Let your gentle spirit…

I’ve been reading in Philippians for the past 6 weeks – yes 6 weeks! I’ve gone to other places as well, but my morning reading (with my breakfast) has been centered in Philippians. The passage in chapter 4:4-9 has captivated my heart for 10 days!! I’ve finally pulled together thoughts enough to share here.

Let your gentle spirit be known to all men

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. 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 comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

The bolded part has been a particular challenge to me.

One translation I have uses the word forbearance rather than gentle (the word spirit is not in the original, but put in by the translators to make the text flow more clearly).

Dictionary definition of forbearance:

a refraining from something; patient endurance; self-control; an abstaining from the enforcement of a right.

Dictionary definition of gentle:

kindly; amiable; not severe, rough, or violent; mild; moderate.

The Greek word is:

epieikes and is used in 1 Tim 3:3; Titus 3:2; James 3:17; and 2 Peter 2:18 and Thayer’s Lexicon defines it:

1) seeming, suitable
2) equitable, fair, mild, gentle

In all of the things I’ve looked at, it leans strongly to a gentleness in attitude particularly toward other people.

I think this has really struck my heart lately because of a critical spirit that I see in many Christians these days. It is something that I continually search for in myself. I find it interesting that it says to let your gentle spirit be known to all men – not just to Christians, but to all! This, for me, is where the rubber meets the road!

I am not trying to point fingers or chastise. I am imploring ALL of us to examine our hearts. Do we find ourselves:

  • mocking those who believe differently from ourselves
  • assuming unbelievers are stupid and idiotic for their beliefs
  • being very critical of other believers or ministries
  • making assumptions of another’s spiritual walk (or even salvation) based on certain behaviors in them while excusing other sinful behaviors in ourselves
  • living CONTRARY to what Paul praised in the Bereans who, “received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so” where we REJECT teachings out of hand because of “where it might lead”

My husband read a blog post by John Piper to me tonight and I’m going to link to it here because it is SO appropriate to this post. I would love for you all to read it and ask yourselves, “Are there whole groups of believers that I am taking potshots at?”

Well, that’s the forbearance part.

Now the sentence that says, “The Lord is near.” WHAT??? That’s kind of out of the blue, don’t you think? Why would Paul mention Jesus being near right in the middle of this challenge to be gentle in spirit toward others sandwiched between encouragement to rejoice, be at peace and think on honorable/beautiful/pure things?

I prayed about it for quite a bit, came up with 2 ideas and checked the commentaries – most of which said the 2 things I came up with.

  • Jesus is near to you (almost physically) in heart and spirit, like He is walking beside you and seeing and hearing everything you do and say.
  • Jesus is near to you in time, as in He is coming back quickly

And I’m not sure which is right but I can make a case either way.

If He is near to us physically, then we are challenged to make our every word, thought, and action reflect what He calls us to because He’s here listening and watching. If He is near to us in time, then we need to realize that our time is urgent to point others to Him and we want to make sure that WE are not an offense to the gospel because WE PERSONALLY are offensive and nasty (and scratching and clawing one another is VERY offensive and nasty!)

I’m not quite sure on that. BUT I DO know that too often, instead of being gentle or forbearing with all men, we can be rude and hyper-critical bordering on slanderous – especially with the household of God.

I have been meditating on my own responses, my own tendencies to being critical, in the past days and weeks. So I’m encouraging you to examine your hearts as well – or rather ask the Holy Spirit to examine your hearts.

Are WE actively slandering or gossiping about others (particularly believers or ministries)?

Are WE able to stand up to the same scrutiny we extend to others?

I don’t like to bring harsh words, but this is what has been on my heart for many days as I’ve meditated on this passage. And I look within with great deliberation to have the Spirit

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.” Ps 139:23-24
(image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography/freedigitalphotos.net)
All Scripture quotations are taken from the NASB.

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1 Comment

  1. thank you for always saying what I NEED TO HEAR!
    love you so!


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