“Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.”
Gentleness in our society means weakness or prissiness. This is not what Paul was asking here. This command relates to the running feud between Euodia and Syntyche. We must see “gentleness” here in the context of division in the local church. It deals with how we treat other people.
“Let your gentleness”
The Greek word is broader than our English word “gentleness.” There is no single English word that can translate this word adequately. The word conveys ideas such as graciousness and clemency. Probably the closest English word is “forbearance.” It is sweet reasonableness toward others. After all is said, the word involves the willingness to yield our personal rights. This word connotes the willingness to show consideration to others. This person is reasonable when he looks at the facts of a case. It is the opposite of self-seeking and contention.
Euodia and Syntyche tried to remold each other. They were two different people. Each person wanted the other to be like her. They tried to put the round peg in a square hole. The issue was personal preference or personal taste, not principle. These two women were trying to remold each other into their own image. Each lady had a mold into which she was trying to pour other person. If the mold did not fit, they tried to force the other into it. Euodia may have had a square mold; she was particular and punctilious. Syntyche had a round mold; she tried to make Euodia fit the round mold.
The word “gentleness” submits the need for flexibility, pliability. We are not married long before flexibility becomes an important mode of operation. We cannot always have our own way. When that little baby comes along, we develop yet more flexibility. It does not take long until we become very relaxed. That baby interrupts our program; we have to change our schedule frequently. Our time is not our own. We have to yield to the desires of someone else.
Are you sensitive? Touchy? Do you take things the wrong way? Are you always spoiling for a fight? People at your work are like that. They are quick to take offense. Soon you do not dare open your mouth to them because they take everything personally. They misinterpret everything. They cannot take a joke. You avoid them and they wonder why. We have to carry their feelings around on a pillow.
A forbearing person does not treat people on the basis of what they deserve.
Some husbands try to remake their wives. Some wives try to remake their husbands. They have tried it for 30 years and they still have not succeeded yet. We cannot make everyone comply with our pattern of life. We set up the pattern. If everyone does not fit into that pattern, we conflict with them. Everyone has preferences. We have rights about which car to buy, style of dress. That is a matter of personal taste. Some women wear ghastly hats. That is their choice. We have to learn to keep a poker face in these things! Keep neutral. Make allowances.