Saturday, August 16, 2014

Philippians - The Gentleness of Christ


“Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand;”

Philippians 4:4 talks about the inward fruit of joy. Verse 5 talks about how the personal fruit of joy in the believer’s life is supposed to affect others as “reasonableness” or “gentleness”. Sometimes, I think people find it difficult to be reasonable and gentle because it’s much easier to be critical and hard on people. Also, we may feel as though we have a right to something and therefore it must be “ok” to insist on those rights. Read the following quotes about living a life of reasonableness and gentleness in the context of our interaction with believers and nonbelievers. 

“This is how other people are to experience the Christian’s joy in the Lord; the word everyone is literally ‘to all people’, and clearly refers to both Christians and outsiders.”[i]

“In the present context, too, it is undoubtedly the gentleness of Christ who did not insist on his rights (2:6) which the Philippians are to adopt: both their joy and their gentleness are grounded in the fact that the Lord is near.”[ii]

“The gentle person does not insist on his own rights.”[iii]

a person willing to be magnanimous above and beyond what is strictly faira compassionate person like Jesusleniency and understanding”[iv]

“Gentleness refers to a gracious and reasonable spirit. In particular, it forsakes insistence on one’s own rights in order to benefit others.”[v]

I would like to be able to always say that I am full of gentleness and grace, and that I easily extend grace to others. When people are hurting or in need, I am able to be compassionate and gracious. However, when people have hurt or offended me or someone I love, I am less quick to be compassionate and gracious. In fact, I'm quick to be spiteful or critical. If I am hurt (or someone I love is hurt), I feel as though I have the right to let the person know what they did. They don't deserve grace from me! The fact is, as believers, we don't have the "right" to choose when we extend grace. 

Think about God. Does He extend His grace based on His character or our character? Based on the fact that He is perfect or that we are deserving?? That's an easy answer because we are definitely NOT deserving. We are called to imitate Christ. Soooo, since He extended grace based on his perfect character, as Christians, we should extend grace based on God's character not on if the person is deserving. (I borrowed this illustration from something Patrick said in a message before!) 

When we get in these situations where its not easy to show gentleness, we should remember Jesus Christ. He had every "right" to NOT be gentle because He did not deserve any of the physical and emotional ridicule, pain, and shame that He received. He remained gentle, humble, and forgiving amidst the pain. Why? Because of LOVE. Because His character is perfect. Because it was God's will for Him to extend grace. And it is His will for us to extend His grace, as well.

TRUTH #1: Believers are to be gentle, loving, and humble in following Christ’s example (2:5).

TRUTH #2: All people, believers and non-believers, will (or should) be affected by our gentleness. (And if we are not gentle, they will be affected by that, too.)

TRUTH #3: The Lord is the One who enables us to be joyful and gentle.

APPLICATION: How is your gentleness? Perhaps this question would present a more accurate portrayal of your gentleness: How would other people describe your gentleness? Do you naturally and instinctively insist on your own rights and preferences instead of thinking of others before you think of yourself? Pray about and think about ways that you can be molded into a compassionate person who models after the servant heart of Jesus Christ. What are some specific traits that characterize your personality that you need to “put off”, and what are some qualities of Christlikeness that you need to put on in order to positively affect believers and non-believers for the Gospel?

FURTHER STUDY: Read Colossians 3:1-17 and Galatians 5:16-25 to study different traits that you should “put off” and “put on”. Create a list from these passages, and pray over all that you discover from these Scriptures.

[i] Bockmuehl, 244.

[ii] Ibid., 245.

[iii] Melick, 149.

[iv] Witherington III, 246

[v] Anthony L. Ash, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon, The College Press NIV Commentary, (Missouri: College Press Publishing Company, 1994), 117. 

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