“Let your reasonableness become known to all men.”—PHIL. 4:5.
SONG 89 Listen, Obey, and Be Blessed
1. In what way must Christians be like a tree? (See also picture.)
“THE wind does not break a tree that can bend.” This proverb highlights an important quality that allows certain trees to thrive: flexibility. To flourish spiritually, Christians must be flexible, ready to bend. How? We must be reasonable by adapting when our personal circumstances change and by respecting the viewpoints and decisions of others.
2. What qualities will help us adapt to changing circumstances, and what will we consider in this article?
2 As Jehovah’s servants, we want to be reasonable. We also want to be humble and compassionate. In this article, we will see how such qualities helped some Christians deal with changing circumstances. We will also see how these qualities can help us. But first, let us learn from Jehovah and Jesus, the perfect models of reasonableness.
JEHOVAH AND JESUS ARE REASONABLE
3. What evidence do we have of Jehovah’s reasonableness?
3 Jehovah is called “the Rock” because he is steadfast, immovable. (Deut. 32:4) However, he is also reasonable. As events unfold, our God continues to adapt in order to cause his purpose to be realized. Jehovah created humans in his image with the ability to adjust to changing circumstances. He provided clear Bible principles that help us to make wise decisions no matter what challenges we may face. Jehovah’s own example and the principles he has given us are evidence that while being “the Rock,” Jehovah is also reasonable.
4 Jehovah’s ways are perfect and reasonable. He is not rigid in his dealings with humans. Consider, for example, how Jehovah showed reasonableness toward the Israelites. He did not require the same sacrifice from everyone, whether rich or poor. In some cases, he allowed each person to offer sacrifices according to his circumstances.—Read Leviticus 5:7, 11.
5. Give an example of Jehovah’s humility and compassion.
5 Jehovah’s humility and compassion move him to be reasonable. For example, Jehovah’s humility was evident when he was about to destroy the wicked people of Sodom. Through his angels, Jehovah instructed righteous Lot to flee to the mountainous region. Lot was afraid to go there. So he pleaded that he and his family be allowed to take refuge in Zoar, a small town that was slated for destruction. Jehovah could have insisted that Lot follow His instructions to the letter. Instead, he granted Lot’s request, even though it meant sparing Zoar. (Gen. 19:18-22) Centuries later, Jehovah showed compassion toward the inhabitants of Nineveh. He sent the prophet Jonah to announce the imminent destruction of the city and its wicked inhabitants. But when the Ninevites repented, Jehovah felt sorry for them and spared the city.—Jonah 3:1, 10; 4:10, 11.
6. Illustrate how Jesus imitated Jehovah’s reasonableness.
6 Jesus imitated Jehovah’s reasonableness. He was sent to earth to preach to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But he showed reasonableness in carrying out that assignment. On one occasion, a non-Israelite woman begged him to heal her daughter who was “cruelly demon possessed.” Jesus compassionately did as the woman asked and healed her daughter. (Matt. 15:21-28) Consider another example. Earlier in his ministry, Jesus declared: “Whoever disowns me . . . , I will also disown him.” (Matt. 10:33) But did he disown Peter, who denied him three times? No. Jesus took into account Peter’s repentance and faith. After being resurrected, Jesus appeared to Peter and very likely assured him of his forgiveness and love.—Luke 24:33, 34.
7. In harmony with Philippians 4:5, what reputation do we desire?
7 We have seen that Jehovah God and Jesus Christ are reasonable. What about us? Jehovah expects us to be reasonable. (Read Philippians 4:5.) One translation renders this verse: “Have a reputation for being reasonable.” We can ask ourselves: ‘Do people perceive me as being reasonable, yielding, and tolerant? Or do they view me as a rigid, harsh, or headstrong person? Do I insist on having others carry out what I consider to be the letter of the law? Or do I listen to others and yield to their wishes when appropriate?’ The degree to which we are reasonable reflects the extent to which we are imitating Jehovah and Jesus. Let us consider two areas that call for reasonableness—when our personal circumstances change and when the viewpoints and decisions of others are different from ours.
BE REASONABLE WHEN CIRCUMSTANCES CHANGE
8. What can help us to be reasonable when circumstances change? (See also footnote.)
8 Reasonableness involves being flexible when our circumstances change. Such changes can create unexpected hardships for us. We may face a health emergency. Or sudden changes in the economy or in the political climate where we live may completely disrupt our life. (Eccl. 9:11; 1 Cor. 7:31) Even a change in a theocratic assignment can test us. Whatever the challenge, we can successfully adapt to new circumstances if we take the following four steps: (1) accept reality, (2) look to the future, (3) focus on the positive, and (4) do things for others.b Let us consider some real-life examples to illustrate how taking these steps can help.
9. How did one missionary couple cope with unexpected trials?
9 Accept reality. Emanuele and Francesca were assigned as missionaries in a foreign country. Just as they began to learn the language and settle into their new congregation, the COVID-19 pandemic broke out and they had to isolate themselves physically. Then Francesca’s mother died suddenly. Francesca desperately wanted to be with her family, but the pandemic prevented her from traveling there. How was she able to cope with these discouraging developments? First, Emanuele and Francesca as a couple prayed for the wisdom to take one day at a time. Jehovah answered their prayers through timely spiritual provisions. For example, they were encouraged by one brother who said in a video interview: “The quicker we accept the new circumstances, the quicker our joy returns to us along with the opportunity to make good use of the new circumstances.”c Second, they were motivated to become more skillful at telephone witnessing and they even started a Bible study. Third, they gratefully accepted the loving encouragement and support of the local brothers. One thoughtful sister sent them a short Scriptural message every day for a year. When we likewise accept our new circumstances, we will find satisfaction in what we are able to do.
