Being Easily Entreated
Charles Naylor, 1920
Not long ago I saw in the report of a meeting, a statement something like this, "The brethren were easily entreated, and so all personal difficulties were easily settled." One of the greatest problems that ministers meet, and one that requires the most patience and wisdom — is the problem of settling personal difficulties. These difficulties are often found existing between those professing to be Christians. And sometimes they are very hard to get settled. There is just one reason for this — those involved are not "easy to be entreated."
James tells us that this is a quality of that "wisdom which is from above." The quality of being easily entreated is a mark of true piety and of a Christlike spirit. Where it is lacking, spirituality is always below normal. It is not hard to settle troubles, if people want to have them settled; for if they really want them settled, they are willing to settle them the right way. Peace and harmony mean more to them than any other consideration, except truth. Division and discord cannot exist, unless people are willing to have it so; that is, unless one or both parties place a higher value upon something else, than they do upon peace and harmony.
Abraham is an example of a man who is easily entreated. When strife arose between his herdsmen and those of Lot, it grieved him, and he said to Lot, "Let there be no strife, I pray you, between me and you, and between my herdsmen and your herdsmen; for we be brethren" (Genesis 13:8). He therefore proposed to give Lot his choice of all the land — and to take what was left for himself.
What does it mean to be easily entreated? It means to be kind and just and reasonable and self-sacrificing in one's attitude toward others. The man who possesses this quality habitually manifests this temper in his life.
There are those who are very tenacious of their rights. They feel that people do not respect those rights as they should; so when any question involving them arises, they feel as though they must "stand up for their rights." They often lose sight of everything else — kindness, mercy, forbearance, patience, Christlikeness — in fact, nothing counts but their rights. Their rights they will defend — and very often their rights prove to be wrongs. In insisting on their rights, they do that which wrongs others.
Christly people are not so particular and insistent concerning their rights. They would far rather sacrifice their rights than to contend for them — unless something vital is involved, which is rarely the case. When a godly man is compelled to defend his rights, he will do it in a meek and quiet way — a way that has in it nothing offensive or self-assertive. When they were about to scourge Paul unlawfully, his only assertion of his rights was to quietly ask, "Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman, and uncondemned?" (Acts 22:25). But there are those who will not yield in the least — they know their rights, and they will not yield to anyone! Very often their rights would look quite different if such people possessed more of the spirit of Christ.
Things sometimes look very different to different people, and no amount of talking and arguing will make them see alike. The more arguing there is — the further apart people drift. That is the reason so many church troubles are always 'being' settled but are never 'really' settled. The trouble is in the hearts. The members are not willing to be entreated. They must get their hearts warm toward each other, and be filled with the spirit of brotherly kindness. Until such is the condition, one might as well try to weld two pieces of cold iron. As before stated, when people desire unity and harmony — they can have it. But they must desire it enough to be willing to sacrifice for it all those things that prevent it.
Another thing that hinders is self-will. So many people like to have their own way. If others will do their way — then such people can be very gracious and kind; but if they do not have their way — then they manifest a very different disposition. They are ready to "balk"; their kindness is gone; they become stubborn; if there is trouble, they are very slow to yield. It is very hard for them to submit, even when they are convinced that they should do so. When they do seem to yield, it is often only an outward yielding, the heart remaining the same. How much trouble this self-will makes — and how different it is in spirit from him who said, "Not my will, but may your will be done"!
We are commanded to submit ourselves one to another. When we demand that all the submission be on the part of the other person — it shows that we are self-willed, that we care more about having things go our way, than we do about having them go right, or than we care to manifest a Christlike disposition.
Still another thing that prevents our being easily entreated is pride. A lady was recently talking with me about a conversation she had just had with some other ladies. She had been advocating a certain doctrine which they did not receive. In speaking of it she said, "I grew a little heated in the discussion of it. I did not mean to let them best me." Many people have this prideful disposition. They will not be "bested." They will hold to their position — even when they are in the wrong, and know it. If they did not take such a position, they might acknowledge the other to be right; but when they have taken the stand, they will not yield.
What is the trouble? Pride in the heart is the secret. This disposition always has its root in pride — humility never acts in this way. Pride keeps people from acknowledging truth — it keeps them from changing their attitude. Pride of opinion keeps them from being willing to listen patiently to others who differ with them. Pride is at the root of most church and personal troubles — pride is what they feed on, and the only way to cure them is to get rid of the pride.
The minister who would settle such troubles has need to look for one or more of these three things. He may expect a search to disclose either selfishness, self-will, or pride; for if the trouble is not easily settled — then he may be assured that some or all of these things are the cause. His task, then, is not so much to get at what seems to be the trouble, as to give attention to these underlying sins which are the life of the trouble. No trouble is truly settled, until these elements are purged out of the heart.
O brethren! what we need in all the churches and in every heart — is that "wisdom that is from above" (James 3:17). We are told that it is "first pure — then as a natural consequence of that purity it is "peaceable." It loves peace — it seeks to be at peace with all. It is "gentle." That gentleness which was manifested in the life of Jesus reveals itself anew in the hearts of those who are "first pure."
Love has no harsh words, no harsh feelings. It is full of mercy and easy to be entreated. Where this heavenly wisdom abides, there will not be a disposition . . .
to assert one's own rights,
to be self-willed, or
to hold fast to one's own ways.
On the contrary, if its blessed presence fills our souls — we shall be merciful, kind, forgiving, patient, pitiful. We shall have the same tender feeling for our brother who has done us wrong — as the father had for his prodigal son. We shall be ready to run to meet him. We shall be ready to forget all the past. Our hearts will be filled with joyfulness at the expected reconciliation. O brethren there is nothing needed quite so much today and every day as that heart-quality that makes people "easy to be entreated."