“Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand.” Philippians 4:5
Joyful, peaceable, gentle, kind, gracious, humble, abounding in love…these are words and phrases that are supposed to describe the demeanor of a person who follows Jesus. They are also meant to describe the experience of someone who encounters a gathering of people who follow Jesus. The church is supposed to be a place where everyone who gathers together under the banner of Jesus exudes an infectious radiance and peace. It is to be made of a people who are filled with excitment to be near one another, who long to work together in unity for the purpose of sharing GOOD News with everyone. Jesus came to save us from everything in this world that would seek to enslave us, tear us down, and destroy God’s favorite creation, humans.
However, not many people outside the walls the “church” has constructed, would agree the wonderfully positive words above apply to their experience with Christians in today’s world. When I say “outside the church walls,” I’m not talking about a building. I’m referring to the imaginary fence, the one it seems a large majority of cultural Christians have built around their agenda to protect the institution called “church” from anyone deemed “unacceptable,” particularly anyone who might be perceived as a danger to its exsistence and dominance in American society. This perception is heightened all the more when Christians are encountered on social media and other internet venues.
Sadly, the hashtag, #FakeChristian, was a major trend on Twitter recently. I discovered this on Sunday after the little gathering of Jesus followers in our home had adjourned for the evening. As I read through the tweets and counter tweets, I felt the warmth that came from having experienced an enjoyable time of shared friendship in my home slowly fade. My hopefulness for the church sank, and my heart was deeply saddened, not due to comments from “outsiders,” but because of the attitude those claiming to represent the name of Jesus displayed toward anyone who disagreed with their chosen “pedigree” of Christianity. The worst of the worst comments were aimed at Christians from other Christians.
These days I try to steer away from social media and internet squabbles, especially those wearing the name of Jesus like a giant banner while shouting hatred and condemnation at other humans made in the image of God. I’m tired of reading arguments about what worship songs are most godly, whether or not Christians should drink kombucha (yes, that was actually a conversation I came across online), which political party to support, and which Christian leaders I am supposed to deem “true” verses those who are apparently false based on a few fundamentalists’ rigid interpretations of Scripture. I’m also tired of seeing Christians be more interested in defending their brand than they are in helping their fellow man.
Meanwhile, the world rolls its eyes. Those we claim to love and want to reach with our “good news” feel all the more alienated from ever finding belonging in any Chrisian circle. To all my brothers and sisters engaged in these “stupid arguments,” not my words, but Paul’s instructions to Timothy, (see 2 Timothy 2:23-24), it would be better to remain silent. Even fools, another description Paul uses for unecessry arguments, are considered wise when they keep their mouths closed (see Proverbs 17:28), this includes laptops and all other devices used to communicate any message to the world.
When did hatred, division, and the need to spout our perceived “righteous anger” become hallmarks of the church? When did maintaining a strict standard over every little thing other people eat, drink, do, and say become more important than sharing the love of Jesus with the human beings around us, (again all made in God’s image)?
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand,” (Philippians 4:4-5). Paul writes these words right after he encourages two women in the church at Philippi to stop arguing and work together in unity. That word “Rejoice” means to be glad, to be exceedingly joyful, to be well and thrive, to give glad greetings to others. This is supposed to be the default attitude of every Christian. Paul urges believers to let everyone know quite vividly how levelheaded and rational they are, not how strong their opinions are. That word “reasonableness” means to be fair, gentle, equitable, mild, patient, moderate, appropriate. We do this because Christ is near, not only close by our side, but among us. In every follower of Jesus dwells His Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16). Whatever we do to the least of our brothers and sisters, we do it to Christ (Matthew 25:40).
Whatever we choose to write or say should stand the tests of being helpful for building up other people and beneficial to those who might read or hear our words (Ephesians 4:29). In fact, never should the church, the people of God, cause one another stress or anxiety, but rather encourage each other to join together in thankful prayer. Paul writes after his instructions to be reasonable, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus,” (Philippians 4:6-7).
I’ve always read these verses individualistically. While they certainly can be applied to any individual, Paul is primarily writing to a group of believers within a passage where he is urging them to have unity and to rejoice with one another. The presence of people who claim to follow Jesus should bring about peace, not just peace to the individual or the church, but peace to all. It should be a peace that doesn’t make sense, where people from all walks of life are able to come together and find joy in being in each other’s presence because Christ is among them not just theoretically but evidently. When the people of God are together, the whole world should be able to see what Jesus’ love looks like in living color. His love should be so tangible and genuine within the Christian spirit that it shines like beacon to anyone within viewing distance.
Those still discovering what faith in Jesus is all about should be attracted to the gathering of Jesus followers, not because the buildings, services, or programs are attractive, but because being among the people of God is attractive to ANYONE who might want to belong. Our attitudes should exude such a sense of love and grace that any person from any walk of life should feel SAFE in our presence.
If only we were better at remembering how much God loves us, how much He has forgiven us, the great lengths to which He went to offer us belonging in His presence. If only we shared that grace with everyone we meet, what a different world it would be! It would be a world set free from all the noise and garbage that seeks to weigh us down and destroy our humanity. Humanity is supposed to be a positive word for the world, because humans were created to imitate God and bring life, love, and healing by extending His GOOD Kingdom to the ends of the earth.
Jesus is good. He is God. Jesus became human. Jesus was kind. Jesus was gentle. Jesus was full of grace and truth and love. Church, let’s be more human, human like Jesus…”who though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross,” (Phlippians 2:6-8).