Here's something the Word says: 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 (Phil 4:5,6)
This passage is so rich. But I am struck by the first part of the verse: Let your gentleness be evident to all. The word gentleness... The Amplified expands the word to its closest Greek meaning, listing unselfishness (your considerateness, your forbearing spirit) as a fuller definition. The Greek is, phonetically, "epieikea" (minus macrons, etc.) which means moderation, patient and gentle.
They sound so much like personality traits-- and traits which do not necessarily fit my hyper personality. When I look at these words simply as definitions, I think of a sweet, mild, quiet type of person-- the girl who shows up as the future-makeover in a made for TV movie: she's quiet and unassuming and none of the boys see her true beauty. She is pale and not scary.
But I don't believe the writer was talking about a personality type. How much trouble would every one of us be in if we were judged by God on our personality type? Instead, I've been thinking about the spiritual manifestation of His gentleness in us....
Joshua ended up in the middle of PRIDE festivities (Gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans and queer) downtown this weekend. He plays ultimate frisbee and they had a game scheduled at Piedmont Park. I love my stepson-- he's always in the middle of something. Anyway, he was telling me that one of the things that most struck him was the presence of street preachers hollering "God hates fags" and "He made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve" and "Turn or burn".
When has that ever been an effective way to let people know that they are deeply loved by God?
And how is that gentle?
And really, practically speaking, how do they even imagine that their actions are even remotely effecting the change they desire?
And where in the Bible does it say that God hates "fags"?
Gentleness. When I think of that word, and the writer's exhortation to us to let it be evident to all, I wonder how often we keep our gentleness hidden. Like our light. Under a bushel. What does it mean to be gentle? The word says in 2 Timothy 1:7 that God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power and love and a sound mind-- I wonder if, perhaps, He is the author of that gentleness as well. Perhaps, when we are walking in His spirit, He manifests Himself through us in gentleness.
Have you ever felt broken, like you have fallen on a rock and been smashed to pieces? Did you long for judging faces? Criticism? Gentleness touches without pushing. Gentleness does not hold a grudge. Gentleness is supernatural patience. It is not a personality type-- when we allow our "gentleness to be evident to all," we are allowing His gentleness to speak of His beauty and salvation. If we would let our gentleness-- that gentleness which took up residence in us when we said yes to Him-- be evident to all, would we beat each other up with our words? Would we pummel unbelievers with our theories? Would we make assumptions about people who live their lives differently?
This is not a permissive gentleness. Rather, it is humble. I have seen men standing on street corners, screaming at me to give my life to the Lord. Glaring down at me with glowering eyes, with hatred, telling me that the end is near and that I am a lost piece of scum. Where is their discernment?
Granted, the men screaming in Piedmont Park this weekend and on street corners everywhere are not even slightly good representations of the church-- and my friends who are gay and lesbian know that and are used to those guys. But those men, totally devoid of gentleness, completely dedicated to showing the world a side of Jesus which I never have yet uncovered in His word, are what so many lonely, hurting people see or think of first. The voices of the street preachers are louder than ours in the midst of people He would love. Why?
Gentleness. The writer exhorts us to let the lovingkindness of Jesus be evident to all. To let the mildness of the Lord be evident to all-- His utter lack of meanness and criticism. To let the patience of the Lord be manifest in us, evident to all-- even those who exhaust us, who will not listen, who make the same mistakes again and again... people exactly like ourselves. And if it is a question of salvation, I wonder how many hurting people feel drawn to a source of anger that they perceive in the church? I have sat with so many friends who recount horror stories from the church. And it occurs to me that, when we walk in criticism and meanness, we are actually maligning the name of the God we claim to love. And as far as that goes, have you ever been misrepresented by a friend? How did you feel about it? How might we assume our God feels about it?
At this point, there are multiple other verses which must be brought in, so I'm off to my journal. But here is what I am sitting with today: I want the gentleness of Jesus Christ to be evident to all in me. I want His goodness and kindness to be obvious. I want to smell like Him (2 Corinth 2) and bother people with His stubborn mercy.
And at the same time, I want to find those street preachers who hurt countless people this weekend and stumbled my stepson, and I want to forget about gentleness for about 30 minutes.
But I digress.
***Please see the comment section for Sarah's response***