Reflect the Mental Attitude of Christ
“May the God who supplies endurance and comfort grant you to have among yourselves the same mental attitude that Christ Jesus had.”—ROMANS 15:5.
1. How can one’s life be affected by one’s attitude?
ATTITUDE makes a big difference in life. A nonchalant or a diligent attitude, a positive or a negative attitude, a belligerent or a cooperative attitude, a complaining or a grateful attitude can strongly influence how a person deals with situations and how other people react to him. With a good attitude, one can be happy even in quite difficult situations. For a person with a bad attitude, nothing seems right, even when—from an objective standpoint—life is good.
2. How does a person learn attitudes?
2 Attitudes—good or bad—can be learned. In fact, they have to be learned. Speaking of a newborn child, Collier’s Encyclopedia says: “What attitudes he eventually comes to possess he must acquire or learn, somewhat as he must acquire or learn a language or any other skill.” How do we learn attitudes? While many things contribute, environment and association are very influential. The previously mentioned encyclopedia notes: “We learn or absorb, as if by osmosis, the attitudes of those with whom we are closely associated.” Thousands of years ago, the Bible said something similar: “He that is walking with wise persons will become wise, but he that is having dealings with the stupid ones will fare badly.”—Proverbs 13:20; 1 Corinthians 15:33.
A Pattern for Proper Attitude
3. Who was exemplary with regard to his attitude, and how can we imitate him?
3 As in all else, so too in the matter of attitude, Jesus Christ set the best pattern. He said: “I set the pattern for you, that, just as I did to you, you should do also.” (John 13:15) To be like Jesus, we must first learn about him.a We study Jesus’ life with the intention of doing what the apostle Peter recommended: “To this course you were called, because even Christ suffered for you, leaving you a model for you to follow his steps closely.” (1 Peter 2:21) Our goal is to be as much like Jesus as possible. That includes cultivating his mental attitude.
4, 5. What aspect of Jesus’ mental attitude is highlighted at Romans 15:1-3, and how can Christians imitate him?
4 What is involved in having Christ Jesus’ mental attitude? Chapter 15 of Paul’s letter to the Romans 15 helps us to answer that question. In the first few verses of this chapter, Paul refers to an outstanding quality of Jesus when he says: “We, though, who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those not strong, and not to be pleasing ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor in what is good for his upbuilding. For even the Christ did not please himself; but just as it is written: ‘The reproaches of those who were reproaching you have fallen upon me.’”—Romans 15:1-3.
5 Imitating Jesus’ attitude, Christians are encouraged to be prepared to serve the needs of others with humility rather than wanting to please only themselves. Indeed, such humble willingness to serve others is a characteristic of those “who are strong.” Jesus, who was spiritually stronger than any human who ever lived, said of himself: “The Son of man came, not to be ministered to, but to minister and to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many.” (Matthew 20:28) As Christians, we likewise want to reach out to serve others, including “those not strong.”
6. In what way can we imitate Jesus’ reaction to opposition and reproach?
6 Another fine characteristic that Jesus manifested was a pattern of thought and action that was always positive. He never allowed the negative attitude of others to influence his own fine attitude toward serving God; neither should we. When reproached and persecuted because of worshiping God faithfully, Jesus patiently endured without complaining. He knew that opposition from an unbelieving and uncomprehending world can be expected by those who try to please their neighbor “in what is good for his upbuilding.”
7. How did Jesus manifest patience, and why should we do the same?
7 Jesus demonstrated a proper attitude in other ways. He never expressed impatience with Jehovah but patiently waited for the outworking of His purposes. (Psalm 110:1; Matthew 24:36; Acts 2:32-36; Hebrews 10:12, 13) Moreover, Jesus did not become impatient with his followers. He told them: “Learn from me”; since he was “mild-tempered,” his instruction was upbuilding and refreshing. And because he was “lowly in heart,” he was never bombastic or presumptuous. (Matthew 11:29) Paul encourages us to imitate these aspects of Jesus’ attitude when he says: “Keep this mental attitude in you that was also in Christ Jesus, who, although he was existing in God’s form, gave no consideration to a seizure, namely, that he should be equal to God. No, but he emptied himself and took a slave’s form and came to be in the likeness of men.”—Philippians 2:5-7.
