Friday, August 29, 2008
This summer I’ve preached an overview of the book of Philippians in a series entitled ‘The Gospel Driven Life’. Sunday brings me to a very short and seemingly out of place passage in the fourth chapter of that book. It reads as follows: Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand (ESV). The NASB translates the same passage this way: Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. The term translated ‘reasonableness’ in the ESV and gentle in the NASB is a compound term that conveys the idea of having a consistent attitude of mildness, patience with a view toward expressing meekness under pressure. Furthermore it carries the notion of treating others with respect, consideration and dignity and may especially be applied to those who either disagree with or oppose us. Though the term reasonableness is a good and accurate way to translate the word I’m a bit more partial to the NASB rendering of gentle spirit. Gentleness calls us to treat others in light of considering how our words, disposition, tone and actions affects their feelings. It calls for the saints to refrain from doing or saying things that would demean or belittle someone else. The word picture associated with gentleness is the way a loving mother treats a young infant.
From this passage Paul expects the saints not only to relate to each other in this way but also to those who oppose them and the gospel. This is a significant point and one which we must not be too swift to gloss over. We would certainly expect the apostle to exhort the saints to relate to each other with a gentle disposition. (see Eph. 4:2) This would be applicable within the church generally and during times when God’s people see things differently. Here however Paul is careful to alert the Philippians to express this gentleness to the wider society. The weightiness of his imperative comes into focus when we consider that those to whom the Philippians were called to display gentleness to were some of the very people who actively opposed the gospel, our Lord Jesus Christ and His church.
Ok Lance, what in the world does this have to do with the price of tea in China? Now that the election season has begun in earnest I want to encourage God’s people to consider this short but significant passage in the way we relate to those who may oppose our chosen political party and candidate. We may genuinely believe that they are totally wrong, completely off base, incredibly out of touch and even maliciously devious. But even if we think their unstated but very real goal is the destruction of this country we must still treat and relate to them with an authentic gentleness.
About twenty years ago this might not have been that big of a deal. For the most part we would have hung with those who agreed with our politics and even if we ran into those at work who didn’t it wasn’t that big of a deal. But now dear ones we have the blogopshere. And I’m becoming more and more convinced that cyberspace is the last frontier of sanctification for God’s people. The world wide web can give us an access and boldness that many of us would not otherwise have. Here we can write things from the relative safety of our keyboards with the knowledge that more than likely we’ll never sit face to face with someone we’ve insulted or mistreated. But don’t be fooled. The world is still watching and even if we think it unfair will judge us by what we write, how we write it and what it says about our true thoughts about them and the truths we confess. Am I advocating we stay away from the important political discussions happening in this country? Not at all. I’m am asking all of us to engage in those discussion in light of Phil. 4:5.
Why? Because in the end our primary purpose and calling isn’t the election of a candidate, the dominance of a particular party or even the overall supremacy of a temporary country. Our primary purpose and calling with relation to this society is to call men and women, boys and girls into a saving relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ whose return in nearer now than when Paul penned his words 2000 years ago. Our main calling is far more important then who gets to occupy the White House for the next four years for it deals with who gets to live in God’s house for the next eternity.
So my brothers and sisters by all means discuss, debate, advocate, defend, campaign and vote. But in all things whether you are democrat or republican let your gentleness be known to everyone, for the Lord is near.
The Lord’s Peace