*I was honored to write this guest post in a series on the Fruit of the Spirit, with Jennifer at Minding the Kings!
Gentleness – Divinely-Balanced Strength
By Melissa McLaughlin
When you hear the word “gentleness” what comes to mind?
One example that comes to my mind is that of my own children handling our beloved cats using a soft, steady, slow stroke to cuddle, nestle and shower them with affection. From kittenhood through the aged years, these memories of tenderness speak of their deep love for our treasured pets. Another picture of gentleness is that of an accomplished pianist who uses just the right touch on the keys of the piano to express the most intimate and deep emotions through the subtle shading of delicate notes creating an inexpressibly stirring mood through music.
If my children roughly grabbed the kittens or the pianist banged on the piano keys with a hammer, this would create a completely different scene and an averse response in my mind and heart. In fact, I would feel compelled to intervene as quickly as possible to stop my children from hurting another living creature and I would immediately cease watching or listening to the pianist who used a beautiful instrument for something so destructive.
The Power of Gentleness
In both cases, the gentle person actually wields remarkable power, but chooses to hold back out of love, grace and honor. Though the world often dismisses gentleness as weakness, true Biblical gentleness is actually strength in control.
God has given us many gifts and choices, including various types of power and the choice for how to exercise that power.
We have power in our words.
We have power in the way we wait.
We have power in the way we drive.
We have power in the way we express our emotions.
We have power in the way we complete our daily work.
We have power in the way we touch people and objects.
We have power in the way we respond to correction or hurtful circumstances.
We see gentleness listed among the Godly characteristics defined as the Fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22-23. 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.
When we display gentleness to others, our power is harnessed by God’s love, grace and honor, allowing His kindness to leave its imprint of mercy in our harsh, self-seeking world.
When considering the Fruit of the Spirit, we recognize gentleness, also known as meekness, as a high calling indeed. Gentleness is a critical quality for Christians because we know God has shown gentleness toward us.
We see in Isaiah 40:11 the gentleness of God described here as a shepherd cradling His lambs near His chest and lovingly leading those with young ones.
He will tend his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms;
he will carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead those that are with young.
Certainly, Jesus’ demonstration of gentleness as strength under control is most clearly seen as He hung on the cross to die for our sins. Jesus could have chosen to avoid this humiliating, painful, tortuous ending, but yet He yielded His will to the Father’s will.
We know that Jesus’ harnessed power is also revealed through His righteous anger as He cleared the temple by overturning tables of those who were wrongfully selling overpriced sacrificial animals to unsuspecting worshipers. Without a doubt, Jesus shows that gentleness is not weakness, but power in restraint, used in the right time, in the right way, according to God’s Word, the Bible, and by the leading of the Holy Spirit.
Gentleness is most assuredly a God-quality, for through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, He has spared us the punishment we rightfully deserved as a sinful people in rebellion against His laws of righteousness. If God desired, He could use His mighty power to bring us to a quick and pitiful end and yet instead, He chose to send His own Son to save us.
Therefore, as followers of Christ, we desire to cultivate a lifestyle of gentleness out of gratitude for the gentle touch God has used in our lives and an eagerness to become more and more like Jesus, our powerful, gentle Savior.
We also know that the opposite of this quality is violence, abuse and destruction, so pursuing a life of gentleness is not just an ideal, but truly a necessity, for a lack of gentleness leads to a brutal and bitter end.
But how do we cultivate a spirit and lifestyle of gentleness?
Interestingly, the definition of gentleness or meekness includes an element of surrender.
Both words, “gentleness” and “meekness”, originate with the Greek word prautés, meaning power with strength. In Merriam-Webster’s dictionary the definition of gentle includes the phrases: kind, amiable / free from harshness, sternness, or violence / tractable or docile.
While meekness is defined as: enduring injury with patience and without resentment.
The HELPS Word study includes this final comment: For the believer, meekness (“gentle-force”) begins with the Lord’s inspiration and finishes by His direction and empowerment. It is a divinely-balanced virtue that can only operate through faith.
Clearly gentleness is not a quality we can just drum up by trying harder or wishing it to be so.
Growing in Gentleness
Here are some suggestions for developing a spirit and lifestyle of gentleness:
1.Humble ourselves fully before a powerful, holy, sovereign God who has been merciful, gracious and gentle with us.
2. Ask the Lord to help us recognize and repent of any harshness, arrogance or pride.
3. Spend time reading the Bible, God’s Word, to help more of His Word anchor our thoughts, reactions and reflexes.
5. Spend time in prayer asking the Lord to decrease our natural selfish impulses so that He may increase in everything we say, do and think.
6. Ask the Holy Spirit to flood every thought, every action and reaction, every word, every touch, every moment with gentleness, a divinely-balanced virtue, showing a Godlike gentle-force with power in control. Power in His control.
Please join me in prayer.
Dear Heavenly Father,
We praise You for Your great and mighty power! As we see the greatness of Your hand in the heavens and earth that declare Your glory, we acknowledge that You alone are the Living God and You alone are worthy of all our praise! We thank you for the gentleness You have shown us through the sacrifice of Jesus. Though we didn’t deserve such mercy and grace, yet You hung there for us on the cross, oh Jesus, taking our place, dying for our sins, that we may be made righteous through faith in You and Your finished work on the cross. Give us a humble heart, a teachable spirit, willing to be corrected, willing to take the lower seat, willing to surrender to Your ways and Your will. May we grow in the gentleness of Jesus, a divinely-balanced strength, through the power of Your Holy Spirit, that we may look, talk and think more like Jesus, day by day. For Your glory! In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.
What are your images of gentleness? Have any favorite scriptures that help you meditate upon this beautiful and Godly characteristic? Please share your thoughts and insights.
1 Timothy 6:11 – But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.