Jump Start # 3237
Philippians 4:5 “Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.”
The other day while I was out and about I saw a bumper sticker on the back of a minivan. It looked like a mom driving the van. The sticker said, “Raising wolves, not sheep.” I don’t think that message implied animals. It was a statement about how she was raising her children, not sheep, but wolves.
When I first saw that, I expected what was meant was that the kids were not followers of the crowd. They were to think for themselves. That sounded good to me until I saw the other bumper sticker on her van. It said, “I love my ungrateful, rude kids.” What a statement!
The Bible doesn’t have much good to say about wolves. Jesus connects wolves with false teaching. Wolves attack and kill sheep. Wolves are not about community, connections or making things better. Wolves are dangerous, vicious, and a threat.
Raising wolves, rather than sheep, is not something to brag about. And, throughout the N.T. tender-hearted and gentleness are the qualities that God is looking for in His people. We are to correct, but with gentleness. The gentle heart is one of the fruits of the Spirit. Rough, tough, walking on others, intimidating others is not what attracts. Those things drive people away. It makes people fearful.
Confidence and assurance is how one talks through this life while being a sheep. Our trust is in the Lord. And, our verse brings out two wonderful concepts:
First, we ought to be known as gentle. Our gentle spirit is to be known by all men. People ought to be able to talk to us without being afraid. In some homes, this is missing. In some churches, this is missing. In many places of work this is missing. Kindness, helpfulness, encouraging, those are the spirits that will make a difference.
To do this, one must listen. One must control his spirit. Outbursts of anger scares people. It will force people to say only want you want to hear. They will in silence go along, even though they do not believe it’s the right direction, but they don’t want to get chewed out. When the gentle spirit is missing, we create a monster. A real bully develops. Pressure, guilt and shame become the tools of the bully. No one likes to be bullied. No one likes to be around a bully. It doesn’t matter whether that bully walks the hallways of a school, is a next door neighbor, a co-worker, or even a member in the church, bullies intimidate and take advantage of others.
God wants us to be gentle. Gentle when one suggests a different way. Gentle when one asks for proof. Gentle when one is corrected. Gentle. And, what causes us to be gentle is remembering the golden rule. How would you like to be treated? I’ve seen some humiliated and crushed by the aggressive, bully spirit of others.
Wolves or lambs—which are you raising? Which one does the Lord want you to raise?
Second, our passage states, the Lord is near. What a sweet reminder. He’s not gone. He’s not out of reach. He’s not so far away that He cannot see or cannot help. The Lord is near. Right next door, might be a good understanding. And, this ought to lead us to being gentle. God is near. He sees. He knows. Stop mistreating people. Stop hurting others. God is near.
But, more than that, God is near to help. When we are troubled and need to talk to someone, it may be hard to find that gentle spirit. People are busy. People have their own problems. And, we sink into loneliness and despair thinking no one can help us. We begin to believe that we are on our own. But remember, the Lord is near.
The Psalmist tells us that the Lord is near to the broken hearted. Those that are contrite in heart, God notices. God is near to help. God is near to understand. God is near to make a difference.
Sadly, our times have defined a “real man” as someone who takes matters into his own hands and ignores others. He obeys the laws that are convenient to him. When they are not, he breaks those laws. Fearless. Tough. Showing no weakness. Never admitting mistakes. Those qualities may make for a Hollywood movie filled with bullets and bombs, but it doesn’t work with the Lord. Jesus defined Himself as “gentle and humble in heart.” The Lord who could open the earth, part the seas, cause the sun to stand still, stop storms and make demons flee, was far from a weakling. He was power under control. He could have sent those nails holding Him on the cross, flying across the city. He could have brought dozens of angels. His power was manifested through compassion. His strength was in helping the helpless.
Dare anyone call Jesus a sissy? Dare anyone claim that Jesus was weak? Does anyone think Jesus was a pushover? Do the Scriptures show Jesus being intimidated? Not by the Pharisees. Not by the Romans. Not by Pilate. Not by the demons. Not by anyone or anything. Strength under control. Gentle and humble in heart was the Lord. Should we be any different?
Raising sheep isn’t such a bad thing. I tend to think that it’s the Lord’s way.