“Let your gentleness be evident to all.” Sometimes a phrase from Scripture just randomly pops into your head, and this is one such phrase from the Bible that tends to do that. It sounds like a nice idea, but what does it mean, and where can it be found in the Bible?
A quick search via the internet shows us the rest of the verse: “The Lord is near.”
But in the busyness of our days, we tend to leave the verse at that, make a mental note of it, and continue on our way. There’s no time to sort things out further. But what about when that phrase persists and keeps coming to mind? Let’s circle back and read the fuller context:
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:4-7).
Unbelievable! The classic “rejoice-in-the-Lord-always” verse and the classic “be-anxious-for-nothing” verse sandwich this cryptic little quote.
People often note that the theme of Philippians is joy. Paul picks that up here, and he follows with a particular word for gentleness. This Greek word has different shades of meaning, but it basically means not insisting on one’s own rights or enforcing the letter of the law. Interestingly, chapter 3 begins with Paul saying, “Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord!” Then he reassures us that believers put our confidence in the life-giving power of Jesus, not in the law or the practice of circumcision, as taught by those “Judaizers” who were trying to enforce the commandments of Torah on Paul’s listeners.
“The Lord is near.” Remember the account in the Gospel of John when Jesus intervened to keep a woman who had been accused of adultery from being stoned to death? He asked the men who had gathered to pass the sentence of judgment on this woman to judge themselves first: “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7). As far as the Judge was concerned, gentleness, rather than harsh punishment, was the way to go.
Believers in Jesus have had our death sentences commuted in the most gracious way possible. And further, we’re being told we don’t have to obsess over what we eat, or with whom we eat, or anything else in order to show we’re part of God’s family. “Do not be anxious about anything . . . and the peace of God . . . will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” What a relief!
Our Lord is near in another way. He is right here with us in the midst of our COVID-19 pandemic mayhem. Jesus, the one who sweat drops like blood before He was falsely convicted and murdered, knows a thing or two about anxiety. He understands the way we feel about our empty cupboards and dwindling bank accounts. But in this passage we are invited to present “anything” in “every situation” to Him in prayer. And we are to pray with gratitude, since Jesus has emptied the power of sin and death along with the power of legalistic rule obsession. And He will “guard”—build a fort around—our hearts and minds, so we will no longer have to look to anything else for encouragement or reassurance of salvation.
Rejoice! Be graciously gentle. The Lord is near. Present your requests to God. And be at peace.
Article by Biblica.
Biblica is a global Bible ministry inspired by radical generosity. For more than 200 years, Biblica has helped people beyond the reach of God’s Word discover the love of Jesus Christ. Through relevant and reliable Scripture translations and resources, Biblica serves people on the margins of the Gospel – the unreached, unengaged, unseen, and unwanted. For more information please visit our website at Biblica.