A Gentle Reputation
Read Philippians 4:5 (NASB)
Let your gentle spirit be known to all people. The Lord is near.
What does it look like practically to display a “gentle spirit?”
The world says if someone hits you, you hit back. If someone slanders you, get revenge. If you want to get ahead in life, it’s ok to be a little selfish. If you need to step on or over someone to climb the ladder, go for it. After all, you only get one shot at your dreams. So look out for number one. Take care of yourself. Love yourself. And let the world know that they should never mess with you!
But is that what Scripture says? No, far from it! In today’s verse, Paul says that we shouldn’t be known for our toughness or our ability to defend ourselves. We shouldn’t be known for our fighting spirit. We should be known for our gentle spirit!
This may be hard for us to understand because gentleness is often undervalued in our society. Some even view it as a sign of weakness. But it is repeatedly a virtue held in high regard in the Bible. And it is not a sign of weakness but of trust.
The best example of gentleness is Jesus. He called Himself “gentle” in Matthew 11:29 (ESV) when He said, “Take my yoke upon you, learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
The apostle Peter reminds us that we are to imitate Christ and follow His lead. “For you have been called for this purpose, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you would follow in His steps, He who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being abusively insulted, He did not insult in return; while suffering, He did not threaten, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously…” (1 Peter 2:21-23, NASB). According to Peter, Jesus’ gentle response to being abused was not a sign of His weakness but a sign of His trust in God. Jesus knew that the end to His terrible suffering was near. He would be returning to the Father very soon.
Paul agrees. He says “the Lord is near.” In our sufferings, He is with us. And we can rest assured that He is coming back soon! When He does, He will judge rightly. We don’t have to defend ourselves, He is our defense.
But we shouldn’t display this gentle spirit only to our enemies when we are being wronged. Paul said to let our gentleness be known to everyone. That includes our brothers and sisters in Christ. Remember the context of this verse. Paul had just been urging Euodia and Syntyche to get along (Philippians 4:2). They were women who were faithful servants of the Gospel. But they were in the middle of a disagreement that was causing a division in the church. Right after this, he urges them to be known for gentleness, not fighting.
Paul never condoned sweeping issues under the rug for the sake of peace. But he always encouraged treating everyone with gentleness and respect. In 2 Timothy 2:24 (ESV) he said, “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness."
Friends, whether you are at odds with a brother or sister in Christ or whether you are being mistreated and maligned by the world, seek to have a reputation of gentleness! Follow in Christ’s footsteps in regard to this because He is near. His Spirit is with you through it all and He is coming back soon.
Lord, thank You for Your example of gentleness. Help me follow You so I can be known for my gentle spirit. It is not a sign of weakness but a sign that I trust You. I don’t need to react in anger or defend myself because You are a righteous judge and my Defender. Amen.