Let everyone see your gentleness. The Lord is near!
(Philippians 4:5 ESV)
Yesterday Paul told us to be intentionally filled with joy. Today he tells us that we should be gentle.
The Greek word translated “gentleness” is επιεικεσ (pronounced: ep-ee-i-kace’). It has a wide variety of meanings including gentleness, modesty, magnanimity, and forbearance. This fits in well with the commands God gave us previously in this letter [Philippians 2:3-4].
Whereas joy is an internal peace regardless of circumstances, gentleness is an outward behavior. God wants His children to have a calm demeanor that is apparent to everyone.
To that end, Christians are not to let what is going on around us upset us. When we have difficulty in life — which all of us will have — we can demonstrate our faith in God by being considerate and gentle toward others despite our problems.
Notice that we are to demonstrate gentleness to “everyone”. The Greek word here is πασ (pronounced: pas). It is the word used to refer to the entire world. God’s children — born again believers [John 1:12] — are commanded to be gentle and patient with all people – believers/non-believers, gay/straight, young/old, friends/enemies. Everyone.
The forbearing person knows that God is in control and is therefore free from trying to right every wrong she experiences. This does not mean that she should be spineless – sometimes we do have to stand up for what is right. But it does mean that the Lord is her strength [Psalm 18:1, 28:7 et. al] and will fight her battles for her.
One of my favorite passages in Scripture vividly demonstrates the fact that God is in control. The prophet Daniel — who wrote about the last days of earth — describes a scene in Daniel 7:1-8 where things on the planet are out of control. Chaos reigns.
Then suddenly in verse 9 Daniel switches to a contemporary scene in heaven where we see that God is calmly sitting on His throne, taking care of business as usual. He knows what is going on on earth and is in complete control. I often recall this verse in my mind when things aren’t going the way I think they should in my life.
One day soon (“The Lord is near”) God will right wrongs — and vindicate those who have given up their rights for His glory and the welfare of others. Vengeance belongs to the Lord [Deuteronomy 32:25, Romans 12:19]. God does not want His children to spend our time getting back at those who have harmed us. He will take care of that at the end of time when every person who ever lived is judged.
Rather, as Christ’s ambassadors [2 Corinthians 5:20], we are to represent Him on this earth by being patient and calm in every circumstance and with every person.
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