Like so many of you, my mind has been dwelling on the upcoming General Conference. There is a great deal of commentary and conjecture as to what may or may not happen and its impact on The United Methodist Church. There’s a lot being said as to what that future could look like. Accusations are flying back and forth, rumors abound, and I find myself becoming anxious.
I find that the anxiety I’m feeling comes because I’m not listening as closely as I should to others and to the Holy Spirit. It takes great effort to listen these days. There’s a lot being said but very little being heard. I find that I need to center myself and find the solid ground in the midst of all the noise.
Recently Philippians 4:4-7 has been coming to mind:
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry 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 your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Paul reminds us to rejoice and to practice gentleness. We are told the Lord is near and to not worry. How is this possible? Because our hearts and minds are being guarded by a peace that is greater than we can understand. I find all this encouraging and convicting, especially the part about being gentle with one another.
It’s not easy to be gentle. In fact, it’s easier to go in the other direction. We see this hurtful pattern modeled in how we speak to each other and how we disagree with one another. This is especially true with social media.
So why is it important to practice gentleness?
In a recent Facebook post, Rev. Shane Bishop, a United Methodist pastor from Fairview Heights, IL, shared some interesting thoughts on gentleness:
“To be gentle means you could choose to do harm but you choose not to do so. A mouse is meek, not gentle. My daughter’s pit bull is gentle. Gentleness comes from a position of strength, not weakness.
When we choose not to return evil for evil, hate for hate and insult for insult, we choose a life of gentleness. When we choose not to throw gasoline on a fiery thread, we choose gentleness. When we are mature enough to realize people of sound mind, good intelligence and deep faith may disagree with us on important things, we choose a life of gentleness.
By choosing gentleness, we honor God, respect people and preserve our Christian witness.
There is nothing wrong, and a lot right, with standing for important things. Just do so with gentleness.”
To live a Spirit-filled life is to walk a path of gentleness. It means to intentionally practice a way of life which is in contrast with our culture. We choose not to injure or tear down. We choose to love and respect others, especially those with whom we may disagree.
As General Conference approaches, let us seek to be gentle with one another.