It is probably an understatement to say that we live in a day when so many people are polarized on such a wide variety of issues. Whether it is politics, economics, or religion, lines have been drawn and people fall back into their like-minded groups. The verbal missiles that are often launched across blogs, social media, news programs, and even in churches, evidence much anxiety and little listening or love.
I will get down to the point of this post: the New Testament verse of Philippians 4:5 says quite plainly that we need to let our gentleness be evident to all. The verb in this verse is in the imperative mood, which means that it is a command of Holy Scripture. Having a patient forbearance is not optional equipment for those who profess the name of Jesus. Furthermore, this command is not limited to a certain group of persons –gentleness is to be shown to all.
I think a legitimate and proper way to translate this verse would be: You must evidence gentleness to everyone. The simplicity of faithful presence, a gracious attitude, patient soulcraft, and a gentle application of the gospel has the effect of yielding changed lives in the Spirit. The way in which we interact with people, no matter whom they are, was important enough to be a requirement for all of Paul’s churches. The Apostle laid it down to his protégés Timothy and Titus that they need to select persons who evidence gentleness toward others (1 Timothy 3:3; Titus 3:2). Church leadership is too important a matter than to allow angry people who rant about their views without any thought to how they come across to occupy the positions of elder or deacon.
One of the reasons I believe that fewer and fewer people turn to the church for reliable answers to their religious questions is that there are far too many Christians who evidence hatred and belligerence instead of grace and gentleness. For the past thirty years my wife and I have had a steady stream of “marginal” persons in our lives – those wrestling with their sexual identity; addicts caught in downward spirals of habits; relationship problems; the socially unlovely; and, the list could go on. As I reflected on why this has been the reality for us, I think it comes from a simple obedience to this command in Philippians. We do not freak out about people’s sins or struggles; we just show some common compassion and gentleness and apply the gospel carefully to situations.
Now I think it really needs to be asked: Have we obeyed Philippians 4:5? Are we obeying this verse? Will we obey this verse? Are we evidencing gentleness, or not? It is disturbing that churches are often not safe places for people caught in any sin to come and deal with what is going on inside their souls and find the Christian gentleness and pastoral sensitivity needed to address the situations at hand. The kind of things that keeps me awake at night is a lack of demonstrated values to Christ’s Beatitudes. What makes my heart ache even now is that there are untold hundreds of people around us needing the gospel of Jesus, but many of us are too busy making loud and obnoxious pronouncements about things we have already made pronouncements about and are mad that no one seems to be listening.
Some of my pastor brothers and fellow Christians fear what will happen in a moral slide in our nation. But I am not much afraid what will happen to us as believers. Rather, I am sick to my core for the persons who will not come to us and our churches for healing, or be pushed away from the healing, because of our un-biblical bedside manner.
We must evidence gentleness. It is a simple command. Let us obey it with humble simplicity and watch the saving work of Jesus do its gracious change through the power of God’s Spirit.