We all need some encouragement in life. Someone cheer leading from the sidelines, giving us confidence, showing their belief in us; words and actions that give us the impetus to keep on going.
Paul wants to do that to his friends and fellow Christians. To encourage them in their life and faith. He is bursting with pride for them, but he wants to encourage them to keep on living God’s ways.
Philippians 4:1-9 (CEV)
4 Dear friends, I love you and long to see you. Please keep on being faithful to the Lord. You are my pride and joy.
Paul Encourages the Lord’s Followers
2 Euodia and Syntyche, you belong to the Lord, so I beg you to stop arguing with each other. 3 And, my true partner, I ask you to help them. These women have worked together with me and with Clement and with the others in spreading the good news. Their names are now written in the book of life.
4 Always be glad because of the Lord! I will say it again: Be glad. 5 Always be gentle with others. The Lord will soon be here. 6 Don’t worry about anything, but pray about everything. With thankful hearts offer up your prayers and requests to God. 7 Then, because you belong to Christ Jesus, God will bless you with peace that no one can completely understand. And this peace will control the way you think and feel.
8 Finally, my friends, keep your minds on whatever is true, pure, right, holy, friendly, and proper. Don’t ever stop thinking about what is truly worthwhile and worthy of praise.9 You know the teachings I gave you, and you know what you heard me say and saw me do. So follow my example. And God, who gives peace, will be with you.
Paul is not afraid to give some direct pointers to a couple of named people. Euodia and Syntyche are arguing. We all know how that can drag a community down, when two people just can’t get on. They worked together with Paul, but cannot work together without him. But this isn’t just seen as their problem, it is a community problem, and is to be solved by the whole community together, with everyone’s support and encouragement.
Then Paul turns to the advice I love, that we so often forget,
Be gentle with one another.
So often we have such high expectations, unrealistic standards, that we forget to be gentle. We forget other people have real lives and circumstances they are dealing with. We forget we are not perfect, yet we expect it of others; or we have such ridiculously high expectations of ourselves, that we transfer that to others – forgetting that we never reach those height; or we are so cross that we don’t meet our own high standards that we end up taking it out on others.
So perhaps the “Be gentle” advice needs to be applied to ourselves first?
Yes there are expectation of the christian life, standards and goals, but we are not God. They are aims to be encouraged towards, but with the reality that we are all human. We should be encouraging not discouraging one another. Cheering each other on, not jeering at every slip up.
Be gentle with everyone, you never know what is happening in their life, what burdens they are carrying, what news they have just been told, what happened before they walked out of their door, what will happen when they walk back in it, what they are fearing, hoping, dreaming or dreading…
That is how we know and spread God’s peace.
Forgive me Lord,
the things I get wrong,
the times I discourage others,
do things that drag my community down,
project my ridiculous expectations on to others
and fail to be gentle,
and to others.
May I tread
with your feet,
even when I do not know.
May I be gentle,
as you are so gentle