Summary: In a world full of irritations Paul calls us to a response of gentleness. This gentleness comes because “The Lord is Near” – he has the future sorted and He walks with us moment by moment to that future.
You can listen to the full message here:-
In Christ - You can be Gentle.
You find yourself saying that a lot as a parent.
Your younger one is patting a kitten.
Or they have a new baby sister and want to hold them.
The purpose of being gentle is make sure someone else was not physically hurt.
But gentleness is more than that.
Our family had a saying as we went into the world, especially when we were visiting others.
Be Kind. Be Gentle. Be Loving.
We did this because we recognised that it is easy to not be a gentle or nice person.
In fact it is much easier to get irritated and be irritating.
Next Saturday my year 12 graduating class of 1987 is having a 30th anniversary reunion. As part of the preparation I have been thinking back to my High School years and some of the teachers we had.
Some of them were renowned for being irritable, impatient and grumpy.
But when I also think about the way they were often treated it’s a miracle that they didn’t just give up teaching altogether.
They had a reason for being the sort of people they were.
Or I think about the man who came home to his Mum and said, “I don’t want to go back to the church anymore.
They don’t appreciate me.
They leave me out of their lives.
They just seem to take me for granted.
His Mum said, “Well you have to go back and I’ll give you two reasons why. Firstly your 42 years old you need to learn to get on with life. Secondly you’re the Pastor.
We laugh but sadly it is so true - not in my case, but I know too many ministerial colleges have left the pastoral ministry because of the way people have treated them.
Teachers have left teaching because of the way students have treated them.
People have bailed out of marriages because of the treatment they have received.
Teenagers have left home because they couldn’t live with their parents.
Business have folded because business partners couldn’t get along.
And I’m sure we can look into our own lives and think of justifiable reasons when strained relationships with people have caused us to become angry, impatient, irritated, abrupt, intolerant and unsociable. Times which have caused us to give-up, or blow-up, or clam-up.
In response to this life situation Paul speaks.
More specifically God gives Paul an inspired Word.
A word that calls us to a have a very specific reaction to the irritating situations, and the irritating people, in life.
Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.
That is the call. Now let’s remember the context in which these words are being spoken.
Firstly Paul himself is in prison – actually he is specifically in prison for the preaching of the Gospel. Paul has the message of truth to tell but his Jewish enemies are falsely accusing him, and blaming him for creating dissent, and convincing the government that Paul is a traitor. Paul is suffering chronically at the hands of people.
But also the Philippian church is going through its fair share of suffering. There are people in the congregation who are trying to create division.
Some are publicly questioning the message which Paul taught and accusing the congregation of ignoring Old Testament.
Many have sacrificed a lot to support Paul and others in their missionary work. The congregation in Philippi has suffered at the hands of people.
In that context irritation, impatience and retaliation seem to be justifiable reactions. But Paul does not encourage such a response. Instead Paul calls them … No:- Paul commands them … to let their gentleness be seen by all. Not just by other Christians, but by everyone with whom they come in contact.
In Christ you can be a person who has such a gentle approach to life that everyone around you can see.
Well what is gentleness? The best way to know what it is to see the word in action.
Let’s start with Jesus.
At the beginning of His ministry Jesus went into the desert and was tempted.
Now remember who this is. This is Jesus Christ who is God. When our Creator spoke the heavens and the earth into existence, Jesus was there. When Satan was banned from heaven Jesus was there. All power was in His hands. The glorious praise of all the heavenly beings were directed to Him.
Now we are at the temptation. Satan comes and says, “If you bow down and worship me I will give you all the nations”.
That has got to be irritating.
If we were there some of us would have a very different response.