“Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand” – Philippians 4:5
If it came naturally for us to be reasonable with everyone, Paul would not have to tell us to do it. But it is not natural. It is so often reflexive for me to respond to the inconveniences that people introduce into my life with irritation instead of reasonableness. That irritation might be expressed or unexpressed, mainly depending on my level of familiarity with the irritating person. But if my internal response isn’t reasonable, then my reasonableness won’t be known to them, even if I don’t snap at them (this time).
Of course, I don’t choose to be unreasonable. In fact, some of my most unreasonable moments are the ones in which I feel most vehemently reasonable. I feel this way because I sense the other person being unreasonable with me, and my rational powers go to work popping off reasons why they shouldn’t do it. My response makes perfect sense… to me.
Now certainly, Paul is talking about more than being logical. But he’s not talking about less. He’s not insisting that I simply ignore certain things, like the fact that a telemarketer’s friendly greeting is a cheaply disguised tool to pry money out me. Rather, Paul is calling me to put things in their proper order of priority, which is a very logical thing to do. In the logical order of priority, the first thing that needs to shape my view of any situation is that “The Lord is at hand.” This begins to change everything, if I don’t miss it.
I naturally see my conflicts as involving two people: myself and the unreasonable person. And in this kind of situation, I see myself as the central point of reference. The other person may have information to contribute, but the authoritative evaluation belongs to me. And it’s about me.
With that as my starting point, I can move in a basically logical direction, demonstrating why I’m so right. It’s logical (usually) in the sense that one idea builds properly on another. My flow of thought isn’t irrational; my premise, however, is. In the moment, my premise involves a narrow, stilted view of reality that looks a lot like Carl Sagan’s view of the cosmos: “My kingdom is all that is, or was, or ever will be.” I know how idiotic a statement like that that sounds when some smart guy on PBS says it, yet I’m prone to build a string of logical arguments on the same dumb idea. It’s not truly reasonable, and that’s not hard for others to see.
In order to be really reasonable, I need to start with something that shakes all the garbage out of my original starting point, and starts my logic off in a different direction. That something is the convicting, liberating, reason-restoring fact that “The Lord is at hand.” He really is.