Maintaining the Unity of the Spirit part 3

Glued Together with Gentleness

 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with… gentleness…, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3)

The second vital part of the unity maintaining bond of peace is gentleness (or meekness). Those eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit must therefore also be eager to develop lives of gentleness.

Gentleness or meekness can easily be misunderstood. For starters, it is common to equate it with weakness. But as we shall see, true meekness requires great strength. To be meek is neither to be weak, nor a geek.

Jesus spoke about this quality when He said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” In this beatitude Jesus quoted from Psalm 37:11. The context of these words in the Psalm provides us with a very good understanding of what it means to be meek. As you survey the Psalm, look out for two things: What is the situation in which meekness is manifested? What is the required response – Godward and manward?

Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers! For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb.
Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.
Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!
Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil. For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land.
In just a little while, the wicked will be no more; though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there. But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace. (Psalm 37:1-11)

This Psalm indicates that the meek are those who put aside worry, anger and wrath by patiently entrusting themselves to God for His vindication. Martyn Lloyd-Jones explains meekness in similar terms. “We are to leave everything – ourselves, our rights, our cause, our whole future – in the hands of God, and especially so if we feel we are suffering unjustly.”

It is obvious how such a virtue as meekness is vital for maintaining unity in the church. The church is a community of justified sinners. Until universal perfection in Christlikeness occurs (which won’t happen until Jesus returns), there will always be causes of offence in the church. There will always be sinful words spoken and sinful actions done that hurt others. Unity can only be maintained in such an environment when Christians through meekness are enabled, first to lay aside the need for personal vengeance, second to entrust all such matters to the justice of God, and third to repay evil with good.

How can we develop meekness in our lives? Here are four ways.

Pray for wisdom

Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. (James 3:13)
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. (James 1:5)

Meekness comes from wisdom. Those who lack meekness lack wisdom. So a good place to begin is by asking God for wisdom.

Meditate on the meekness of Jesus

Jesus manifested meekness to the extreme when He patiently endured great injustice (to the point of being cruelly tortured and crucified) without retaliation by entrusting Himself to God. In so doing He looked weak. He was even mocked about it. “He saved others; He cannot save Himself” (Matthew 27:42). But which requires greater strength; blasting His enemies with lightning bolts, or refraining Himself from the use of the infinite power that was His? He could have saved Himself, but He meekly chose not to so as to save us.

We become like what we love. If we spend time gazing at the glory of Jesus’ meekness, the Holy Spirit will slowly transform us into the same image (see 2 Corinthians 3:18). Read through the gospels and ‘Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted’ (Hebrews 12:3).

Trust God’s promise to avenge you

Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. (Psalm 37:5-6) 
Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." (Romans 12:19)

God promises to vindicate you. Vengeance is His prerogative and He will make sure justice is done for all those who trust in Him.

Rest in God’s sovereign, loving and good purposes for you

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? "My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives." It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:3-11)

The writer of the Hebrews views the hostility of sinners from a divine perspective. Through that lens, he interprets it as the loving discipline of our Heavenly Father. This discipline is painful, but it is also a sign of God’s love for us and has the good purpose of training us in holiness.

Let us ‘Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved,… meekness,’ (Colossians 3:12) and in so doing maintain the unity of the Spirit.

Maintaining the Unity of the Spirit
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

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