“The undeserved kindness of the Lord Jesus Christ be with the spirit you people show.”
1. In his letters, what did Paul say many times to the congregations?
IN HIS letters to Christians in the first century, the apostle Paul said many times that he hoped that God and Christ would approve of the spirit that the congregations showed. For example, he wrote to the Galatians: “The undeserved kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ be with the spirit you show, brothers. Amen.” (Galatians 6:18) What did he mean by “the spirit you show”?
2, 3. (a) When Paul used the word “spirit,” what did he mean at times? (b) What questions might we ask ourselves about our attitude?
2 Paul used the word “spirit” here to refer to our attitude, or way of thinking. It is what makes us say or do things a certain way. One person might have an attitude that makes him gentle, caring, kind, generous, or forgiving. The Bible says that it is good to have “the quiet and mild spirit” and to be “cool of spirit,” that is, to control our feelings. (1 Peter 3:4; Proverbs 17:27) Another person might have an attitude that makes him say things that offend others or makes him give too much importance to money. He might be easily offended or might not like anyone telling him what to do. Others have an attitude that even makes them think immoral thoughts or makes them rebel against God.
3 So when Paul used expressions such as “the Lord be with the spirit you show,” he was encouraging his brothers to imitate Christ and to have an attitude that pleased God. (2 Timothy 4:22; read Colossians 3:9-12.) Today, it is good to ask ourselves: ‘What kind of attitude do I show? How can I improve my attitude so that it pleases God? How can I encourage others in the congregation to have an attitude that pleases God?’ For example, in a field of sunflowers, the bright color of each sunflower helps make the whole field beautiful. Are we like one of those flowers? Are we helping to make the whole congregation beautiful? We should certainly make an effort to do so. Let us now see how we can show an attitude that pleases God.
AVOID “THE SPIRIT OF THE WORLD”
4. What is “the spirit of the world”?
4 The Bible tells us: “We received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is from God.” (1 Corinthians 2:12) What is “the spirit of the world”? It is the same spirit as that mentioned at Ephesians 2:2, which says: “You at one time walked according to the system of things of this world, according to the ruler of the authority of the air, the spirit that now operates in the sons of disobedience.” This “air,” or “spirit of the world,” is the way of thinking of people in the world. Like air, it is all around us. For example, many people today have the attitude, ‘No one is going to tell me what to do!’ or, ‘You must fight for your rights!’ They are “the sons of disobedience” of Satan’s world.
5. What bad attitude did some in Israel show?
5 People have had attitudes like these for a long time. In Moses’ time, Korah rebelled against those who had authority in Israel. He spoke especially against Aaron and his sons, who served as priests. Perhaps Korah noticed their imperfections. Or he may have thought that Moses had given them special responsibilities just because they were his relatives. Whatever Korah may have thought, it is obvious that he had stopped thinking the way Jehovah thinks. Korah showed disrespect for the men Jehovah had chosen when he said to them: “That is enough of you.” Then he asked: “Why, then, should you lift yourselves up above the congregation?” (Numbers 16:3) In a similar way, Dathan and Abiram complained against Moses and told him that he was trying to rule over them. When Moses asked to meet with them, they answered: “We are not going to come up!” (Numbers 16:12- 14) Jehovah was clearly not pleased with their rebellious attitude, and he killed all the rebels.
6. How did some men in the first century show a wrong attitude? What did they probably think?
6 Some men in the first century also began “disregarding lordship.” They showed disrespect for those who had authority in the congregation by speaking against them. (Jude 8) These men probably thought that they deserved more responsibilities. And they tried to influence others to show disrespect for those who had been given authority by God and who were doing their best to serve the congregation.
7. What attitude should we be careful not to have?
7 This kind of attitude should not exist in the congregation, so we all must be careful not to start thinking this way. The elders are not perfect, just as the older men were not perfect in Moses’ time and in the apostle John’s time. Elders may make mistakes that affect us personally. If that happens to any of us, we should not imitate the attitude of people in the world and say, “I deserve justice!” or, “Something needs to be done about this brother!” We have to remember that Jehovah can choose to ignore certain small mistakes the elders may make. Can we do the same? Some who commit serious sins do not like something about the elders who are assigned to help them. So they refuse to meet with those elders. They are like a patient who refuses to accept a treatment that would cure his illness because there is something about the doctor he does not like.
8. What scriptures can help us have the right attitude about the elders in the congregation?
8 We can avoid that kind of attitude if we remember that Jesus has “in his right hand seven stars.” The “stars” mean anointed elders, but what is said about them can also refer to all the elders in the congregations. Jesus can do whatever he wants with the “stars” in his hand. (Revelation 1:16, 20) As Head of the congregation, Jesus knows exactly what is happening among the elders. He has “eyes as a fiery flame” and sees everything. So if an elder needs correction, Jesus will make sure that he receives correction at the right time and in the right way. (Revelation 1:14) Until Jesus acts, we must show respect for the elders, who are in Jesus’ “right hand.” Paul wrote: “Be obedient to those who are taking the lead among you and be submissive, for they are keeping watch over your souls as those who will render an account; that they may do this with joy and not with sighing, for this would be damaging to you.”
9. (a) What attitude might a Christian show if he is corrected? (b) What is the best thing to do when we are corrected?
