By Melissa McLaughlin
Have you ever stepped into an emotional or relational landmine? Suddenly a passing comment or simple exchange takes on a wartime feel and you find yourself dodging verbal bullets, seemingly out of nowhere.
At moments like these, our souls long for a touch of gentleness. A remembrance that we are only human, the frail dust of the earth.
Contrast this with an experience where someone reaches out in gentleness. Perhaps just as the store clerk is checking out your purchases, you realize that one of your items must be exchanged and both the clerk and the person in line behind you offer a gentle smile and a kind word of mercy and compassion.
What a difference gentleness can make!
What is Gentleness?
It is important to note that Biblical gentleness is very different from what the world perceives as gentleness. In the Bible, the word “meekness” is at times used interchangeably with the word “gentleness”.
Though the world equates meekness with weakness, Jesus Himself was described as meek and there is no one stronger than Jesus Christ.
In Merriam-Webster’s dictionary the definition of gentle includes such phrases as: kind, amiable, free from harshness. While meekness is defined as: enduring injury with patience and without resentment.
What is Biblical Gentleness?
This comment from HELPS Word study adds Biblical clarity regarding the matter of gentleness and meekness: 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.
No doubt about it, gentleness is a God-quality that is both beautiful and strong, yet not so easily observed in human beings. “A gentle-force.” “A divinely-balanced virtue that can only operate through faith.”
Biblical Gentleness = Strength Under God’s Control
We find 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 to unleash our irritation, anger or frustration is kept in check by God’s love, grace and honor, allowing His kindness to leave its essence of mercy lingering on in our self-serving world.
When studying the Fruit of the Spirit, gentleness is a critical quality for Christians because we know God has shown gentleness toward us.
Jesus’ greatest demonstration of gentleness, strength under control, is displayed in full and living color, as He hung on the cross to die for our sins. Jesus could have chosen to avoid this painful self-sacrifice, but He yielded His will to the Father’s will.
We know that Jesus possesses all power and authority in heaven and on earth. We get a glimpse of this through His righteous anger as He cleared the Temple by overturning tables of money-changers who were taking advantage of worshipers. In no uncertain terms, Jesus demonstrates that gentleness is not weakness, but power under control, used in accordance with God’s truth, holiness and mercy.
Through His sacrifice on the cross, Jesus spared us the punishment we deserved, as a sinful people in rebellion against God. God could have released His righteous judgment upon us, bringing us to a swift and woeful end, but rather He chose to send His own Son to save us. Gentleness, strength under control, God’s control.
It stands to reason that as followers of Christ, we desire to exude the fragrance of gentleness, out of gratitude for the gentle touch God has extended to us and to reflect the gentleness of our powerful, gentle Savior.
But how do we grow in gentleness?
We cannot drum up this quality within ourselves by telling ourselves to be more gentle or by wishing it to be so. Gentleness, like any Fruit of the Spirit, is grown by abiding in Christ.
How do we abide in Christ? How do we grow the Fruit of the Spirit?
Here are 5 suggestions for abiding in Christ so that His soul-nourishment will grow in us the fruit of His Spirit:
1.Pause to remember how Jesus has been gracious and gentle with us. Bow with a humble heart before our Savior, knowing we didn’t deserve His sacrifice or mercy.
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 grow in His thoughts and ways.
4. Set aside daily time to pray for the Holy Spirit to prune away our natural selfish impulses so that a Christlike nature may flourish in us. Invite the Holy Spirit to flood our minds, emotions and will with Spirit-filled gentleness, power under God’s control.
5. Spend time with other Godly Christians. As iron sharpens iron, so we can help one another grow in the likeness of Christ through kind encouragement and honest accountability.
Gentleness – Christ on Display in our Every Day
During the recent flurry of toilet paper purchases resulting from the coronavirus outbreak, my mother, who is in her 80s, called to tell me she was out shopping shortly after the news hit. She stopped at a nearby grocery store to pick up a couple items they needed. There were still a few packs of toilet paper left on the shelves. My mom knew they already had some at home, so she left the toilet paper there on the shelves, in case someone else needed it more.
This image will forever be etched in my mind, against a backdrop of shoppers knocking one another over to grab toilet paper.
My mom had the power to purchase one of the last packs of toilet paper, but she thought of others before herself.
Power under God’s control paints a glorious portrait of victory over this world and gentleness in this world. Gentleness, a shining portrait of Christ.
Have you seen an act of Christlike gentleness? Please share!
Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:5-7
Discover the differences between the Fruit of the Spirit, the Gifts of the Spirit and Talents in this article: Fruits, Gifts and Talents – What’s the big deal? By Melissa McLaughlin