Let your moderation be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.
The word here rendered moderation in our Bible is connected by derivation and usage with ideas not of control, but of yielding. It is rendered Lindigkeit, yieldingness, giving way, in Luther's German Bible; and I fully believe the interpretation to be right. "Forbearance," "gentleness," are the alternative renderings of our Revised Version, and both suggest the thought of giving way. "Let your yieldingness be known unto all men; the Lord is near." St. Paul is dealing throughout this passage with certain holy conditions necessary to an experience of "the peace of God keeping the heart and thoughts in Christ Jesus." Standing fast in the Lord, harmony and mutual helpfulness in the Lord, rejoicing in the Lord, and prayerful and thankful communion with the Lord, are among these conditions. And with them, in the midst of them, appears this also: "Let your yieldingness be known unto all men; the Lord is near." This connection with the deep peace of God throws a glory over the word and the precept. The yieldingness which is here enjoined is nothing akin to weakness, indolence, or indifference. It is a positive grace of the Spirit; it flows from the fulness of Jesus Christ. What is it? We shall find the answer partly by remembering how, from another point of view, the gospel enjoins, and knows how to impart, the most resolute unyieldingness. If anything can work the great miracle of making a weak character strong, it is the gospel. It can make the regenerate will say "no" to self on a hundred points where never anything but "yes" was heard before. Nothing in the moral world is so immovable as the will of a living Christian, sustained by the power of God the Holy Spirit, on some clear case of principle. I lately read of the uncompromising decision of a Christian man, in high military command in India, fifty years ago. He had accepted office, and £10,000 a year, being far from rich meanwhile in private means, on the condition that he should not be asked to give official countenance to idolatry. The condition was not observed. He was required to sign a grant of money to an idol temple. The East India Company would not give way, nor would their distinguished servant. He resigned his command promptly, and came home without a murmur, and without a compensation. Here, in a conspicuous case, was the unyieldingness of the gospel, a mighty grace which, thank God, is being daily exemplified in His sight in a thousand smaller instances. Yet this very case equally well illustrates from another side the yieldingness of the gospel. From the point of view of principle this admirable Christian was fixed as a rock, as a mountain; from the point of view of self-interest he was movable as air. That it was a sacrifice of self's gain and glory to resign was as nothing in his path. His interests were his Master's. Jesus Christ was in him where by nature self is. He was jealous and sensitive for the Lord; indifferent, oblivious for himself. Yieldingness, in our passage, is in fact SELFLESSNESS. It is meekness, not weakness; the attitude of a man out of whom the Lord has cast the evil spirit of self. It is a blessed thing to be a "moderate" in this sense. A living calm pervades that soul. A thousand anxieties, and a thousand regrets, incident to the life of self, are spared it. It is at leisure from itself, and therefore free for many a delightful energy and enterprise when God calls it in that direction, as well as ready for imprisonment and apparent inutility when that is His will. Nothing does the world's microscope discover more keenly than selflessness in a Christian man or woman. Nothing at once baffles its experience and explanation, and attracts its notice and respect, like the genuine selflessness, the yieldingness, of the grace of God. Let ours, then, "be known unto all men"; not paraded and thrown into an attitude, but kept in practice and use in real life, where it can be put to real tests. And would we read something, in this same verse, of its heavenly secret? It lies before us: "the Lord is near." He is near, not here in the sense of coming soon, but in that of standing by; in the sense of His presence, and "the secret" of it, around His servant. The very words used here by St. Paul occur in this connection in the Septuagint (Greek) translation of the Old Testament, a translation old even in St. Paul's time: "Thou art near (ἐγλύς), O Lord." The thought is of the calm and overshadowing of His recollected and realized Presence; that Divine atmosphere in which bitter things, and things narrow with the contractions and distortions of self, must die, and in which all that is sweet and loving lives. "From the provoking of all men, from the strife of tongues," there is Divine protection and concealment there. St. Paul himself beautifully exemplifies his own words, in this same Epistle, in the first chapter. The "brethren" at Rome who "preached Christ of envy and strife, supposing to add affliction to his bonds," certainly took a very irritating line of action. And their action tried St. Paul. But it did not irritate him.
(H. C. G. Moule, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.