Bad ideas deserve a bad attitude. Is it a virtue to look on the bright side of the slave trade? Should the father have had a positive outlook as the prodigal was exhausting his resources? Did the Lord Jesus Christ have a good attitude with the money-hungry temple merchants?
Paul tells us to “rejoice evermore” and again, “Rejoice in the Lord.” We must give thanks in everything for that is God’s will. But our rejoicing should be Christian rejoicing. Our King’s wrath is quickly kindled (Ps. 2:12) even while he is rejoicing. Perhaps Tolkien shows best how to sew these two threads together when he writes of the Rohirrim saving Minas Tirith from the Orcs, “They sang as they slew.”
Today I attempted to purchase cement for the little group of believers gathering on the mountain in Maboko. The price had gone from R75 to R99 after 4 and 1/2 months of government “protection.” Also, the scarcity meant that I had to spend more than an hour looking for a shop that still had cement.
The government’s intervention has cost many jobs, raised the price of a great many daily products, and set citizens against each other in a new way. A pastor about an hour away told me that his congregation not only refused to begin meeting again, but they said they probably won’t meet until 2021. At the same time, the people in that church have been actively returning to work, and standing in long lines. The pastor told me the people are significantly busier now than they were before the government took control of their lives, yet it’s too dangerous to come to church.
This morning when I went to renew my motor vehicle registration, hundreds had formed a line outside the post office. Several government officials didn’t like the fact that the people were lined up “too close” to each other, and so they began trying to move a line already stretching around the block. At this point, I was distributing fliers to the people about the Bible’s response to disease, when a wave of people were pressed back in such a tight mob that I marveled no one was hurt. Government employees herding, shouting, and pushing a long line of poor people does not deserve a good attitude.
In fact, it is sin to have such an attitude that will not be disturbed when men are treated like serfs. Even if the government officials had come out politely to take up their ridiculous task, they would still be forcing people on the street to obey some higher authority on something as basic as how to stand. Why doesn’t the government issue mandates about tying shoes while they are at it? A spirit of innovation cannot last long when the society is not even allowed to choose how it will stand, or even how it will breathe.
If we have a good attitude about submitting to constant use of masks, or standing far away from people, or neglecting church services, or letting the elderly die away from their loved ones, then the power of habit will form an intractable pattern of accepting what “official” voices say rather than Scripture, church history, and the truly wise.
Godly discontent stimulates holy invention. Luther did not have a good attitude about the 95 errors of the Catholic church, so he looked for a superior way. Carey was not content with the church’s neglect of missions. The American founders were not content paying taxes without a voice in the government. Paul the Apostle encourages discontent when he tells us to “earnestly desire the greater gifts” (1 Cor. 12:31).
A Christian’s good attitude should include submission to authority, trust in God, confident expectation of the glory of Heaven, and a life of good works. We should aim to laugh whenever possible. But this settled joy should not settle our ambition. Since sin is always active, we should be constantly dissatisfied with whatever it does or touches.
I do not have a good attitude about being forced to wear a mask anymore than Jordan Peterson when he was forced to say that a boy is a girl. A lot of good has been done by bad attitudes–if by that we mean a spirit of opposition and discontent to foolish, sinful, and damaging ideas. But by God’s grace, I would like to sing while I slay.