(September 8, 2017) 11:32 AM I am a word guy, fully right-brained (unless I’m being left-brained). Carved into the temple at Delphi are these words:
I wonder if Paul might be alluding to them in Phil. 4:5, where he uses the Greek term epieikes, often translated “gentleness.” The temple carving means something like “Nothing in excess.” Hawthorne prefers “big-heartedness,” but then adds, “For big-heartedness one may substitute any of the following: forbearance, yieldedness, geniality, kindliness, gentleness, sweet reasonableness, considerateness, charitableness, mildness, magnanimity, generosity” (p. 193). The goal is to “meet people halfway,” to “not insist on one’s own rights all the time.” Forgive me for beating a dead horse, but, again, don’t we see this in Paul’s discussion of the Roman “preachers” in 1:15-17? Paul could have gotten on their case because of their false motives. The fact is, they are advancing the Gospel, and for Paul that’s the main thing. Yet isn’t it also possible that Paul has chosen to highlight these ill-willed evangelists because they are causing strife and division in Rome, much like the Philippians themselves were possibly polarizing around two women whom Paul actually names in 4:2? I think the point is this: Paul is being tactful. He wants to address the issue of division (or at least disharmony) among the Philippians, but he’s willing to bide his time. First he has to set the backdrop: the life and ministry of Jesus. This tactfulness on the part of Paul is whispering to me, “Not so fast in becoming argumentative when you disagree with people, Dave.” I’ve got a dozen emails I still haven’t answered, and one of them is, let’s just say, a bit uncharitable. Epieikes doesn’t apply to me, does it? Surely not.
“The Christian is the man who reasons that it is far better to suffer wrong than to inflict wrong (I Cor. 6:7)” — so writes Hendriksen on the word epieikes (p. 193). Who am I in this scenario? A man who needs to heed Paul’s injunction. How about you? Try practicing the presence of the One who is meek and gentle amid the noise and confusion you’ll be facing today. Rest assured. You can be big-hearted. So can I. Such simple things matter to God — and make a Christian stand out in a crowd.