Philippians 4:5 Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.
What is the intended meaning of the biblical term moderation? This is a clear example of how the meanings of words can drastically change over the years. Therefore, we must carefully seek out the intended meaning and context of words used in scripture. Today's definition and the original meaning are drastically different.
The modern use of the word is generally defined as the process of eliminating or lessening extremes. In recent times the term 'moderate' has become a buzzword in political circles. It is used to describe an individual who holds an intermediate position between extreme political parties. In religious circles it can describe one who stands on middle ground between two perceived extremes in a particular religious order. But what does the above verse teach us about this term?
The Apostle Paul begins Philippians chapter 4 by encouraging the church to stand fast in the Lord. This exhortation in and of itself disqualifies the modern connotation of eliminating extremes. A public stand in the doctrines of the Lord automatically puts all believers in an extreme position against many institutions of the world. Christianity was not merely a compromise in behavior or affiliations, it was complete lifestyle change from being a servant to the world to a soldier in the Lord's army. He later encourages them to center their joy in the Lord. Not unlike today, the ancient Roman citizen was encouraged by the powers-that-be to seek pleasure in worldly entertainment. Bread and circuses were used to placate the people. But Paul encouraged the disciples of Christ to be glad and well-off in the Lord.
So, what is biblical moderation then? It conveys an attitude of patience or gentleness. It is not a call to compromise the radical teachings of scripture. However, it does instruct one to carry out God's commands with meekness and gentleness. When listing the qualifications of a minister, Paul emphasizes this behavior. Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; (1 Timothy 3:3). He later expands this trait to all believers in Titus 3. Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men (v. 1-2). James later describes a peaceable attitude and gentleness as wisdom given from above (James 3:17). All of these passages are synonymous with Paul's use of the term moderation.
How are we to apply this to our present situation? First, we realize that scriptural moderation is not compromise. As disciples of Christ, we are commanded to stand fast in his truth. Paul emphatically encourages the Corinthian believers to be steadfast, unmovable and always abounding in the work of the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58). In other words, we are to settle for nothing less than the truth. This should be our goal, both doctrinally and practically.
However, we are to exercise godly patience and gentleness in every activity of life. An adherence to biblical truth will inevitably cause friction. Perhaps it may come in the form of government persecution, ostracism from so-called friends and family, or even attacks from within your own church body. When these difficulties arise we are to moderate our behavior with gentleness, meekness, and patience. Our natural tendency is to 'lash out' at others due to frustration or mistreatment. The proper God-honoring response it to be that of biblical moderation. Notice what Paul writes to the people of Thessalonian church:
Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men. See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men (1 Thessalonians 5:14-15).
Later, he exhorts Timothy in a similar manner:
Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 2:3).
These verses contain no compromise when it comes to the truth, but all confrontations were to be tempered with patience and goodness. Moderation was to prevail in all situations. Is this the case in your life? Our tendency is to be hotheads when we our our loved ones are mistreated. We can get in the flesh over the most insignificant slights that occur in everyday life. The Lord is neither pleased or glorified in such! There are times that we are called to graciously suffer in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. I pray that we would examine every avenue of life and apply true, biblical moderation. What a great blessing it would be to us and a powerful testimony of the Lord who saved us if we heeded this biblical principle!