Are you known as being sweetly reasonable or are you known to be awkward and unreasonable? Paul tells the Christians in Philippi to Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near (Phil. 4:5). The word translated “gentleness” in the NIV is a word which can be translated in a wide variety of ways. If we look at other versions we will see the word rendered as reasonableness (ESV), forbearance (ASV)(RSV), gentle spirit (NASB), considerate (NLT), and moderation (AV).
A rendering which seems to embrace some of the richness of the meaning of the word is “sweet reasonableness”. So what do sweetly reasonable people look like? Such people can be reasoned with. If you speak to them about any issue, they are willing to hear what you have to say and consider what you say. Even when being rebuked, they graciously receive this and are willing to consider the merits of what is being said. A person characterized by such gentleness is thoughtful about other people. They put the interests of others before themselves. However, sweetly reasonable people are not wimps who have no substance. Rather, because they are secure in Christ, they are willing to have their own rights treated as nothing. Thereby this godly characteristic is very similar to meekness.
It is interesting to consider Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthian Christians here. He is speaking to them with dismay about them having taken lawsuits against one another. The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers and sisters (1 Cor. 6:7-8). The Corinthians were each demanding their own rights. They were so unreasonable that they would even take each other to court to prove themselves to be right. Paul is dismayed at their behaviour. By way of contrast, those who are reasonable would rather allow themselves to be wronged and ill-treated if it prevents an unnecessary dispute.
This does not mean that a man of moderation allows His Lord to be blasphemed or Scripture to be dismissed. Certainly not! As we have already thought, truly gentle believers stand securely and strongly for the LORD. They are people of substance. However, the way they take their stand for the honour of Christ and the truth of his Word is always gentle and reasonable. They are not contentious people, but they certainly contend for the faith. Alas, many can stand for the truth of God in an abrasive way. In standing for the LORD in such a manner they dishonour the LORD they stand for.
When we think of being reasonable we are naturally inclined to operate on the principle that “I will be reasonable to those who are reasonable to me”. However the scripture says that our gentleness should be evident to all (Phil. 4:5b). Accordingly, the implication is that we are displaying moderation towards all. There are people who are unreasonable! However, we are to be reasonable towards them. The moderate person bears with the unreasonable. They are not quick to lose their temper. Surely then, we have much need of the spiritual fruit of patience if we are to reasonable to all. Are you known as a person who shows gentleness to all? Are you cultivating the fruit of patience? May the LORD strengthen us all in this area as we move into 2013.
One thing that stops people from being reasonable, is the feeling that they must assert themselves otherwise others will exploit them. Accordingly, Paul seeks to assure the Philippians by saying the LORD is near (Phil. 4:5c). The One who is the ruler over all things is there, at our side, able and willing to intervene. So we should be faithfully moderate in all our dealings knowing that the LORD will take care of the outcome. If we honour Him, by being obedient to His call, to be sweetly reasonable then He has promised to honour us (see 1 Sam. 2:30b).
So how do people view us? “Opinionated” “awkward”, “pushy” – is that what they say? Are we always wanting our own way? Wanting to have the final word? If that is the case then we are miserable representatives of our Saviour who said of himself I am gentle and humble in heart (Matt. 11:29b). In fact if such is the case we have to wonder whether we are truly His disciples. So may we be known as sweetly reasonable people as 2013 dawns. If such is the case, we can be assure of the Lord’s favour upon us. Be blessed in the New Year!
Taken from Feltham Evangelical Church newsletter of January 2013.