Are you a reasonable person? If you’re trying to follow God’s Word, you should be. Here’s why: ”Let your reasonableness be known to everyone” (Philippians 4:5). Are Christians known for their reasonableness? Or are they known for their extreme positions, dogmatism, political party positions, rants, defensiveness, boycotts, greed, double standards, hypocrisy, and judgmentalism?
The Bible tells us clearly, “be reasonable.” If we’re not reasonable, then we’ve got a problem.
What are Christians in general known for?
If we’re honest, we’ll have to agree that Christians en masse don’t have the best reputation in the world. There have been millions of wonderful Christians down through the ages, but the world prefers to remember those who weren’t so wonderful. The name of “Christian” has been linked to bloody crusades, highminded imperalism, unjustifiable slavery, cruel prejudice, horrific sex scandals, and a general attitude of unsavoriness.
What’s the problem here? The problem, in part, is the world itself. Christians can expect this, because Jesus told us it was coming (Matthew 10:22; John 15:18-20). Paul, himself, suffering under the world’s delusion of his dangerous status, told Timothy, “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12).
On the other hand, a big part of the problem could be Christians themselves. Christians have done some downright bad things. We need to own up to that fact, and act in a truly Christlike manner. We are not responsible for the sins of others. We cannot erase the past. We can, however, live a life guided by Scripture.
We can be a little more reasonable.
But what does “reasonableness” mean here?
Obviously, it’s important to understand what Paul, the author in this passage, means by “reasonableness.” Here’s the verse again:
“Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand.” (Philippians 4:5)
The context of the verse is this. Paul is finishing up a letter to a nascent church at Philippi. He usually closes his letters with a few final — yet important — remarks about living out the gospel. Here is where we find this important command to let our reasonableness be known.
The word reasonableness often means “gentle.” The word takes on a variety of meanings, depending on the context. Overall, it has a sense of selflessness and yielding to another person’s rights and prerogatives. Basically, we could think of it as sensible respect and courtesy for other people. We could think of it as the opposite of belligerence anger, rudeness, and demanding one’s own way. As a clear example of this word, we could think of Jesus Christ, who was described as meek and gentle (2 Corinthians 10:1).
That’s the way Christians are supposed to be. More to the point, that’s the way that we should live before everyone, so that there is no question in any one’s mind that we are reasonable.
What are you known for?
We probably have a long way to go in letting our reasonableness be known to everyone. Unfortunately, we take our personality and attitude cues from all the wrong things. What many of us are known for is “standing up for our rights,” pouring forth angry rants against politicians, spewing vitriole about healthcare reform, shouting about our gun rights, and basically being annoying and just plain not like Jesus.
We all have sin natures. We all struggle with the flesh. But all Christians are also blessed with the presence of the Spirit. We are gifted with the power of the Gospel. Now, we can exercise God’s grace to live out that gospel, letting our reasonableness be known to everyone.