Saturday, September 09, 2006

Philippians 4:5

"Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near"

A few days ago I prayed to the Lord to help me understand this verse:

Why should our gentleness be "evident to all”? And what is the connection between this and with the immediately following phrase “the Lord is near”?

Last night, I was watching and my wife was half-watching a dramatisation on BBC about some folk who happened to be have been in the Twin Towers during the attack. At one point there spoke a fireman (Capt. Jay Jonas - he tells his story on YouTube as well) who with a colleague had been helping a lady come down the stairway.

First, he revealed that he happened upon this lady just as she had been having difficulty walking down the stairs because of injury or smoke inhalation. This was just after the other building had collapsed. So the fireman knew he needed to get out of this one in a hurry. But when he was asked why he didn’t just pass her by and that nobody would know he said “I would know”.

So here is a man with a conscience.

Then he said that as they were slowly making their way down and as the stress levels grew and grew, he started speaking softer and softer. He said he consciously trained himself to do this because he said that at times like these you don’t want to add to the tension by screaming down at people – hence ”let your gentleness be evident to all”.

But what is the connection with “the Lord is near”?

Well, it may or may not be like when it was with the Twin Towers on September 11 but it is the testimony of the New Testament that the second coming of the Lord is going to be accompanied by very stressful times indeed referred to as “times of tribulation”. So it seems that, like this firemen, our comportment during times of “tribulation” must of one of “gentleness”. It may not be an automatic kind of gentleness but one which is maintained with conscious effort like the effort this fireman put into speaking softer and softer as the tension grew and grew.

But why gentleness?

I suppose one reason might be to help those around us who are also waiting for the coming of the Lord to endure the “tribulations”.

It’s also a fruit of the Spirit and a character trait of the Lord Jesus himself which was especially evident in his earthly ministry.

And I suppose we should be more like him generally but especially as we wait to greet His coming again.

Here is how William Hendriksen in his commentary on this verse puts it:

“ The idea seems to be : since Christ’s coming is near, when all the promises made to God’s people will become realities, believers, in spite of being persecuted, can certainly afford to be mild and charitable in their relation to others”.

By the way, this fireman, the lady and the other fireman who was helping the first carry the woman all came out of the building AFTER it had collapsed around them.

Maybe this true story is a good model of how Christians are to go through and finally emerge out of “tribulation”.

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