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Let your graciousness be known to all people. The Lord is near.

Philippians 4:5 [1]

Paul’s word of promise, the Lord is near, carries a double meaning so obvious it must have been intentional. The first hearers of this letter may have wondered, “Does he mean that Jesus is here right next to me? Or that he’s coming back soon?” And Paul might have answered, “YES. Both!” The Lord is near in both space (he’s present with you) and time (his return is near).

The Lord is near. Be encouraged.

Imagine that you live in front of a mirror, and every time you look up you see a blazing light in back of you. You can’t bear to look, but you know who it is—the risen Lord Jesus Christ right there, near you, all the time. Would that keep you focused on what matters the most? The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. You’re never alone. I will never leave you nor forsake you. He is near to us right now by his Spirit, empowering us to walk by faith.

The Lord is near. Be comforted.

Believers eagerly await a Savior from heaven. He is returning soon in glory to wipe every tear from (our) eyes and bring all our suffering to an end. Hallelujah! And for every one of us personally that last Day is always just one heartbeat away. Such hope doesn’t paralyze us but motivates us: Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

The Lord is near. Be gracious.

Paul ties the promise to a command: demonstrate reasonableness or gentleness to all people. The term he uses defies a one-word equivalent in English. I like “graciousness”—in the sense of being filled with grace toward others. It looks like kindness, courtesy, charitableness, generosity, forbearance, tact, wisdom, mercy, and compassion.[2] It looks like Christ Jesus.

Pay attention to what the apostle is doing here. He’s focused our eyes on Christ, the source of all mercy and the reason for our rejoicing. Now he points us down to another reality—all those people who cause stress and frustration, both inside and outside the church.[3] The breadth of the command is striking: make this gracious attitude evident to all people. Not much wiggle room there. And I thought I was doing pretty well at 90%. Now he tells me to show graciousness even to the 10% who make my life difficult. And if you think that’s too high a bar, Paul speaks of the humility and graciousness of Christ. You see plainly that graciousness is a Spirit-given character trait, part of our “in Christ” spiritual union with him so that he empowers us to do what we would never do on our own. The Lord is near.

Let’s get absolutely practical here. How often couples and families fight so vigorously to defend their righteousness. They have to prove they’re right. But Christ returning means that since he’s coming again to bring perfect justice, you’re released from having to create it yourself. You don’t need to be the Grand Imperial Kahuna of justice upon your family and everyone else. Relax. All the righteousness you need is found in Christ. God is the Judge. Therefore, you can be gracious. You can be like Christ. You can act like his ambassador. The Lord is near.

Blessings to you!

Andy Selle

[1] author’s trans.; other texts cited (ESV) are Psalm 145:18, Hebrew 13:5, Revelation 21:4, 1 Peter 1:13, Philippians 3:20, and 2 Corinthians 10:1.

[2] We can grasp the meaning of the word ἐπιεικής epieikés by its fleshly opposites: elders (1 Tim. 3:3) and all believers (Titus 3:2) should not be quarrelsome, but gracious; masters should not be unjust but gracious (1 Pet. 2:18). And consider the traits that accompany it in Spirit-given wisdom: But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace (James 3:17-18).

[3] Were Euodia and Syntyche (vs. 2) sitting in the front row (on opposite sides!) glaring at each other, when they heard their names read aloud in the Philippian assembly? Paul faced other preachers who would stir up trouble (1:15 NIV) for him during his imprisonment. And the church always faced severe opposition from the outside (1:26).

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