Let your gentleness be evident to all. Philippians 4:5
In one of Dr. Seuss’ whimsical stories, he tells of a “North-Going Zax and a South-Going Zax” crossing the Prairie of Prax. Upon meeting nose to nose, neither Zax will step aside. The first Zax angrily vows to stay put—even if it makes “the whole world stand still.” (Unfazed, the world moves on and builds a highway around them.)
The tale offers an uncomfortably accurate picture of human nature. We possess a reflexive “need” to be right, and we’re prone to stubbornly cling to that instinct in rather destructive ways!
Happily for us, God lovingly chooses to soften stubborn human hearts. The apostle Paul knew this, so when two members of the Philippian church were squabbling, he loved them enough to call them out (Philippians 4:2). Then, having earlier instructed the believers to have “the same mindset” of self-giving love as Christ (2:5–8), Paul asked them to “help these women,” valued coworkers with him in sharing the gospel (4:3). It seems peacemaking and wise compromise call for team effort.
Of course there are times to take a firm stand, but a Christlike approach will look a lot different than an unyielding Zax! So many things in life aren’t worth fighting over. We can bicker with each other over every trivial concern until we destroy ourselves (Galatians 5:15). Or we can swallow our pride, graciously receive wise counsel, and seek unity with our brothers and sisters.
What are the things you’re fighting over right now? How could wise friends help you resolve your situation?
Soften my hardened, stubborn heart, loving God, so I can truly live in unity. And help me to be open to wise counsel.
As Paul winds down his letter to the church at Philippi, the first church he’d planted on European soil, his affection for the people is clearly seen. In Philippians 4:1–3, the apostle uses terminology that speaks deeply of his affection, care, and concern for his Philippian friends. He calls them “brothers and sisters” whom he loves and longs for. These terms fall into the category of relationship. This is important because kinship and family ties were held in tremendously high regard in the ancient world. As such, to speak of someone as family was to elevate them in worth and status. He also uses terms that may refer to them in regard to his ministry: his “joy and crown,” “dear friends,” and “co-workers” in the gospel (vv. 1, 3). Strong relational ties indeed!