Nurturing a healthy spiritual climate

“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”
-1 Thessalonians 5:11

God’s Word calls us to encourage one another and to build each other up. That sounds like what Christians do! However, as we all struggle with our sinful nature, it may not be as easy as it sounds. God calls us to love and forgive each other but the devil is all too happy to sow discord, strife and even hatred in the church. Thank God that His Word overcomes the devil!

Through this Christian habit, each of us is called to contribute to a healthy spiritual climate at St. Lucas. This means that we “encourage and build one another up” by intentionally speaking in a positive way, avoiding being the source of discord, and encouraging everyone to build unity.

How is this done?

  • Love and forgive — It starts with the heart! We remember that God loves us and has forgiven us far more than we can imagine (Ephesians 4:32)“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”. In the same way, we have an attitude of compassion (agape love) toward others that is eager to overlook offense and seek reconciliation. We’re all in this together!
  • Engage in spiritual conversations — There’s more to talk about than the weather. God’s people speak of the praiseworthy things of God (Philippians 4:8)“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”. It’s easy to play it safe and not bring God into our conversations, even among fellow Christians. “To build one another up” means that God and His grace are consistently brought into our conversations every time we’re together.
  • Have conversations that matter — It takes a bit of courage, but at certain times God calls us to turn a casual conversation into a transformative one (Romans 12:2)“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”. It may be talking to a family member about their spiritual walk, or helping a fellow Christian overcome a weakness. It can be brief or lengthy, but (approached in humility and love) is well worth it.
  • Don’t go along with bad behavior — Really?! Christians mess up? Yep—and on a regular basis. When we hear or see such things, we can make a difference. Depending on the situation, “not going along” could mean just being silent, redirecting the conversation, or maybe something more direct (2 Peter 3:17)“You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability.”. In all situations, careful listening and maximum tact are in order. If we hear hurtful gossip about someone, we not only have the responsibility not to break the Eighth Commandment by “Bearing false witness,” but also, as Luther explained this commandment, we should “defend [our neighbor], speak well of him and explain everything in the kindest way.” You’d want people to do the same for you.

Handle personal concerns according to God’s good order — Wherever there are people, conflict will arise. It’s unrealistic to think otherwise. Fortunately, God has revealed a path that reconciles His people.

  • If a fellow Christian has hurt us, talk to him or her only—Jesus teaches us in Matthew 18:15-19, not to talk to others about it, but rather the person who offended us. Only after repeated attempts to solve the issue, just between the two of you, would it be time to involve others.
  • If you know that someone is upset with you, go speak to that person, (Matthew 5:23-24So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.). The Bible teaches us to reconcile with others, to go to them to restore harmony. Further, we should do so quickly, “Do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Ephesians 4:26“Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger”). A rule of thumb is that delaying dealing with conflict makes it worse.

Handle church concerns according to God’s good order — We’re not going to agree with every decision made in the church. When we want to influence a decision or direction, it’s important to handle it in a way that strengthens the church. We keep in mind:

  • Pray for your leaders — This is what Scriptures say: “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” -Hebrews 13:17
  • Honor those who serve in office — The Fourth Commandment requires that we respect those placed in authority. We reject their authority only when it is contrary to God’s Word.
  • Speak to the appropriate person — If you disagree with an action, or how something was handled, talk to those in charge. This is the spirit of Matthew 18. Don’t gossip with others or “go over their heads.” Give them the opportunity to make it right or at least explain the decision.
  • Take time to build consensus — Surprising others at meetings will likely cause defensiveness. Take the time to build consensus considering (and perhaps discovering) who would be impacted. Then share your ideas and concerns with them. Their input will likely shape your ideas in a positive way and lead to better results.
  • Praise in public — This is how you would like to be treated. When merited, offer public affirmation for genuine service and contributions.
  • Raise concerns in private – If you have a concern to be addressed, do so privately with that person. Sensitive conversations should be in person or at least on the phone. Email and texts are easily misunderstood. Be mindful of copying others on emails that may put someone in a bad light.