Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
I know these verses by heart. They are seared into my memory. I recall them often. But the words preceding?
“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.” Philippians 4:4-5
It’s not that I don’t know them, but I don’t necessarily give them the respect and weight I should. Especially, the “let your gentleness be known to all men” part. I’ve always kind of skimmed right past those words.
I am not an inherently gentle person. The NASB translation says “let your gentle spirit, be known to all men”. Gentle in the Greek means, “gentle, mild, forbearing, fair, reasonable, moderate” . . . I mean y’all, I don’t often find myself falling into any of these categories, but “reasonable” and “moderate” are definitely not my forte. However, as of late, God has been reminding me, that it’s not about my natural disposition . . . it’s not about whether or not I’m an “inherently gentle person” . . . if Jesus is my Savior, then I am called to gentleness, and the Holy Spirit enables me to be gentle. Gentleness is not optional.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” Galatians 5:22-25
People often frustrate me . . . how’s that for a segue? I don’t understand why they do the things they do. Why do some relationships have to be so hard? Why is it that boundaries can’t be respected? Why does judgment have to be passed on aspects of other people’s lives that have absolutely no moral or ethical consequences? Why is it that constructive, healthy, criticism can’t be heard? Why is jealousy the top dynamic in some relationships? Yep. People often frustrate me. And I frustrate myself. Because I have found that I kind of, sort of, have an inability to let things go . . . to sometimes leave things unsaid. I have a need for accuracy and honesty in my life, and there’s nothing wrong with that. The issue is that I often fail to couple honesty and truth with gentleness. So rather than gently speaking truth, I blast it like a stick of dynamite and end up imploding what’s there rather than building up and creating something stronger.
I think we confuse gentleness with weakness. We think gentleness equals compromise. We are never told to be weak in God’s word. We are never called to compromise on biblical values and morals. Sin is still sin, and we still have a responsibility to address sin when, if, and how God tells us we should. Some of the gentlest followers of Christ are bold and strong in speaking the truth and living for Him, but they are also ruled by a gentle spirit.
Gentleness . . . it’s the area on which God is currently working in my life, and let me tell y’all, it is quite a lot of work. I want to have a gentle and quiet spirit. I want to boldly speak the truth with gentleness. I want to be gentle as a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, and a friend. I don’t want to be abrasive and cynical. I don’t want to use truth to destroy, but instead use it to bring life to others. I’m definitely not there yet. Reality is, I’ve really only begun, and I know there is a lot of work to be done. But here’s the other reality, the one that really matters . . . it’s not my job to make myself gentle. It’s the job of the Holy Spirit to instill that gentleness in me. It’s my job to let Him. It’s my job to submit. The more I allow the Holy Spirit to live in me and work through me, the more that gentleness, and all the fruits of the spirit, will flow out of me. It’s not something I have to make happen, but rather it’s something I must allow to happen.