Friday, July 20, 2018
Philippians 4:5 Let your reasonableness [gentleness (NIV)] be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand;
The English language is fascinating and at the same time confounding. We have words that are spelled the same but mean different things and are even pronounced differently. For example, an arid region of the country is called a desert, but to leave that area is to desert it. The pie I have after a meal is also called dessert. So, I eat dessert before I desert the table to head out to the desert. Words can get so confusing. But they can also be rich with meaning, and sometimes one word can take many words to explain the depth of its meaning.
Such is the case with the word reasonableness, or gentleness, in today’s Scripture verse. Paul has reached the point in his letter to the Philippians where he wants to give them the practical applications of his profound teaching. He has spent substantial time on the subject of rejoicing in the Lord, even when life stinks. From his prison cell he continued to rejoice in what God was doing in and through his life, and he encouraged the people to face hardships with the same humble attitude.
Now, as is his custom in most of his letters, after teaching the truths that transform our hearts, he gives us the challenge of how to apply the truth to our everyday lives. In this letter he boils it down to one behavior that is to be evident to everyone – gentleness. After all the discussion about trials and hardships and persecution, and how we should maintain a proper attitude in the midst of them all, Paul says that gentleness is the one characteristic of our lives that will most effectively model the life of Christ to the people around us. So, what is gentleness?
In writing to one of his pastoral students named Titus, Paul encourages him to teach the people to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to do every good work, to speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, showing all meekness unto all men. (Titus 3:1–2) In this example, being gentle means to be meek. It is interesting to note that the only place in the entire New Testament that the word meek is used as an adjective to describe someone is in Matthew 11:29, where Jesus describes Himself and says, Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: Most of the modern translations of the Bible all translate the word meek as gentle. Jesus described Himself as being gentle, and the primary meaning was meekness.
What does it mean to be meek? First, it does not mean to be weak! In fact, it is just the opposite. In order to be meek, one must first have great power. The word meek literally means to have power under control. It is used in the non-biblical Greek writings of Jesus’ day to describe a great horse that has been broken and bridled. When the horse’s power is brought under the control of the rider through means of a bridle and reins, he is called meek. He still has all the same power he had before he was able to be ridden, but now that power is controlled by another and being used to serve a new master. Even though the horse has more raw power than his rider, he has submitted to the authority of the rider and only uses his power as the rider directs. When the horse was in the wild he lived according to his own will. He found his own food, moved wherever, whenever, and at whatever speed he pleased, and defended himself when it was necessary. But once he was captured by man, he became dependent upon man for his daily needs, his direction, and his defense. Every aspect of his existence was now submitted to the authority of the one who had captured him. His power was now under control for the good of others.
Therefore, our first lesson in being gentle is pretty simple yet very profound – keep your power under control! We have been captured by Jesus Christ. We still have the ability to provide for ourselves and defend ourselves. We can still make our own decisions about the direction our lives will take each day. But we have chosen to submit to the authority of the One who captured us and give Him control of our power. All our power has been bridled and Jesus holds the reins. Every ounce of energy that we expend is to be for His glory and the good of others. Just like the horse, we have given up our rights for the sake of the Master. We no longer assert ourselves over others. We no longer defend ourselves against the attacks of others. We no longer force others to do things our way. We have given up the right to be right to model the righteousness of the Master.
The world wants us to believe that we have the right to do it our way. Frank Sinatra made millions by telling people that the highest goal in his life was to reach the end and know that he did it his way. What a sad commentary on so many people’s lives. They are horses with no name, no purpose, and no legacy. But those who give up the power to do it their way, and do it God’s way, have names – like Trigger and Black Beauty – because they served a Master for the good of others.
Be gentle. Keep your power under control! Give it up to the control of God, and use it only at His direction and for His purpose. Let your gentleness be evident to all!