The world has undoubtedly become more polarized, especially over the last few years. Extremes abound, but what’s more, so do every opinion, every thought, and every hot take. All things are analyzed, and all analysis is expressed. The way people perceive reality circulates in bite-sized pieces scattered across social platforms and carefully crafted headlines. Being the case, it has become increasingly difficult and frustrating to make sense of the things going on around us.
This is 2021. Hard to make sense of, hard to reason with, hard to understand. You’ve dealt with all of it. Friends who exaggerate every current event that comes up on their social media feed. That one uncle who keeps posting about how we can save America if we just vote for _______. The many doomsday prophets on social media who view life and the world like its spinning out of control. In our day and age, opinions solidify into doctrines. And hearts turn into stone as people seek to convince each other of their new-found, religious beliefs.
Unfortunately, many believers respond in these same ways when faced with life’s chaos. We too are prone to hot-tempered attitudes, unfiltered responses, and quick-fix views on how to navigate the present. But such responses from the people of God do not equate with what is reasonable for those who live in light of a sovereign and presently reigning King. The challenge for us is to think, what is a reasonable response to life with all its curveballs and relentless insanity? And what does a life given to reasonableness look like?
Use it in a Sentence
In hoping to answer that question, my mind has continuously drawn back to a favorite passage by the apostle Paul, “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone” (Phil. 4:5).
The word that is translated for us as “reasonable” carries the connotation of appropriate. It is a stable mindset, a temperament that avoids extremes. It is a heart that responds aptly to life’s circumstances. In that sense we can most clearly understand the word-choice in most Bibles of “reasonable”: it denotes that one expresses himself in a way that is appropriate for the situation. And before a believer assesses the things going around him, he lives with a constant and keen awareness that all things are ushered on earth only insofar as they have been commissioned by the Ruler of heaven. The most reasonable person is the one that lives in view of God’s dominion.
Father-dependent, Jesus-bought, Spirit-indwelt believers should develop a mind that accepts the sovereignty and providence of a living King and thereby is resolved to receive all things in this life with a meekness that models the Savior, no matter what may come.
In other words, Christians ought to be reasonable. Our sense of reason is not based on science or politics, it is based on faith and truth. Thus, Christians are those who respond humbly to all thing because of God’s promises, wisdom, and truth.
Serious question: did you respond in pandemic times as if Jesus is on the throne or as if Jesus’s throne was under threat? Did riots and looting bring out more of a right-wing, left-wing, or Jesus-like Christian? Has your heart exhibited deepened anxiety, fear, and angst toward the world or an ever-growing, ever-lovely trust and dependency in God?
The answer to such questions should be simple, but I’m afraid the precedent is being set for Christians today to become CRT and medical experts rather than develop quiet, peaceable lives. In a world full of extremists, it is paramount that the Christian be the most given to reasonableness. Our level-headed and gentle-spirit matters, and in this article, I would like to highlight that in three unique ways.
I. Reasonableness Fosters Community Within the Church
In Scripture, the call to reasonableness for believers tends to come on the heels of disunity and dysfunction. Paul’s exhortation in Philippians 4 comes after calling two argumentative women to live in harmony (Phil. 4:2-3). Notice in that passage, Paul does not open up the case between these women or give his side on the matter. The disagreement itself is not the issue. In fact, it is not even worth discussing given the bigger issue in play—their unity.
The church’s harmony and witness are in jeopardy when its members are not of one accord. More often than not, our inner-church squabbles are not worth the toll it takes on the unity that Christ purchased for us. James writes, “Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing” (Js. 3:16). It would be a travesty if the fellowship of the saints has been affected over the last year not by differences on various issues, but because members sense a spirit of strife and selfishness in the body of Christ.
Though much would seek to divide the world, Christians seek to preserve the unity that has been afforded to us by the blood of Christ. The wisdom of heaven is “pure, peace-loving, gentle, submissive, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial, free of hypocrisy” (Js. 3:17). Nothing is more appropriate for the people of God than their being united together.
II. Reasonableness Invites Consideration of the Gospel
It is important to note, the reasonableness that helps bind the church is not exclusively to be reserved for the church. Paul makes it clear that this trait should be evident to everyone (Phil. 4:5). He makes the same clear to Titus when he reminds him “to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men” (Titus 3:2). The word translated reasonable in Philippians is now translated peaceable in Titus.
For a few years now, I’ve had the distinct joy of leading an on-campus ministry at the University of Southern California (USC). During COVID, a law student joined our group. He faithfully has attended our gatherings, fellowshipped in a men’s small group, and devoted himself to learning from the Scriptures and the preaching of God’s Word. Just recently, he came to saving faith in Jesus Christ, a work that only God can do and for which we are worshipping Christ! And yet, the means by which God has opened this man’s heart to the glories of Jesus was in no small part due to the wonderful members of our ministry that surrounded him with love, peace, gentleness, and patience. In this season, I witnessed our ministry team choose to trifle less in converting this man to any political, medical, or social preference, but instead receive him with kindness while ministering the gospel of Christ. It was most reasonable to maintain the Gospel’s work and to live Gospel-transformed lives, and our newest brother in Christ attests that to be the case. Put another way, these brothers and sisters were “ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, but with gentleness and respect” (1 Pet. 3:15).
Above all and before all, the Christian’s words should be peaceable, pleasant, gracious, palatable and winsome (Prov 16:21, 23; 22:11; Col 4:6; Titus 2:8).
Though the world hate what you have to say, maybe some might come to respect how you say it. Christians should be the kind of people that others want to talk to.
Even if none appreciate how you say it, God Himself will be pleased with your faithful witness and testimony of His graciousness.
III. Reasonableness Adorns Convictions
The common flaw for truth-defenders is a lack of tact and grace. The minute its proposed that we cater to our listener, the inner-fundie loads his apologetic canons ready to decimate such soft-mannered, delicate ideology. But to be gentle, even-keeled, temperate, and peaceable is not caving into the world, it is biblical wisdom. Paul notes that graciousness ought to season our speech, “so that you may know how to answer each person” (Col 4:5-6). In other words, speak appropriately. That comes at no expense to the truth, but it meets the listener wherever they might be coming from. When convictions are upheld by grace and humility, honor is close at hand.
There is no better place to see this reality than the Lord Jesus. The Incarnate Word, the fullness of grace and truth, magnetized conversation from all ends of the social spectrum. He gripped the hearts of the religious (John 3:1-21), the wealthy (Luke 19:1-10), the poor (Matthew 11:1-5), the societally accepted (Matthew 19:16-26), and those socially rejected (Lk. 5:32; 7:34; 15:1-2). All who have believed in His Name have been drawn by the validity of His truth and the beauty of His humility. Jesus proclaimed the purest message from heaven and even so gave His life as a ransom for many.
A reasonable heart is reserved for those who have beheld the glory of Christ and are being conformed into His image. As we grow in the wisdom of God and by the power of the Spirit, we find that the most sensible people are those given to the truth and an utter dependence upon the Lord.
Though the world might tremble, cower, and sink into despair as all things fade like grass, you are given the opportunity to express a deep-rooted, unshakable dependence on the Sovereign Lord of heaven. In God’s economy, being reasonable is not only about holding the right position on an issue but carrying yourself with a proper disposition through the issue.
These days it seems everyone is trying to trigger, frustrate and confuse you, and how will you respond? You can wrestle with the world, or you can trust and serve your King. Whatever you choose, I would urge you to be reasonable.