“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. 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 understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” [Philippians 4:4-7].
“And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all…” [2Timothy 2:24a].
Continuing to reflect on this passage (see previous post):
Paul is experiencing harshness, yet he writes of gentleness. There is harshness in prison, there was hardness in the process of going to prison; Paul’s Christian life, on the exterior, has been one of harshness, consider these words of his to the Corinthians 2Cor. 11:23 – 28):
“Are they servants of Christ? – I speak as if insane – I more so, in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches.” (NASB).
From the time Paul met Jesus Christ until his execution in Rome he was hounded by adversaries bent on his destruction. Some of these adversaries were Pharisees he had once known as friends and colleagues, others were professing Christians. Paul was persecuted by those both within and without the professing church – he was attacked on all sides and from within. In addition dealing with these attacks he also had the “daily pressure…of concern for all the churches.” There appears to have been little respite for Paul. And yet he writes, “Let your gentleness be known to all men.” “And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all…”
In 2 Corinthians 7:5 Paul writes, “…we were afflicted on every side: conflicts without, fears within.”
How do our worst days in the business world compare to the days, the life, that Paul describes in these and other passages? Yet he exhorts us to gentleness and to peace. To the Romans he writes (Romans 12:14 and 18), “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse…Never pay back evil for evil to anyone.”
The serpent’s goal in the Garden was to disrupt the relational peace of God and man, and by extension the peace between man and man. It is no small thing that Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful,” (John 14:27). Jesus speaks these words on the night of His betrayal, on the eve of His crucifixion!
The world’s message, and the message often heard and seen in the business community, is that only the strong survive, that retaliation for a wrong is not only acceptable but expected and justified, and that using anger as a weapon (often a weapon of mass destruction) is a sign of a leader. (Perhaps I should reiterate an earlier clarification, that not all anger is sinful and that we are not talking about truly righteous anger which is often the result of witnessing injustice and other sinful behavior).
In a sense, every new day is a day in the Garden with two central trees, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and the Tree of Life. Our enemy tells us that if we’ll eat from the former tree that we’ll be as God, that we’ll be in control. There is no gentleness or peace to be found in the first tree, and when we attempt to be in control life spirals out of control. If we desire to be like our heavenly Father and Lord Jesus we must learn to eat of the Tree of Life; Jesus Christ is that Tree and as we partake of Him we are transformed into His image. The enemy misdirects us, his ploy again and again is deceit – when we chase his mirage and drink of his water our mouths are filled with sand – Living Water is only found in the Tree of Life – Jesus Christ.
There is little if anything in life that is cosmically mundane. The observer may have seen little difference between the two central trees of the Garden, they may have looked similar – we don’t know. Or, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil may have surpassed the Tree of Life in appearance – as it often does today. Compare the following:
Genesis 3:6, “When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.”
Isaiah 53:2, “For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, or appearance that we should be attracted to Him.”
Our daily obedience to Jesus Christ in the details of life is not mundane; it shapes our souls for eternity, it influences those around us for eternity, and it is on display for the universe to witness. When the enemy says, “Has God said that you shall not respond in anger to this person? Did God really mean that you should be gentle? God will understand if you in anger blow this person away,” we need to look to our Lord Jesus, submit our thoughts and hearts to Him, deny ourselves, and allow Him to live in us and through us (Galatians 2:20).
The peace of God, and the gentleness to which we are called, are alien to this age, to this world. The mass of humanity is eating from one tree, will we choose to eat from the other?
Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God.”