Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. (Philippians 4:5)
Learning To Be Of Gentle Character
It is remarkable to read a letter where the author is asking for his readers to exhibit a spirit of kindness, gentleness and forbearance when the circumstance surrounding the one writing the letter is anything but peaceful and calm. Enduring the hardships of a Roman prison in the first century was an experience few would find tolerable or pleasant. The guards would not treat the prisoners well, food was foul and the cramp quarters of a Roman cell was claustrophobic for the bravest of hearts. Yet found in this scene of trial and misery the apostle Paul pens a number of letters including a rather joyful message to the church in Philippi. The letter to the Philippian saints is received as an epistle of joy. There are many attributes contained in his letter that Paul enjoins upon the brethren to find the joy in serving the Lord enduring whatever hardships come upon them. They could have the confidence in his message because they knew what Paul had to endure. Of the many admonitions to encourage his brethren, the apostle implores them to have a spirit of gentleness, forbearance and reasonableness with all men. He wants them to show a gracious attitude to all men even when some of those men were sought to persecute them and possibly imprison them. The captors of the man from Tarsus must have marveled at his kind demeanor and willingness to accept the chains of his imprisonment. Like his Lord, Paul lived what he preached. His example of faith would stir the emotions of all those who read his prison epistles.
Being gentle to all men is not an easy task when the world is filled with a lot of angry people. It is natural to strike back or to impress the rights of citizens upon others but what separates the child of God from the citizen of the world is the higher cause that is served. As disciples of Christ His followers let their gentle spirit of forgiveness, mercy, kindness, love and peace show itself in their daily walk. The Christian is a man of integrity by his word of gentleness. All men will know the heart of the man who calls Jesus his Lord through the attitudes of the heart, the character of speech and the pattern of his life. His demeanor will exhibit one of careful examination of the word of God so that he may know how to live before all men. These are not simply admonitions or suggestions but qualifications to be found faithful before the judgment seat of God. Hearts must learn to change from being abusive and loud demanding their way must be followed and heeded. The voice of the Christian is filled with the forgiveness of Christ, the love of the Holy Spirit and the image of the Father impressed upon the heart. This is what the world sees when they examine the life of the child of God. They will find the Christian as one who is gentle in all things.
Learning to be gentle requires bringing into subjection the spirit of defiance. A motivating factor in the life of all Christians is the realization that Jesus could return at any moment. Five words establish the pattern of life for any who call upon the Lord: The Lord is at hand. It has been nearly two thousand years since these words were penned but the reality is closer now than ever before. What characterized the early church is the constant sense and anticipation of the Lord’s return. Sadly the church today rarely thinks about the coming of the Lord and the effect is less gentleness, kindness, love and mercy. If more of God’s people would dwell on the knowledge of His imminent return and to do so with joy not fear; there would be a lot more lives filled with gentleness. One motivates the other. Keeping the pressures of the world out of the heart and filling it with the love of God endears the spirit to long more fully for the return of Jesus. A kinder heart moves the human spirit to the plains of eternal praise and glory. Learn to be gentle and the richness of God’s grace will fill the heart and others will see Christ living in you.