Baseline Weekly - Growing in Gentleness
In his letter to the Philippians, Paul instructs to “Let your gentleness be evident to all.” That line caught my eye when I was reading. Be gentle to the degree that it becomes evident to all, a defining feature? That’s a tall order.
I can be gentle, of course. You can trust me to hold your baby or drink tea from your fragile china cups (though maybe not at the same time). But gentleness is not my default setting, not by a long shot. Paul’s exhortation made me wonder what was standing in the way of my gentleness. Why is gentleness so hard for me?
My first realization was this - convinced that life is unfair unless you stand up for yourself and take charge so you don’t get shortchanged, I accidentally put myself in charge of justice and fairness in my life! If that hasn’t happened to you, let me tell you - I don’t think it’s a job humans are meant for. It cuts out the author of justice and fairness, sidesteps the only one who knows the full picture, and leaves behind the one who loves us most of all and has a plan for us. Realizing that I can trust God with justice and fairness was my first step toward gentleness. If I don’t have to rely on myself to make fairness happen, there’s a lot more room for me to treat others with gentleness. It allows me to stick up for myself (or others) with a gentleness that grows out of my trust in Him.
Next, I realized that I often rely on my own strength. Going back to Philippians (and to last Sunday’s sermon), I’m like Paul listing off his ‘reasons for confidence in the flesh’ - his birth into just the right family and tribe, his faultlessness before the law, his zeal for the church. If I try to add ‘gentleness’ to that list outside of God’s grace, I will not be very successful. But it’s God’s grace, not our qualifications, that brings us into God’s family, and likewise, God’s grace, not our own labor, will help us be gentle. Remembering and embracing the role of God’s grace in my life shifts my focus off myself and onto Him, enabling me to let His gentleness be expressed by me.
My prayer for us then is this: May we be people who deeply embrace God’s grace and allow the Holy Spirit to work in us, so that God’s grace may be expressed as gentleness in us. May our gentleness grow and become evident to those around us.