The Fruit of the Spirit: Gentleness
There are tremendous pressures in our culture. Talk radio proclaims that “America, as we know it, has been, or soon will be lost.” Members of Christ’s church can succumb to fear and the cries that “we need to do something!” There is talk of violence. Some speak of the potential need to take up arms. Let us remember:
our citizenship is heaven![i]
As much as we may love and honor our country, we are, first, subjects of the King of Kings. Christ remains seated in the heavens, and has yet to be dethroned. In fact, God the Father laughs at the puny, ineffective, ridiculous, and rebellious efforts of men (and women!)[ii] Has not the LORD Jesus Christ been given “all authority in heaven and earth”[iii] and “been seated at the right hand of God”?[iv] Has not your LORD “disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame by triumphing over them in him?”[v]
The issues that face the church are numerous and complex. We need the wisdom that is from above in order to know how to live, how to respond to our decaying culture. Paul gives us, a portion, of the wisdom we need in Philippians 4:1-7.[vi] In light of the fact that: “there are many enemies of the cross”,[vii] that we are waiting for Christ’s return[viii], and that Christ will transform us into His image[ix]; we are commanded to “STAND FIRM”. sthkete (Stand Firm) is a military term. It pictures a soldier standing in the midst of the coming onslaught.[x]
Offensive warfare states:
“I don’t have that ground and I am fighting to take it”.
Defensive warfare states:
“I have the ground, and I am fighting to keep it”.
Paul is commanding us to hold what Christ has already conquered. In the midst of the cultural confusion and fear, Satan and the world would have you forget what is yours in Christ, that Christ has won the victory. We are “more than conquerors”.[xi] Stand firm – live like it!
The Holy Spirit, through Paul, then gives us three ways that we can “stand firm”. We are to “rejoice in the LORD always”[xii], let our “reasonableness be known”[xiii], and to not be anxious.[xiv] The remainder of our discussion will focus on letting our “reasonableness be known”.
Erieikeia (reasonableness) is a difficult word in Greek, having many nuances. Softness, patience, modesty, forbearance, fairness, magnanimity, goodwill, are all potential meanings. The Brown, Driver, Arndt, and Gingerich Greek lexicon puts it this way: “not insisting on every right or letter of the law or custom, yielding, gentle, kind, courteous, tolerant.”[xv] The Greeks considered it to have to do with justice, and something better than justice. Erieikeia begins when strict justice becomes unjust because it fails to consider the specific and only operates in generality. Consider a simple example:
A teacher may state to his/her class: “Late assignments will be docked one letter grade.” Johnny and Mary both turn in their assignments late. Mary is penalized. Johnny is not. Is the favoritism? Can you hear our culture screaming: “Sexism!” The facts are: Mary procrastinated and Johnny’s house flooded the night before the assignment was due. Letter of the law? They both are penalized. Erieikeia? Mary is penalized, Johnny is not.
Reformed believers must learn to respond to the world with Erieikeia. People are scared, confused. Truth is missing from the public square. We must demonstrate Erieikeia to those caught in their own sin, the deception of the world, and manipulation of the culture. It is not “reasonable” to deal harshly with the oppressed. The practice of Erieikeia will glorify God because Erieikeia is an attribute of our triune God. James tell us about God’s wisdom, it is “first pure, then peaceable, gentle (Erieikeia), open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.[xvi] Have you not experienced the Erieikeia of God? It is at the heart of the gospel:
“He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.[xvii]
Erieikeia is not compromise. The church must hold to the absolute, unchanging, truth of God’s word. Can we does so as people who have a “rod of steel” as our backbone, but clothe it in a “glove of velvet”? The we will show the world, the one who humbled himself,[xviii] who is gentle and lowly,[xix] who showed us Erieikeia.
Martin B. Blocki has served since 2003 as the Associate Pastor of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North Hills in Pittsburgh, PA since 2002. Rev. Blocki graduated from Indiana University, Bloomington (BME), Arizona State University (MM), and the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary (MDiv). Martin and his wife, Kathy, have two married sons, one daughter, and four grandchildren.
[i] Philippians 3:20
[ii] Psalm 2:4. Perhaps one of the most fearful verses in the scriptures if you are an unbeliever and one of the
most comforting if you are in Christ! God is not shaken, He laughs in derision at the rebellion of
[iii] Matthew 28:18
[iv] Colossians 3:1 To be seated at the right hand is to be invested with the power of the ruler, in this case, God the
Father. Christ, as our mediatorial king, has been given authority as a result of his redemptive
[v] Colossians 2:15
[vi] Please open your Bible to the passage.
[vii] Philippians 3:18
[viii] Philippians 3:20
[ix] Philippians 3:21
[x] The command is plural. We stand as a church, we do NOT stand alone.
[xi] Romans 8:37
[xii] Philippians 4:4
[xiii] Philippians 4:5
[xiv] Philippians 4:6
[xv] Bibleworks 10
[xvi] James 3:17
[xvii] Psalm 103:10
[xviii] Philippians 2:7-8
[xix] Matthew 11:29