10. How did one sister adapt to a big change in her life?
10 Look to the future, and focus on the positive. Christina, a Romanian sister who lives in Japan, was disappointed when the English congregation she attended was dissolved. However, she did not dwell on the past. Rather, she decided to do her best in the local Japanese-language congregation by having a meaningful share in that field. She asked a former workmate to help her improve her language skills. The woman agreed to use the Bible and the Enjoy Life Forever! brochure to teach Christina Japanese. Not only did Christina improve in her ability to communicate in Japanese but the woman began to show interest in the truth. When we look ahead and are positive, unforeseen changes can bring unexpected blessings.
11. How did one couple who faced an economic setback cope?
11 Do things for others. A couple living in a country where our work is banned lost their stable income when the economy collapsed. How did they adapt? First, they took steps to simplify their life. Next, rather than focus on their own problems, they decided to concentrate on helping others by staying busy in the preaching work. (Acts 20:35) The husband commented, “Being busy in the ministry gave us less time to think negative thoughts and more time to focus on doing God’s will.” When our circumstances change, we must remember how important it is to continue helping others, especially through our Christian ministry.
12. How can the apostle Paul’s example help us adapt to changing circumstances in our ministry?
12 In our ministry, we need to be flexible. We meet people who have different beliefs and attitudes and who come from a variety of backgrounds. The apostle Paul was adaptable, and we can learn from his example. Jesus appointed Paul as “an apostle to the nations.” (Rom. 11:13) In that role, Paul preached to Jews, Greeks, intellectuals, humble peasants, dignitaries, and kings. In order to reach the hearts of such a diverse audience, Paul became “all things to people of all sorts.” (1 Cor. 9:19-23) He paid attention to the culture, background, and beliefs of his audience and adapted his approach accordingly. We too can be more effective in our ministry if we are resourceful and adjust our approach to fit the needs of our listeners.
RESPECT THE VIEWS OF OTHERS
13. What danger described at 1 Corinthians 8:9 can we avoid if we respect the views of others?
13 Reasonableness also helps us to respect the views of others. For example, some of our sisters like to wear makeup, whereas others prefer not to. Some Christians enjoy drinking alcohol in moderation, but others decide to abstain from it. All Christians desire good health but choose different methods of health care. If we felt so strongly about our own choices that we tried to promote them in the congregation, we could stumble others and cause divisions. We would certainly not want to do that! (Read 1 Corinthians 8:9; 10:23, 24) Let us consider two examples that illustrate how applying Scriptural principles can help us to be balanced and to maintain peace.
14. What Bible principles should govern our dress and grooming?
14 Dress and grooming. Instead of strictly regulating the way we dress, Jehovah has given us principles to follow. We are to dress in a way that is appropriate for ministers of God, showing reasonableness, modesty, and “soundness of mind.” (1 Tim. 2:9, 10; 1 Pet. 3:3) Therefore, we do not draw undue attention to ourselves by how we dress. Bible principles will also help elders to avoid setting arbitrary rules about clothing and hairstyles. For example, elders in one congregation wanted to help some young brothers who had adopted a popular hairstyle that was short but completely unkempt. How could the elders help them without making a rule? The circuit overseer advised the elders to tell the brothers, “If you are on the platform and the audience is paying more attention to how you look than to what you are saying, there is a problem with your dress and grooming.” This simple explanation resolved the issue without the need to make a rule.d
15. What Bible laws and principles guide us in our choice of health care? (Romans 14:5)
15 Health care. Each Christian must decide how to care for his own health. (Gal. 6:5) Only a few specific Bible laws, such as the commands to abstain from blood and from spiritism, affect a Christian’s choice of medical treatment. (Acts 15:20; Gal. 5:19, 20) Other areas are matters of personal preference. Some individuals look exclusively to the medical community for their health care, while others prefer alternative forms of treatment. No matter how strongly we feel about a form of treatment, we need to respect the right of our brothers and sisters to make their own health-care decisions. In this regard, we should keep the following points in mind: (1) Only God’s Kingdom will bring complete and permanent healing. (Isa. 33:24) (2) Each Christian must be “fully convinced” of what is best for him. (Read Romans 14:5.) (3) We do not judge others or put a stumbling block before them. (Rom. 14:13) (4) Christians show love and do not put their freedom to make personal choices ahead of the unity of the congregation. (Rom. 14:15, 19, 20) If we keep these points in mind, we will maintain a close relationship with our brothers and sisters and contribute to the peace of the congregation.
16. How can an elder show reasonableness in his dealings with fellow elders? (See also pictures.)
16 Elders must set a good example in being reasonable. (1 Tim. 3:2, 3) For instance, an elder should not expect that his opinions will always be accepted simply because he is older than the other elders. He realizes that Jehovah’s spirit can move any member of the body to make an expression that contributes to a wise decision. And if no Bible principle is violated, reasonable elders willingly support the decision of the majority on the body, even if they had preferred a different decision.
THE BENEFITS OF BEING REASONABLE
17. Christians who are reasonable enjoy what blessings?
17 Christians reap many blessings by being reasonable. We enjoy better relationships with our brothers and sisters, and the congregation enjoys peace. We find delight in the beautiful variety of personalities and customs among Jehovah’s united worshippers. Above all, we have the satisfaction of knowing that we are imitating our reasonable God, Jehovah.
SONG 90 Encourage One Another
a Jehovah and Jesus are reasonable, and they want us to develop that quality. If we are reasonable, we will find it easier to adapt to changes in our circumstances, such as a change in our health or in our financial situation. We will also contribute to the peace and unity of the congregation.