Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your gentleness (sweet reasonableness) be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, 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 your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7
Reasonableness. Sweet reasonableness – as rendered by some. Gentle spirit. Gentleness. Forbearance. Graciousness. And to whom are we to display such gracious gentle reasonableness? To those who think along the same lines as we do – those who see it our way? Or to expand it further – to Christians from all walks of life?
The Word of God actually goes even further – every one – to all people from all walks of life with all different perspectives.
May the Lord preserve us from interactions online by way of posts, likes, loves, sharing, tweeting and re-tweeting or adding our two-cents worth on social media – yes, may the Lord preserve us from those impulses that fail to show Scriptural forbearance and sweet and attractive reasonableness to a perishing world around us.
The world expects to hear from Christians when it comes to promoting the love of God and the virtues seen in Christ and the values He represented and preached in His world-famous sermon – the Sermon of the Mount.
Yes, as a Christian you have a much broader and deeper understanding of the Bible; so, it’s highly probable there are things in our 2020 society that cause you much concern but thankfully we can take it to the Lord in prayer, understanding that our God is over all.
We have been saved and placed in our own spheres to be a lighthouse on the Solid Rock, shining in a dark world, to help storm-tossed ships find the harbour of safety. (Philippians 2:14-16)
Those who know practically nothing about the Bible, do know certain sections from “The Sermon of the Mount.” You may be inclined to say “they conveniently and unfairly cherry-pick” what they like from the Bible. But let’s be thankful they know that much from the Bible! And, also be thankful that they associate those beautiful values and principles with the historical Jesus and that’s what they applaud about Christ our Saviour and Lord.
Regardless of their beliefs and lifestyles – they hold us to the standards below. Better than highly trained canines, unregenerate people can quickly sniff out hypocrisy and play-acting. Take an extra minute today to refresh your memory by skimming through these verses below. When we fail to measure up, they are swift to point it out. When they perceive blatant contradictions in the lives of those who profess to associate with, or walk under the evangelical umbrella – the world quickly mocks them for hypocrisy and self-serving interests. That should come as no surprise.
Matthew Chapter 5
(2) And he [Jesus] opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
(3) “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (4) “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. (5) “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. (6) “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. (7) “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. (8) “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. (9) “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. (10) “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (11) “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. (12) Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (13) “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.
(14) “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. (15) Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. (16) In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. …
(39) But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. (40) And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. (41) And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. (42) Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. (43) “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ (44) But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, (45) so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (46) For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? (47) And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?
(48) You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Sadly, much of the public face of those who call themselves born-again Christians is reflecting the opposite character that the Word of God repeatedly says ‘true Christians’ are to be known for in society. Yes, we all fall short of the standard and we should readily confess that. But when bad behaviour persists, we should be gravely concerned.
Paul said we are to manage carefully what we think about, knowing full well that our thought-life eventually becomes apparent in our behaviour.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8
Reading between the lines, it would be safe to add:
“If there is anything to melt cold hearts frozen in sin, to sweeten bitter hearts of cynics and atheists, to soften hard hearts in society, to heal broken hearts in the world, to show the embrace of Christ to the alienated and marginalized in our communities – and to communicate the non-discriminating love of God to all – if there is anything to think upon to produce these impulses in our Christian lives – think upon those things.”
Yes, there will always be the offense of the Cross to experience in our lives as Christians. But have you ever thought our attitudes and behaviours can needlessly and tragically create offense that has absolutely nothing to do with the offense of the Cross? In fact, we ourselves and those we align ourselves with, have the potential of being the single greatest stumbling-block to people having a desire to hear the Gospel.
You may find Matt’s Letter not only long but very difficult and challenging to read. It’s not easy being confronted with some realities. Think of Matt as someone who needs to be won to our Saviour – a candidate for God’s wonderful salvation. This creative composition tries to capture the conflicting signals and mixed messaging the world sees and hears from evangelicals – the Christian right.
Although Matt’s Letter focuses on the Pandemic of 2020, the issues are only representative of the mixed signals the evangelical block has been sending out for at least a decade on multiple fronts. The point of the letter is not the current issues but the perceptions of the many and the stumbling-blocks we tragically create for the very people God wants to reach with the Good News of His Son. Don’t get bogged down in the specific examples used. Please see the larger message.
The Matts of the world do not distinguish your brand of Christians from the others they see in the evening news or the thousands who make feisty retorts and combative comments on news-stories and online posts, etc. There may be occasions when you have to apologize to the Matts and Meghans of society for what they see as the ‘public face’ of Christianity. Show them how very different you are from what they label as ‘evangelicals’.
Some believers are now disassociating themselves from the label ‘evangelical‘ – opting for the more Scriptural term ‘Christian’ or just a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. You may want to share this post with your friends.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your gentleness (sweet reasonableness) be known to everyone. Philippians 4:4-5
Walk carefully and closely with the Lord today,
Warmly in Christ