The Subversiveness of Gentleness (Daily Lenten Meditation)

Throughout Lent, I will be posting short meditations on the Daily Office readings every day. Please journey and pray with me through these readings. To read previous Lenten meditations click here.

Friday, February 24
Philippians 4:5
Let your gentleness be known to everyone.

In his letter to the Philippians, one of Paul’s instructions to the church is jarring in its simplicity and unexpectedness and it is one of the few in the entire letter that directly addresses how the church should conduct itself within the broader community of Philippi. Of all the qualities the church is to embody in the city – love, generosity, truthfulness – it is gentleness that Paul wants the church to highlight.

He doesn’t want them necessarily to preach in the streets as he had done. Nor does he specifically encourage them to put their beliefs on display. He simply and audaciously wants them to be gentle.


In Philippi, nothing could have been more subversive than gentleness.

Gentleness in a place that had previously mobbed Paul, stripped him of his clothes and beaten him with rods.

Gentleness in a strategic military and economic Roman outpost overrun with soldiers and muscled with fortifications.

Gentleness in the place where the final battle between Caesar’s army faced down its general’s assassins.

Gentleness in the city from which Alexander the Great conquered the world at the tip of his sword.

Gentleness in a place steeped in an historic tradition of strong-armed violence.

The people of Philippi would notice gentleness. They would notice it more than anything the local Christians might say about their faith. They would notice it more than any sermon shouted in the streets, even one preached by Paul himself.

In a world of might that makes right, that measures the success of nations by their force and power, it is plain that the letter to church in Philippi might as well be addressed to the church in America as well. That, if we were to follow Paul’s advice, we too could do something subversive in a land intoxicated with violence and power, in muscles and war.


O God, give us the kind of faith that speaks for itself without one word. Give us the courage not to seek a strong faith to show off the power of faith, but to seek gentle faith to show off that peace that passes understanding, and, perhaps, better our neighborhoods and beyond.

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About David R. Henson

David Henson received his Master of Arts from Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, after receiving a Lilly Grant for religious education for journalists. He ordained in the Episcopal Church as a priest. He is a father of two young sons and the husband of a medical school student.