It’s one of those verses that gets overshadowed. Sandwiched in between the better known and often quoted “Rejoice in the Lord always”, and “Be anxious for nothing” commands, I can’t really recall hearing much about this lesser known command. But as I chew on it, I’m thinking it might just be the command we need to hear and obey today in our increasingly hostile “public square”–those areas in social life where the exchange of ideas occurs.
Social media has so expanded the public square. Many who never really had a voice in public thought or debate now have a ready made, hope to go viral, platform from which they can share, post, or tweet freely. But how helpful has it been? While we seem to be happy to be able to speak, we seem less willing to listen. In our zeal to get our position out there, we elevate our position by putting down other people. And in the church, as we fall into the world’s propensity towards becoming more tribal, truthing in love seems to be becoming less prevalent.
And that’s why I’m thinking we’d do well to hear and heed this overshadowed command in Paul’s letter to the Philippians.
Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand.
(Philippians 4:5 ESV)
We are to be a reasonable people. The original word has the idea of being mild and gentle. It also, apparently, has a sense of being fair, and of being seeming and suitable. Of being appropriate and patient. Of being . . . well, reasonable.
The CSB says our “graciousness” should be known. Amen!
And here’s the kicker. Not just reasonable with those we agree with. Not just fair with those who line up on our side of the debate. Not just mild and gentle with those who would parrot what we speak. But our reasonableness, our graciousness, is to be known “to everyone.” Yup, everyone. All men. All women. Everybody. Those of like mind and those whose mind we maybe don’t like so much.
And how come? The Lord is at hand.
Suppose it could be taken in two ways. First, Jesus is at hand in the sense that He is present, He is near, and He is engaged in our ambassadorship for the kingdom. Or, I think it might also mean that His return is near, that His second coming is imminent, that we need to be living and working now in the expectation and anticipation that the days are short.
Either way, whatever the nature of the motivation, in between being commanded to rejoice in the Lord always, and being commanded to pray to the Lord about everything, I think we’d do well to heed the command to let our graciousness be known to everyone. The command to be a reasonable people.
What an opportunity in our increasingly hostile public square for the gospel to shine as we show respect for every person simply because they are a person–an image bearer of God. While prepared to give an answer for the hope within us, we’re also prepared to listen to others–not quarreling, but gently and respectfully explaining the way of righteousness in hope that the Lord would lead them into light. While ready to stand for truth, we do so with speech seasoned with grace. Letting our reasonableness be known. And that, to everyone.
By His grace. For His glory.