Jared’s confession about his journey to gentleness got me thinking, but before I follow that path let me just say: the Jared I know is a big softie and wouldn’t be harsh to a flea♥ And this: I’m delighted to be a part of this blog and share some space with guys who I think truly live up to the title of gentle reformers.Well then, back to Jared’s post. I can identify with his journey, and probably many pastors in the Reformed world can. We take doctrinal distinctions seriously and deeply value what we believe, and sometimes that puts us in the position of having to contend for the truth as we understand it. Nothing wrong with that, of course. Dialog and disagreement can be as iron sharpening iron when done with mutual respect.
The problem arises, I think, when we let our convictions morph into self-assuredness. Suddenly, we focus on making our argument and vindicating ourselves rather than patiently and mutually pursuing the truth in love. When it becomes a matter of personal pride, theology can be a blood sport. Like Jared, I’ve been there and don’t want to go back. I hope it is because gentleness, a fruit of the Spirit, has taken some hold in my life. That, and I know my right hook isn’t what it used to be.
Having the blessing of working around both young seminary students and older mentors, it seems to me that spiritual gentleness is something that generally grows over time. I don’t think it is simply a function of growing older, but rather, it comes with growing older in the faith. Gentleness, like all the fruits of the Spirit, takes time to develop. Of course not all young Christians lack gentleness, nor are all older Christians gentle, but it does seem to be a gift that grows in tandem with spiritual maturity. It makes me wonder what Paul meant when he said to Timothy “flee youthful lusts.” Most people probably associate that with sexual temptations, but I wonder if the apostle had theological blood sports in mind.
Anyway, I’m glad Barry named this blog Gentle Reformation. Sadly, those are two words that are not often uttered together. The stereotype is there, whether we like it or not. The title of the blog will always be there to remind us of the priority of gentleness. I can use another reminder, not just on this blog, but when I sit in my house or walk along the way; when I lie down and when I rise up. I know we’d all do well to bind gentleness on our hands, between our eyes, and on the doorposts of our homes.
Lastly, I’ve been pondering Philippians 4:5. “Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.” It is very striking to me how the command to be gentle is joined to the Lord’s imminence, as if to say, “Christ is near, so be gentle to all.” We show forth Christ’s imminence by our gentleness, and our gentleness testifies to his imminence.