Gentle giants.

Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.” That’s what Paul says after he says to rejoice. Growing up, the translations we used said ” let your gentleness be known.” The two words overlap well, speaking of an intentional style of interacting with others.

It’s no surprise Paul mentions it in the immediate context of two good people not getting along.

I know people whose presence fills a room. When they walk in, everyone looks. Everyone listens. Everyone is interested in what they have to say. Or, often, is terrified by what they might say. We worry about what might set them off. They don’t worry about filling the conversation.

308_0330In contrast, the kind of person Paul is talking about is often ignored when they walk into a room. But soon, voices that had been overwhelmed are being heard. The person sits next to the quietest person in the room, the most ignored person in the room. And she says, “How are you doing?” and waits for the answer. And in the very waiting compels others to wait. And in saying “#metoo” opens space for community and conversation.

Because the person Paul is talking about, the person with a reputation for reasonableness and gentleness, is known for holding truth tightly and people gently, for allowing justice to work carefully and quietly, for inviting people to a table.

The person Paul is talking about, the person who lives preferring others, is found in more rooms and more groups than we imagine. It’s just that we miss them. Our eyes are on the noisy ones, our ears are dominated by stridency. We miss the people at the edges, who sit quietly by piles called ‘collateral damage’ and call them back to being human.

There is much work to do. That’s why the Spirit invites us to build this reputation.

Instead of the one we’ve often made for ourselves.