Growing up, we are taught to approach many situations with gentleness - from holding a sweet newborn to handling a delicate vase. We are also taught to be gentle with others’ feelings – like speaking the truth in love when it is difficult. The ability to act gently in various situations is something that Jesus modeled during His time on Earth. Jesus continues to be an example that we can always looks to. Today, we’re continuing our series on the Fruits of the Spirit by looking at Gentleness.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23
So what is gentleness? Gentleness is produced when a softened heart abides in Jesus. It’s being intentional and, most importantly, humble - always being compassionate toward the struggles and shortcomings of others.
Jesus connects gentleness to humility in Matthew 11:29, saying: “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” True gentleness breeds from humility. Feelings of superiority and pride are catalysts for harsh reactions. In 2 Corinthians 10:1, Paul also ties gentleness to humility in a description of himself: “Now I, Paul, myself urge you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am meek when face to face with you, but bold toward you when absent.” Many people think that “meekness” means weakness. In reality, “meekness” means having “strength under control.” When a horse is described as being meek, it simply means that it is so in tune with it’s master, that even the smallest nudge right or left, will cause the horse to follow his master’s lead. When we abide in Jesus, we ought to be so in tune with His spirit, that we can discern when and how to practice the fruits of the spirit.
By using the word “meek” in conjunction with gentleness, Paul highlights the type of meek attitude we must possess when interacting with others. Being gentle flows naturally when we authentically care about those around us, and when we value others’ well-beings as much as our own.
Very often, gentleness is confused for weakness. When we react calmly in a situation that “should” make us mad, we can be perceived as fragile or uncertain. However, maintaining a gentle attitude when it’s difficult is actually a strength, not a weakness. Although God possesses all of the power in the universe, he deals gently with His children. If we are to be like Him, we must act with gentleness, too.
In John 8:1-11, Jesus lives out the Fruit of Gentleness in his interaction with a woman caught in adultery. The scribes and the Pharisees were practically begging Jesus to lose his temper with her, saying that “the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?” But, avoiding pride and self-righteousness, Jesus gently told the woman to “sin no more,” rather than reacting with violence as was expected in such a situation of wrongdoing. This is the way God wants us to be with others - using a gentle word of truth rather than a message of prideful condemnation to show His love to others.
Exhibiting gentleness is a harsh world is a valuable tool for us to use to further God’s kingdom. As we live each day with “I’m Third” in mind, we must remember that putting God and others before ourselves requires humility, a precursor for gentleness. How can you show gentleness to those around you this week and spread God’s love to someone who needs it?