8, 9. (a) Why do we have to work to cultivate an unselfish attitude? (b) Why should we not be discouraged if we fall short of the pattern Jesus left, and how was Paul a good example in this regard?
8 It is easy to say that we want to serve others and want to put their needs ahead of our own. But an honest examination of our mental attitude may reveal that our hearts are not completely inclined that way. Why not? First, because we have inherited selfish traits from Adam and Eve; second, because we live in a world that promotes selfishness. (Ephesians 4:17, 18) To develop an unselfish attitude often means to cultivate a pattern of thought contrary to our inborn imperfect nature. That takes determination and effort.
9 Our obvious imperfection, standing in sharp contrast with the perfect pattern that Jesus left us, may at times cause us to be discouraged. We may doubt that having the same mental attitude that Jesus had is even possible. But note Paul’s encouraging words: “I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, there dwells nothing good; for ability to wish is present with me, but ability to work out what is fine is not present. For the good that I wish I do not do, but the bad that I do not wish is what I practice. I really delight in the law of God according to the man I am within, but I behold in my members another law warring against the law of my mind and leading me captive to sin’s law that is in my members.” (Romans 7:18, 19, 22, 23) True, Paul’s imperfection repeatedly hindered him from carrying out God’s will as he desired, but his attitude—the way he thought and felt about Jehovah and His law—was exemplary. Ours can be too.
Correcting Faulty Attitudes
10. What mental attitude did Paul encourage the Philippians to cultivate?
10 Is it possible that some need to correct a faulty attitude? Yes. This was evidently true of some Christians in the first century. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul spoke about having the right attitude. He wrote: “Not that I have already received it [heavenly life by means of the earlier resurrection] or am already made perfect, but I am pursuing to see if I may also lay hold on that for which I have also been laid hold on by Christ Jesus. Brothers, I do not yet consider myself as having laid hold on it; but there is one thing about it: Forgetting the things behind and stretching forward to the things ahead, I am pursuing down toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God by means of Christ Jesus. Let us, then, as many of us as are mature, be of this mental attitude.”—Philippians 3:12-15.
11, 12. In what ways does Jehovah reveal a proper mental attitude to us?
11 Paul’s words show that anyone who, having become a Christian, does not feel the need to make progress has a wrong attitude. He has failed to adopt Christ’s mental attitude. (Hebrews 4:11; 2 Peter 1:10; 3:14) Is the situation of such a person hopeless? Not at all. God can help us to change our attitude if we really want to. Paul goes on to say: “If you are mentally inclined otherwise in any respect, God will reveal the above attitude to you.”—Philippians 3:15.
12 However, if we wish Jehovah to reveal to us the proper attitude, we must do our part. Prayerful study of God’s Word with the help of Christian publications provided by “the faithful and discreet slave” will enable those “mentally inclined otherwise” to develop a proper attitude. (Matthew 24:45) Christian elders, appointed by holy spirit “to shepherd the congregation of God,” will be happy to offer support. (Acts 20:28) How grateful we are that Jehovah takes our imperfections into account and lovingly offers us help! Let us accept it.
Learning From Others
13. What do we learn about a proper attitude from the Bible account of Job?
13 In Romans chapter 15, Paul shows that meditating on historical examples can help us to adjust our attitude. He writes: “All the things that were written aforetime were written for our instruction, that through our endurance and through the comfort from the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4) Some of Jehovah’s faithful servants in times past needed to correct certain aspects of their attitude. In general, for example, Job had a fine attitude. He never attributed evil to Jehovah, and at no time did he allow suffering to shake his confidence in God. (Job 1:8, 21, 22) Yet, he was inclined to justify himself. Jehovah directed Elihu to assist Job in rectifying this inclination. Rather than feeling insulted, Job humbly accepted the need for a change in attitude and readily set about making it.—Job 42:1-6.
14. How can we be like Job if we are counseled about our attitude?
14 Would we react as Job did if a fellow Christian kindly told us that we were giving evidence of a faulty attitude? Like Job, may we never “ascribe anything improper to God.” (Job 1:22) If we suffer unjustly, may we never complain or hold Jehovah responsible for our difficulties. May we avoid trying to justify ourselves, remembering that no matter what our privileges may be in Jehovah’s service, we are still only “good-for-nothing slaves.”—Luke 17:10.
15. (a) What wrong attitude did some of Jesus’ followers betray? (b) How did Peter show a fine attitude?
