“Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” (Philippians 4:5/NIV) Gentleness and kindness are similar virtues.
In today’s post I am particularly aiming at the words “to all” in the above quote. As you may recall from bible readings Jews often felt somewhat uneasy when in touch with heathen people from other nations. They tended to conceive of foreigners as a temptation to turn away from their own God and from his commandments.
Of course historically just this had happened at several times. King Solomon had many wives from other nations. As he grew older, these women began to turn his heart away from God.
Having been exiled Jews were struggling to keep their own identity. Intermingling with other nations could easily have meant the end of Jewish history.
Being kind to strangers is not really the same as opening oneself for their beliefs. Yet as you get in touch you also allow others to get closer to yourself.
St. Paul became the apostle to the Gentiles. How could he rise far above national timidity and apprehensiveness towards strangers? I would think of several aspects of how he could become the man he was.
Paul had not grown up in the Holy Lands. He was a Jew from Tarsus in Asia Minor. Jews had scattered into many countries. Those living abroad generally were broader in outlook than those dwelling in Galilee or Judea. They were more accustomed to and more exposed to heathen cultures.
On the other hand he had spent considerable time at the centre of the Jewish religion in Jerusalem. He had received some of the best theological training of his days. He had learnt at the feet of a renowned theologian called Gamaliel.
As for matters of his own religion he was well educated. Furthermore he was very serious and zealous about his beliefs and convictions.
Obviously after the Lord Jesus had met him, Paul being well versed in the Holy Scriptures began to understand how God also intended to win and to save people from other nations. So it came that he was prepared to go, when the Holy Spirit called him to go abroad and preach the good news to Jews and Gentiles as well. (Cf. Acts 9:15; 13:1-3).
How could he extend his kindness and gentleness to people from various nations? On the one hand he was very clear about his own beliefs. Then also he had gained a good idea of God’s concern and love for foreigners.
He trusted that his God would keep him and strengthen him. Jesus had promised his disciples he would be with them as they go and preach the gospel to all nations (cf. Matthew 28:18-20).
To the Philippians the apostle Paul wrote: “Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” Paul was fully convinced that the Lord was at hand and he would not leave them alone when having to face various temptations.