Let your gentleness be evident to all (iii)

The third in a series on gentleness. Posts one and two are here. On into the epistles…

Eph 4:1-3 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

In Ephesians, Paul’s call to be gentle because of his discipleship – “as a prisoner for the Lord……” It follows a section on what Christ has done – the mystery of God which was once hidden is made known to us through Christ. Therefore, Paul says, be gentle and patient so that the unity of the Spirit is maintained. Because of what Christ has done we are to follow in his footsteps in order that the body of Christ is one as God is one. Gentleness creates unity.

Phil 4:4-7 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

This comes from the final sections of Philippians where Paul is wrapping up his thoughts. In a way these verses are a kind of ‘catch all’ at the end of the book, but Paul links gentleness with the Lord being near (not sure whether he means near through the Spirit or that the Christ’s return is near). In either case, gentleness of portrayed as being linked to the closeness of God.

Col 3:11-14 Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Unity and discipleship again. Similar to the Ephesians verses, gentleness comes out of the fact that Christ is one and we are all united in him, therefore acting as he acted follows. I guess this is the essence of discipleship – the disciples aiming to become like their teacher.

1 Tim 6:10-12 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called…

In his first letter to Timothy, Paul contrasts false teaching and a corrupt mind which leads to material temptations with the marks of the spirit – righteousness, godliness etc… and gentleness. The next verse indicates that followers should ‘take hold of the eternal life to which you were called…’  The implication is that this eternal life starts now, so believers should start to clothe themselves now with the characteristics of that life. There seems little point in holding on too tightly to those things that will not last.

1 Pet 3:1-4 Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.

1 Pet 3:13-16 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.“ But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

Two sections from Peter’s first letter. The first is Peter’s instructions to wives, particularly of those who do not believe. Some think this is an injunction against using any make-up, jewellery or doing up your hair. To read it as this is to miss the point of these verses. Peter is not saying that wives must not do these things, but that their beauty should come primarily from inside – gentleness and a quiet spirit. It must be noted what the reasons for this were – In Ephesians it was about unity of believers. Here in 1 Peter the motivations are similar – to win over the husbands through the behaviour of their wives, through actions. I guess you could say it is about unity in marriage which leads to the unity of believers.

The second passage has a similar motivations. Speaking more plainly about evangelism, Peter urges believers to speak about the hope they have in Jesus Christ (earlier Peter talked about evangelism through actions, here it is through words). But this must always be done with gentleness – never forcefully. In speaking about the kingdom believers are to act out the characteristics of the kingdom.

To sum up:

  • We are to be gentle because Christ it gentle and we are his disciples – but gentle does not mean wimpy
  • Gentleness encourages and enables unity amongst believers
  • Gentleness acts out a characteristic of the kingdom, a characteristic of our eternal lives. As our eternal lives start now we are to act these out now.
  • Gentleness assists evangelism – either being the means which point to a changed life in Christ, or testifying to the words we are speaking.
  • It enables all people to follow Christ, not just the strong and confident, but those with troubles.
  • It is practical in daily living, as gentleness turns away anger and interrupts cycles of violence.
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