Let your gentleness show in your treatment of all people… Don’t be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks. Then the peace of God that exceeds all understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:5-7
I’m writing this during the pandemic. It’s not exactly a peaceful time. Fear itself has a way of being contagious, and it can lead to extreme behavior. Toilet paper hording? Protesting being told to social distance for the sake of others? We can be recipients of, and participants in, expressions of the darker side of humanity.
And then Paul writes about treating others gently. Being patient. Giving the benefit of the doubt. Treating others with the same treatment you’d want. Being encouraging and hopeful. Silently blessing.
I’ve started a book titled, The Gentle Art of Blessing, by Pierre Pradervand. He writes of intentionally and sincerely wishing the best for people with whom he interacts, especially those who might grab that last package of toilet paper. It takes practice, but he daily works on wishing even an enemy the very best in health, relationships, and finances. He says that this practice has transformed his life from the inside out.
As Paul says, maybe if we treat people gently this way, we naturally won’t be so anxious. We’ll be thankful. And above all, we’ll find peace.
Such peace “exceeds all understanding” because pandemics don’t elicit images of ice cream trucks chiming their way down the street. But if Paul could write about peace in prison, which is where he wrote Philippians, maybe he was onto something. Gentleness with “all people” might produce peace in unpleasant situations, even pandemics.
May God grant us the grace of gentle peace.