Right in the middle of Paul’s oft quoted exhortation to ‘Rejoice in the Lord always’, and ‘Be not anxious about anything’ but rather pray with thanksgiving so that ‘the peace of God will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus’, is a frequently overlooked phrase.
Right in the middle of this wonderful passage Paul says, ‘Let your gentleness be evident to all’ (Phil 4:5).
The call to gentleness is not only overlooked in this passage. I wonder if it is also overlooked as a primary Christian virtue. We like firm, decisive leaders who know where they’re going and work to overcome resistance. In matters of faith and doctrine, we insist on staunch adherence to the truth. In the public sphere, we rally to ensure that the Christian worldview is upheld against increasingly antagonistic secularism.
Of course, there is a place for strength and truth, but not, I think, at the expense of gentleness.
To quote John Frame, ‘The church is not an academic debating society, not a place where one seeks by whatever means to prove himself right and to prove the other guy wrong. It is, above all, a place where we care for one another as nursing mothers care for their babies. And if that atmosphere of caring, protecting, nurturing, and loving is ever replaced by an adversarial climate, the very life of the church is in danger’.
How would people at work describe you? What about at home, or at church? Would they say, without faltering, that you are gentle? They should. God says, ‘Let your gentleness be evident to all’.