Saturday, October 08, 2011

Do you have a reputation for gentleness?

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Philippians 4:1-23

TO CHEW ON: "Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand." Philippians 4:5

I read Paul's directive about gentleness and I feel an objection rise in me. What about those of us who aren't naturally gentle, who have an ungentle, fiery streak, who lack the patience for the extra time it takes to deal with people and situations softly, who have reputation for being anything but gentle?

It seems Euodia and Syntyche were two such women. They were on the same side—both Christians, and fellow-workers with Paul. But they had had a falling out. Paul's general plea for gentleness after he mentions their situation implies that harshness with each other may have been one of their problems.

What is gentleness?

[The dictionary defines it: Gentle: 1) Mild and amiable in nature or disposition; kindly, patient. 2) Not harsh, rough, or loud; soft, moderate, mild, a gentle voice."]

[The Greek word epieikes used here for gentleness "...suggests a character that is equitable, reasonable, forbearing, moderate, fair, and considerate. It is the opposite of harsh, abrasive, sarcastic, cruel, and contentious" - "Word Wealth" - New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1702.]

  • Paul brings up gentleness several times in his letters.
- He reminds the Thessalonians of his gentle ways among then - 1 Thessalonians 2:7.
- Gentleness makes his list of leader qualities in 1 Timothy 3:3, 2 Timothy 2:24, and Titus 3:2.
  • James includes gentleness in his description of what Godly wisdom is made of in James 3:17.
  • But the mention of gentleness that woos me most persuasively is the brief reference to its fruit (kindness) in the Proverbs description of the ideal wife: "She opens her mouth in skillful and godly wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness [giving counsel and instruction]" - Proverbs 31:25 - Amplified. Imagine one's tongue being ruled by kindness. How beautiful is that!

The final short sentence of our focus verse, "The Lord is at hand," may offer a key to how ungentle types can become gentle. If God is at hand [near - eggus, i.e. near in place and position, nearby; near in time, coming soon], we don't need to concern ourselves with enforcing our will on the person or situation with bullying, sarcasm, harshness, or cruelty. If we live with the conviction that God is nearby and will make His appearance at any moment, we can afford the luxury of being patient, kind, soft, and gentle, leaving it for Him to be the heavy if that is what is needed.

PRAYER: Dear God, help me to internalize the reality of You, nearby and coming soon. Help me to grow in gentleness, learning from Your gentle ways with me. Amen.

MORE: Gentle Shepherd - Gaither Vocal Band

More on gentleness here

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