In today’s reading, we find three metaphors for the Christian life: an unashamed worker, a clean vessel, and a gentle servant. Although we are only going to look at the last metaphor here, one would do well to reflect on all three.
If you are like me, when you think of being a servant, you think of humility and action. But it is interesting here that service is linked to kindness and words. The gentle servant is the one who is more concerned with another’s welfare than being right.
Being the astute readers you are, you may well object that in matters of faith and morals, being right is the best way to promote another’s welfare. Perhaps. But if we care about being right so much that the other is unable to hear what we are saying, we haven’t done them much good. As we said on Sunday, people don’t care how much we know until they know how much we care.
Or as many people have noted over the years in relation to husbands and wives, “What would you rather be: right or married?” This sentiment could be expanded to all long term relationships, whether with friends or coworkers or family or church members, I think. We are to care more about people than winning an argument.
Paul makes it clear that the purpose of our disagreeing is that “they may repent and come to know the truth.” That is quite a different thing than proving we are right. And it may well be a process rather than a one time deal. That is why Paul also says that we are to have patience. We would do well to take the long view, keeping the relationship going and channels for caring communication open, rather than “ruining those who are listening.”
I expect we will all have opportunity to put this truth in practice time and time again. As God's gentle servants, may our words be gracious, winsome, and full of love, this day and always.