In a world that is driven by self-promotion, we need to look for those who demonstrate the gentleness and kindness of Christ.
1 Samuel, chapters 8-10; 2 Corinthians, chapter 10
2 Corinthians 10:1-2, 18 (NLT):
Now I, Paul, appeal to you with the gentleness and kindness of Christ – though I realize you think I am timid in person and bold only when I write from far away. Well, I am begging you now so that when I come I won’t have to be bold with those who think we act from human motives…
When people commend themselves, it doesn’t count for much. The important thing is for the Lord to commend them.
The gentleness and kindness of Christ
Two phrases – one at the beginning of chapter 10, the other at the end – caught my attention today. First, Paul appeals to the Corinthians with the gentleness and kindness of Christ. In a world where there is so much anger and fear, so many who want to demonstrate power, the phrase the gentleness and kindness of Christ ought to make us stop and think. How often do we demonstrate the gentleness and kindness of Christ?
Of course, things really weren’t much different in Paul’s day. After all, he writes this to the Corinthians because he has been accused of being timid in person and bold only when I write from far away. Other “leaders” have come to Corinth and challenged Paul’s authority. They’ve criticized his teaching, his leadership, and his apostolic credentials. Coming in after Paul had done the groundwork, they wanted to take over by criticizing him.
When people commend themselves…
That brings us to the end of the chapter, and the second phrase which caught my attention. When people commend themselves, it doesn’t count for much. One of the by-products of our social media-obsessed culture is that we are deluged by people telling us how great they are, or how great their lives are. We are now subjected to the opinions of “influencers,” who hire themselves out to sell products (or other people) to the masses. When people commend themselves, it doesn’t count for much.
The important thing is for the Lord to commend them. That phrase reminds me of one of my favorite passages – Philippians 2:5-11. In that passage, Paul challenges us to have “the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.” Self-giving, self-emptying, humble and obedient to God, even to death. “Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor…” (Philippians 2:9, NLT). The gentleness and kindness of Christ. Not commending ourselves, but allowing the Lord to commend us. That’s the way God calls us to live!
As I was at the gym this morning, there was a story on one of the TV stations about the importance that social media will play in the upcoming presidential election. (Am I the only one who longs for the days when we weren’t in a constant election cycle?) The story talked about the use of “influencers” that the candidates will hire to convince people to vote for them. It also mentioned the growing use of social media over “live” campaign events, to better “package” the message. When people commend themselves, it doesn’t count for much.
The important thing is for the Lord to commend them. And here’s the important part: that doesn’t mean that they tell us that the Lord is commending them; it means that the Lord commends them to us. If you’re following Jesus, he is perfectly willing and able to communicate with you. To be sure, God often uses other people to speak to us, but remember: God leads us to them. God confirms for us that we can trust them. We see the Lord’s commendation. When people commend themselves, it doesn’t count for much.
And that brings us back to the first phrase: the gentleness and kindness of Christ. The Corinthians saw the gentleness and kindness of Christ in Paul; it confirmed the truth of the message he proclaimed. If we claim to speak with the authority of Christ, people should be able to see the gentleness and kindness of Christ in us. After all, God gave Jesus authority – “all authority in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:16). But he also was gentle and humble in spirit. If we’re following him, that’s the way we should be, too.
Father, thank you for reminding us that we’re called to become like Jesus. We can’t do that on our own, of course; your Spirit is forming us in Jesus’ image each day. But we ought to see the evidence of that work – the gentleness and kindness of Christ.
Deliver us from the compulsion to commend ourselves. Help us to trust you to do whatever commending needs to be done. And protect us from the temptation to follow those who commend themselves. Lead us instead to listen to those whom you commend. Amen.