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:-


Matthew 21:1-11

Philippians 4:5

In Christ - You can be Gentle.

Gentle. 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.

It happens.

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.

Philippians 4:5

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.

You have got to be kidding. How arrogant you are! The earth and all that is in it belongs to Me already. How dare you come and presume authority".

That is us, but not Jesus. His approach is to give gentle answers in the face of blatant provocation.

Another example. This time it is Barnabas. Barnabas along with Paul was the leader of the first missionary journey in Acts. One of the support team that came along with them was a fairly young man called John Mark. Unfortunately John Mark found the missionary work too difficult, he fizzled sputtered and failed miserably, and he abandoned Paul and Barnabas to do the missionary journey on their own.

Later Paul and Barnabas planned a second missionary journey. Here is how the journey stated.

36 Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” 37 Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, 38 but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. 39 They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, 40 but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord. 41 He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

Acts 15:36-41

Now maybe Paul and Barnabas were not being kind, or loving, or gentle to each other. But the gentle treatment of Barnabas to Mark demonstrated to Mark a willingness to go great length.

Mark gets another chance.

Barnabas has stood up to the great Apostle Paul … for Mark!

The irritation of failure has not caused Barnabas to dismiss Mark.

Imagine the impact this had on Mark. Well actually, we don’t need to imagine, we have an idea.

It is this John Mark who becomes the author of one of the Gospels … the Gospel of Mark.

Indeed in one of his later letters Paul writes these words to Timothy

9 Do your best to come to me quickly, 10 for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia. 11 Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.

2 Timothy 4:9-11

Mark was a person who could have been turned off ministry because of his failures and because of the impatience of Paul. It was the gentleness of Barnabas that brought about a very different outcome.

As we consider these examples it is pretty obvious that showing gentleness is going to be a lot more difficult than justifying becoming angry, impatient, irritated, abrupt, intolerant and unsociable.

It means that we have to be willing to accept that we can’t always have everything under control

… and there will be times when people don’t meet our expectations.

It means that we have to be willing to put away a judgmental and critical spirit

… and replace it with a spirit that wants to encourage even when failure occurs.

It means that we have to be willing to show our appreciation for the contributions of others

… even when those gifts and contributions are different to our own.

It means that we have to be willing to acknowledge that our way and our desire may not always be the best way

… and even if it is the best way we need to allow people the opportunity to learn new techniques without being condemned before they start.

It means that we have to be willing to allow one another to make mistakes

… and when we give an assignment or a task to recognise that perfection is not going to come and people will let you down.

What is gentleness?

Ultimately gentleness is grace in action.

God has been gentle with you, despite how much you irritate Him.

Isn’t it so true that God had to be very patient with us.

In fact God allows us to make mistakes … to sin … and then He gently helps us move on.

God could rightly have taken the way of immediate justice … punishing us for our sin. But He knew this would crush us … and make us always fearful of approaching Him. So God chose a different way.

The Lord is … patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

God has revealed a heart which desires us to be encouraged. So God took the way of gentleness by sending a gentle Saviour.

That is what God has done in Christ. It is the work of redemption and renewal.

Now you … you who are in Christ … you need to be gentle with others, despite how irritating they are.

Believe me. It is not easy.

I can really relate to the person who says of others, “Jesus loves you … but you are annoying!”

Which is why this call to gentleness has a very specific dynamic.

Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.

Philippians 4:5

The Lord is Near.

The idea of “nearness” has two meanings.

The Lord is near in the sense that His coming could happen at any moment.

Jesus is going to return, or we are going to see him face to face.

How does that make us gentle?

Well, we know that when Jesus comes, all things will be made right.

Evil will be punished and the judgement will be consistent.

Faithfulness will be rewarded, and God will commend His saints.

If we happen to get the rough end of the stick now the coming of the Lord means we don’t have to get too stressed because God will bring equity in the end.

The Lord is near … the rubbish and irritations of this life will pass.

A lot of us who are irritating each other will be in heaven together.

So let’s show our gentleness.

And show gentleness to others who are not-yet on the path to eternity … because we want them to be with us as well.

There is no-one so annoying that we would want them to be in hell.

Be gentle … the Lord is near.

The Lord is also near in the sense that He is walking with us every step of the way.

Jesus is very aware of our attitudes, or responses, and our conduct.

Jesus is very concerned about the way that we act as ambassadors for Him.

Jesus being near means that he sees how we live out our walk of faith.

Jesus is so near that you have his Spirit.

How can you … you who have been the object of such patience and gentleness … how can you not show that same grace to others?

How can you … you who know that God had every right to be irritated, and impatient, and abrupt with you – but who didn’t … how can you now not extend that same grace to others?

Let your gentleness be evident to all. To believers. To not-yet believers. To your Saviour who is walking with you always.

In Christ you can be a person who has such a gentle approach to life that everyone around you can see.

Live like this and you will be a powerful witness for the Lord Jesus Christ.

Standing out like a beacon, in a world where irritation, impatience, abruptness and retaliation has become the norm.