Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 2, 1967

"The Good Guys Wear White Hats"

Harry W. Pickup, Jr.

In the old Western movies the "good guys" always wore white hats and the "bad guys" wore black hats. To some people this became the basis for determining the "good guys" from the "bad guys."

As a guide to judging character this principle has some serious weaknesses. (1) Often the really "bad guy" puts on a white hat to deceive folks into thinking he is a "good guy". This is deliberate deception. (2) Occasionally the "good guy" makes the mistake of putting on a black hat. This is accidental deception. (3) Sometimes when the "good guy" accidentally puts on the black hat a discerning friend tries to do him a favor by calling attention to the switched-hat mistake. But, by now, the black hat feels comfortable, and besides he likes it, so he convinces himself the black hat is really a white hat. This is prejudicial deception.

All of this just goes to prove that the hat-color principle is a pretty poor basis upon which to judge character. It is an impossible basis upon which to identify Christians. One simply can't identify a Christian by the label he wears. Labels help but they don't tell the whole story.

"Therefore by their fruits ye shall know them." Matt. 7:20. Claiming to be a Christian isn't conclusive evidence of being one. "And didst try them that call themselves apostles, and they are not, didst find them false." Rev. 2:2. To glory in "appearance" rather than "in heart" is a serious mistake. II Cor. 5:12.

A sound basis for judgment involves these matters: (1) To live unto Christ rather than unto self. II Cor. 5:15. (2) To live one's whole life "in the faith," which is rooted and grounded in Christ and which is authorized by him. Cp. Gal. 2:20; Col. 3:17. (3) To live as a "new creature" (II Cor. 5:17) according to the character of God after whose image he has been "created." Eph. 4:24.

White Hats On "Bad Guys"

A group of people may refer to itself as a "church of Christ" - people belonging to the Lord - and actually be that. The phrase "church of Christ" certainly does name people belonging to Christ. But perceptive Christians have learned that not all who wear the name really belong to Christ.

Mormons and Christian Scientists wear the name "church of Christ" but their faith identifies them with Joseph Smith and Mary Baker Eddy rather than with Jesus. Their doctrines and practices identify them with "The Book of Mormon" and "Science and Health" rather than the gospel of Jesus Christ. The "bad guys" (Many are unconsciously so) have on "white hats!"

Black Hats On "Good Guys"

The New Testament scriptures mention churches of Christ who became so wrong that Christ threatened to remove their candlesticks out of their places. See Rev. 2:5.

When a church seeks to convert men to Christ by human power: recreation, personality, psychology, it puts on a black hat - accidental, though it may be. The only power to save is the gospel. Rom. 1:16. Showmanship is not a substitute for "preaching the word," nor emotionalism for conviction.

Missionary societies cannot scripturally supplant congregational arrangement. When churches organize themselves together to work through a single eldership in order to do a general work the missionary society has been developed in its earliest stage. This plan is popular among many churches today. It is a "black hat."

The important thing for Christians to do is to judge as God does: "For Jehovah seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but Jehovah looketh on the heart," I Sam. 16:7.

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