By DANNY MINTON
Open any social media page, and you see a myriad of political jibes. The Democrats criticize the Republicans, and the Republicans criticize the Democrats. You read the articles and recognize how selfish people are being, just thinking about what they want. In too many cases, reactions have become hateful and sometimes violent. We tell ourselves the world has never been as bad as things are now. Or have they?
Unfortunately, things are no different today than other times in history. The main difference is how easy it is communicated today and how easily false information gets spread. As the writer of Ecclesiastes so pointedly wrote, “That which has been is that which will be, And, that which has been done is that which will be done. So, there is nothing new under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 1:9 (NASB) It will never change unless people change. Each generation conditions the next by how they approach the world and its problems.
Think about it. Many children grow up liking specific sports teams because of their dad. The type of car they like or dislike is often because of what their parents liked. We are more likely to go to worship on Sunday if we grew up going than if we spent Sundays as just a day off. If our childhood was good, we have fond memories of things we had, something we did together, and life in general. If our youth was negative, our perceptions of things will likely carry over into our adult life. Of course, some things happen to alter each scenario, but we are all conditioned in some way by those around us.
My psychology professor in college related to us a story of something that his professor had done years earlier. The professor came into class, took roll, and then without explanation, gave a loud yell, then went and climbed out the window. The class was stunned but patiently sat at their desks the entire period expecting the professor to return.
In the next class period, the professor entered the room and repeated the same scenario; taking roll, screaming, and climbing out the window. The majority of the class remained seated until the “required” fifteen minutes had passed for the teacher to show up and then left.
In the third class period, the professor entered and again repeated what he had done the two prior classes; he took roll, screamed, and left via the window. As he stepped out the window and onto the ground, the entire class had already left the room.
The students had become conditioned by the actions of the professor and acted accordingly. Churches are much the same way. People get conditioned by how their leaders act, talk, and lead. If the leaders don’t care, if they are not “fired up,’’ if they’re complacent, if they’re critical or if they’re disorganized, then the congregation will follow suit.
On the other hand, if their leaders are passionate, if they are zealous for the Lord, if they are taking an interest in the work and people, it will condition those who follow to be the same. A congregation wants leadership that cares, and if they don’t see it, then they will be like the class, bail out quickly.
When I was 12, my dad bought me a new baseball glove. The first thing I did was condition it. I rubbed saddle soap in the pocket, put a baseball in it, and tied it up with a piece of string. I was conditioning it to be flexible with a solid pocket for catching the ball.
Jesus also taught about conditioning when he stopped in the crowd for a woman who touched the hem of his garment, when he saw the blind man by the gate, and when He washed the disciple’s feet at supper, he was conditioning them to notice people. If he had just started in teaching, it wouldn’t have been near as effective as their seeing his way of noticing people.
Conditioning means it comes naturally. It means we don’t have to think twice before acting like Jesus would act. It means that we automatically jump in when the need arises.
Physical conditioning, exercising our muscles, is a vital part of building up a healthy physical body. Mental conditioning and mind exercises help keep us alert and on our toes. But more important is spiritual conditioning. That’s the conditioning that comes from exercising the heart to think, act, and follow in the pattern set forth by Jesus Christ.
“For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:5-8, ESV)
Danny Minton is Pastoral Minister and Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