example of a godly attitude is found in Jesus. In Philippians 2:5-8, Paul says:
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!
What would my day look like if I approached others with a servant attitude? If I did, I certainly wouldn’t grump at my lovely husband in the morning. Instead, I would respond in love, as Jesus commands in John 13:34.
As you can imagine, I likely have other, perhaps more serious, attitudes that need to be changed. Regardless of the attitude that requires an overhaul, relinquishing my prerogatives, embracing humility, devoting myself to God, listening to Jesus, practicing obedience, and responding in love all seem like good places to start.
A new command I give you: Love one another.
As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
NOTE: Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™