9 When the elders correct someone or take away his responsibilities, this person can show whether his attitude is good or bad. One young brother was kindly counseled by the elders because he was playing violent video games. Sadly, he did not accept the counsel, and since he was not doing what the Bible requires of ministerial servants, he could no longer serve as one. (Psalm 11:5; 1 Timothy 3:8-10) After that, the brother started telling others that he did not agree with the elders’ decision. He even wrote many letters to the branch office and said bad things about the elders. He also tried to influence others in the congregation to write to the branch office. But the truth is that if we make excuses for our wrong actions, we put the peace of the entire congregation in danger, and this does not help anybody. When we are corrected, it is so much better to think of this as an opportunity to learn what our weaknesses are and then quietly accept the correction.
10. (a) What does James 3:16-18 teach us about the right attitude and the wrong attitude? (b) What is the result when we act according to the wisdom that God gives?
10 James 3:16-18 teaches us what is the right attitude and what is the wrong attitude for a person to show in the congregation. It says: “Where jealousy and contentiousness are, there disorder and every vile thing are. But the wisdom from above is first of all chaste, then peaceable, reasonable, ready to obey, full of mercy and good fruits, not making partial distinctions, not hypocritical. Moreover, the fruit of righteousness has its seed sown under peaceful conditions for those who are making peace.” If we act according to the wisdom that God gives, we will imitate his qualities. In this way, we encourage one another to show the right attitude, and there will be peace in the congregation.
SHOW A RESPECTFUL ATTITUDE IN THE CONGREGATION
11. (a) If we have the right attitude, what will we not do? (b) What do we learn from David’s example?
11 We should remember that it is Jehovah who wants the elders “to shepherd the congregation of God.” (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:2) We should respect God’s way of doing things, whether we are elders or not. If we have the right attitude, we will not give too much importance to having authority or responsibility. When King Saul of Israel started to think that David might become king instead of him, Saul “was continually looking suspiciously at David.” (1 Samuel 18:9) The king had the wrong attitude and even wanted to kill David. Instead of being like Saul and worrying too much about authority, it is much better to be like David. Even though he suffered many injustices, David always showed respect for those who were given authority by God.
Do not give too much importance to having authority or responsibility
12. What can we do to help keep the unity of the congregation?
12 Because we all have different opinions, at times we can irritate one another. This can happen even among the elders. The Bible’s counsel shows us what attitude we should have: “In showing honor to one another take the lead” and, “Do not become discreet in your own eyes.” (Romans 12:10, 16) This means that instead of insisting that we are right, we should accept that there is often more than one right way of thinking. If we do our best to understand the way others think, we can help to keep the unity of the congregation.
13. What should we do after we give an opinion? What Bible example shows us what we should do?
13 Does this mean that it is wrong to give an opinion if we think that something in the congregation needs to be corrected? No. In the first century, there was something that many in the congregation did not agree on. The brothers “arranged for Paul and Barnabas and some others of them to go up to the apostles and older men in Jerusalem regarding this dispute.” (Acts 15:2) Surely, each of those brothers had an opinion about what was the right thing to do. But after each one said what he thought and a decision was made with the help of holy spirit, the brothers did not continue talking about their own opinions. After the congregations received the letter with the decision, “they rejoiced over the encouragement” and were “made firm in the faith.” (Acts 15:31; 16:4, 5) Today, too, after we speak to the elders about something that worries us, we should trust that they will think carefully about what we said and decide whether something needs to be done.
SHOW THE RIGHT ATTITUDE IN YOUR RELATIONSHIPS WITH OTHERS
14. How can we show the right attitude in our relationships with others?
14 In our relationships with others, there are many opportunities for us to show the right attitude. For example, each of us can do much good if we are quick to forgive others when they offend us. God’s Word tells us: “Continue putting up with one another and forgiving one another freely if anyone has a cause for complaint against another. Even as Jehovah freely forgave you, so do you also.” (Colossians 3:13) The expression “if anyone has a cause for complaint” shows that we may sometimes have good reasons to be irritated with others. We must not allow little things that we do not like about someone’s personality to irritate us. This could harm the peace of the congregation. Instead, we should try to imitate Jehovah by being willing to forgive our brothers and continue serving God with them.
Praying for our brothers and asking for holy spirit can help us forgive others
15. (a) What can we learn about forgiveness from Job? (b) How can prayer help us to show the right attitude?
15 We can learn about forgiveness from Job. Three men who should have comforted him said many unkind things to him instead. Even so, Job forgave them. What helped him to do this? “He prayed in behalf of his companions.” (Job 16:2; 42:10) When we pray for others, we may start to feel differently about them. When we pray for all our brothers and sisters, it is easier to feel the way that Jesus feels about them. (John 13:34, 35) We should also pray to God for his holy spirit. (Luke 11:13) God’s spirit will help us to show Christian qualities in our relationships with others.
YOUR GOOD ATTITUDE BENEFITS THE WHOLE CONGREGATION
16, 17. What attitude do you want to show?
16 When each of us works hard to keep a good attitude, the whole congregation benefits. Perhaps this article has helped you to decide that you can improve your attitude and be more encouraging. If so, allow God’s Word to show you how you can make changes. (Hebrews 4:12) Paul, who wanted to be a good example to the congregations, said: “I am not conscious of anything against myself. Yet by this I am not proved righteous, but he that examines me is Jehovah.”
17 We can all encourage one another to keep a good attitude in the congregation. We can do this by imitating God’s qualities and not insisting on our own opinions or thinking we deserve more responsibilities. If we are quick to forgive others and think well of them, we will keep peace with our brothers and sisters. (Philippians 4:8) We can be sure that if we do these things, the spirit we show will please Jehovah and Jesus.