15 During the first century, some who listened to Jesus displayed an improper attitude. On one occasion, Jesus said something that was difficult to understand. In response, “many of his disciples, when they heard this, said: ‘This speech is shocking; who can listen to it?’” Those who spoke in this way clearly had a wrong attitude. And their wrong attitude led to their ceasing to listen to Jesus. The record says: “Owing to this many of his disciples went off to the things behind and would no longer walk with him.” Did all have a wrong attitude? No. The record continues: “Therefore Jesus said to the twelve: ‘You do not want to go also, do you?’ Simon Peter answered him: ‘Lord, whom shall we go away to?’” In effect, Peter then answered his own question: “You have sayings of everlasting life.” (John 6:60, 66-68) What a fine attitude! When confronted with explanations or refinements in understanding of the Scriptures that we may at first find difficult to accept, would it not be good to display the attitude shown by Peter? How foolish it would be to stop serving Jehovah or to speak in a manner contrary to “the pattern of healthful words” simply because some things are initially difficult to understand!—2 Timothy 1:13.
16. What shocking attitude was manifested by the Jewish religious leaders of Jesus’ day?
16 The Jewish religious leaders of the first century failed to manifest the mental attitude that Jesus had. Their resolute determination not to listen to Jesus was demonstrated when he raised Lazarus from the dead. For any with a right attitude, that miracle would have been proof positive that Jesus was sent from God. However, we read: “Consequently the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the Sanhedrin together and began to say: ‘What are we to do, because this man performs many signs? If we let him alone this way, they will all put faith in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.’” Their solution? “From that day on they took counsel to kill him.” Besides plotting to kill Jesus, they set out to destroy the living evidence of his being a miracle worker. “The chief priests now took counsel to kill Lazarus also.” (John 11:47, 48, 53; 12:9-11) How repugnant it would be if we were to foster a similar attitude and become irritated or upset over things about which we really should rejoice! Yes, and how dangerous!
Copying Christ’s Positive Attitude
17. (a) Under what circumstances did Daniel show a fearless attitude? (b) How did Jesus show himself courageous?
17 Jehovah’s servants maintain a positive attitude. When Daniel’s enemies conspired to have a law passed forbidding the making of a petition to any god or man except to the king for 30 days, Daniel knew that this impinged on his relationship with Jehovah God. Would he abstain from praying to God for 30 days? No, he fearlessly continued praying to Jehovah three times a day, as was his custom. (Daniel 6:6-17) Jesus likewise refused to be intimidated by his enemies. One Sabbath day, he encountered a man with a withered hand. Jesus knew that many Jews there present would be displeased if he healed someone on the Sabbath. He asked them pointedly to express themselves on the matter. When they refused, Jesus went ahead and healed the man. (Mark 3:1-6) Jesus never shrank back from fulfilling his commission as he felt proper.
18. Why do some oppose us, but how should we react to their negative attitude?
18 Jehovah’s Witnesses today recognize that they too must never be intimidated by the possible negative reaction of opposers. Otherwise, they will not be displaying Jesus’ mental attitude. Many oppose Jehovah’s Witnesses, some because they are ignorant of the facts and others because they hate the Witnesses or their message. But let us never permit their unfriendly attitude to affect our positive one. We should never let others dictate the way we worship.
19. How can we manifest a mental attitude like that of Jesus Christ?
19 Jesus always displayed a positive mental attitude toward his followers and toward God’s arrangements, however difficult it was to do so. (Matthew 23:2, 3) We should copy his example. Granted, our brothers are imperfect, but so are we. And where can we find better companions and truly loyal friends than in our worldwide brotherhood? Jehovah has not yet given us a complete understanding of his written Word, but what religious group understands more? Let us always keep the right mental attitude, the mental attitude that Jesus Christ had. Among other things, this includes knowing how to wait upon Jehovah, as we will discuss in the following article.
a The publication The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., discusses the life and ministry of Jesus.
Can You Explain?
• How are our lives affected by our attitude?
• Describe the mental attitude of Jesus Christ.
• What can we learn from Job’s attitude?
• What is the right attitude to have in the face of opposition?
[Pictures on page 7]
A Christian with the right attitude reaches out to help others
[Picture on page 9]
Prayerful study of God’s Word helps us to adopt Christ’s mental attitude