By Bill Hall
True greatness results from a blend of admirable traits. This truth is stated well by Dr. Andrew Thomson, as quoted in Pulpit Commentary: “There are persons to be met with in social life who, while possessing the more solid qualities of moral excellence, are singularly deficient in the more graceful. They have honesty, but they have no sensibility; they have truth, but they are strangely wanting in tenderness. They are distinguished by ‘whatsoever things are just and pure,’ but not by those things which are ‘lovely and of good report.’ You have the marble column, but you have not the polish or the delicate tracery on its surface; you have the rugged oak, but you miss the jasmine or the honeysuckle creeping gracefully around it from its roots. . . The strong and the amiable may meet and harmonize in the same character. Indeed, they do always meet in the highest forms of moral greatness” (Vol. 4, p. 38).
We see this beautiful blend of traits so clearly in the apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippians. We see the strong and uncompromising character of Paul as he warns, “Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision” (Phil. 3:2); or as he admonishes, “I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord” (Phil. 4:2); or as he writes, “Do all things’without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke. . .” (Phil. 2:14, 15); or as he confidently states, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Phil. 4:13).
We see beautiful tenderness and graciousness, on the other hand, in his words, “Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown” (Phil. 4:1); and in the words, “Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all” (Phil. 2:17). We see throughout the book an apostle who is warm, loving, caring, concerned. He is grateful for the abundant gift sent by the Philippians and for the recovery of Epaphroditus who had become ill in his mission to deliver their gift. He is joyful in spite of his circumstances and wants the Philippians to rejoice with him in the Lord. What a beautiful blend of the strong and the amiable! What greatness!
Rarely does this blend come naturally. Usually one has a penchant towards either the strong or the amiable, and the other quality must then be acquired. We cannot offer proof, but we suspect that Paul was by nature strong and uncompromising, and that just as he “learned” contentment (Phil. 4:11), so his amiable and gracious qualities were learned, developed through the years, and strengthened through his suffering, his sacrifice for others, his fatherly nurturing of younger men, his sharing so much with so many, his aging and approaching termination of life. It is to be said to Paul’s credit that with his growing amiability, he never lost his staunchness for truth, but became “the admirable blend.”
Some would refer to such a developing blend as softness, but in reality it is a mark of true greatness. Lord, help us to find that proper blend of strength and graciousness, of solidity and tenderness, that we might be like the apostle Paul, but, of greater significance, that we might be like Jesus.
Guardian of Truth XXIX: 23, p. 717
December 5, 1985