“…walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing one another in love…”Ephesians 4:1b-2
Of all the fruits of the Spirit, gentleness is often the most neglected. We don’t practice gentleness on a daily basis (unless maybe you work with children or animals), and we certainly don’t talk about it.
When was the last time you thought about having a gentle attitude? I’m sure patience, self-control, or kindness are more frequently considered than gentleness for most of us.
However, it is equally as important as any other fruit, or God wouldn’t have included it.
What Does it Mean to Be Gentle?
The word “gentle” has a connotation of innocence, motherhood, and sometimes even weakness. When I think of an image of gentleness, I picture those videos of big dogs petting tiny kittens, because that’s what gentleness feels like to me.
But of course, that isn’t a full picture. Gentleness is so much more than hand-pats and motherhood.
Two words often associated with, or synonymous with, gentleness are meekness and humility.
Meekness, to start, is not weakness. It means to be quiet, gentle, and submissive. Submissive to what? The law of God, the will of God, and the promises of God.
This is not easy, and therefore could not mean weakness. Submission, especially in an age of individuality, is a difficult action.
Humility, similarly, is a very difficult quality in this era of individuality. We’re taught to be proud and even haughty, selfish in our ambitions, and self-centered in our actions (although, not in these words).
To be humble takes us completely in the other direction of today’s culture. Putting others above ourselves, thinking more of them than ourselves, and putting their needs before our own…it’s a foreign concept in today’s ideology.
As with many Fruits of the Spirit, though, we are called to go against the flow of culture.
Christ was Gentle
The ultimate example of any fruit we’re taught about in scripture, is the example set by Jesus.
“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”Matthew 11:29
Jesus tells us to learn from His gentleness and His humility, to take those upon us and we’ll find rest for our souls.
“I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away!—”2 Corinthians 10:1
Paul recognized the gentleness of Christ, without ever having met Him personally. This is a testament to Christ’s legacy, and His example while walking on earth.
Even before Christ was born on earth, we were told by the prophets that He would come humble, lowly, gently. Zechariah 9:9 says that He is coming “humble and mounted on a donkey,” which speaks directly about the triumphal entry before Christ’s crucifixion (Matthew 21:1-11, Mark 11:1-11, Luke 19:28-40, John 12:12-19).
Gentleness Starts with Humility
This one is tough. Even for Christians… sometimes especially for Christians.
Humility means setting aside ourselves, our desires, our pain, our burdens, our biases and predispositions for the sake of the gospel, and for the sake of others. It isn’t about making ourselves smaller than those around us…it’s not about us at all.
“…put off the old self with its practices and…put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.”Colossians 3:9b-10
The Proverbs tell us that “humility comes before instruction.” We have to humble ourselves before we even know why. We have to humble ourselves to be able to learn more about our purpose on this earth.
Pride is a roadblock to progress, and it is impossible to better ourselves if we’re only thinking about ourselves. Objective thinking and selflessness are only acquired through the setting aside of ourselves.
This all sounds pretty harsh, I know. But here’s the real purpose of setting ourselves aside.
When we aren’t standing in our own way, we are able to let God fill us with a glory and a gift so much more powerful than we could ever be on our own. We are able to be filled with the understanding of a purpose beyond anything this individualistic world could imagine or embrace.
We are part of God’s kingdom!
Gentleness… not Weakness
Because of this filling of the kingdom within our souls, we are made strong. The world around us would tell us that we’re only strong when we’re our best version of us. It’s all about “me, myself, and I” and we don’t need anyone else.
That is a lie.
We need the strength of our King, our Savior. It is through Him that we have the strength of David, who stood up to the giant, Goliath, with only some stones and a sling.
It is through Him that we have the strength of Esther. She saved an entire people because she’d given her life to the purpose of God, and even her own life was spared.
It is through Him that we have the strength of Paul, a murderer-turned-evangelist who faced the very people he once persecuted, requesting not only forgiveness but acceptance into the family of believers.
It is through Him, and only Him, that Job survived losing everything. Anything that he could have been proud of, was stripped from him. And yet, he praised God.
We are not the source of our own strength, and through Christ alone we can become strong.
Gentleness and Anger
Perhaps the most practical… or simply the most regular application of gentleness would be within conflict.
Every one of us, as human beings on this earth, have been in conflict with someone else. Whether it’s a sibling who takes too long in the bathroom, a parent who just “doesn’t understand,” a teacher who didn’t give us an extension on our paper (that we probably knew about weeks in advance), or even the church, which is full of sinners just like us.
These situations, and others, give us a never-ending opportunity to practice gentleness.
If we take ourselves out of negative situations, let God take over our responses and reactions, and humble ourselves to see another perspective, this is how we can pursue gentleness.
When you’re gardening, it is important to regularly check in on your plants. You have to water them, feed them, check their roots, and sometimes even uproot them and plant them in some new soil.
We have to do the same thing when we cultivate the gardens of our souls.
Check in with yourself regularly, or better yet, check in with God. Set yourself in scripture and learn from Christ, who in Matthew 11:29 tells us to “take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
Meditate on scripture, on the words of Christ, and into prayerful communication with Him regularly. These habits will ultimately take over our daily walk.
According to Scott Swain, the President of Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, “virtues are habits of intellectual and moral decadence.” He explains further that habits themselves are “settled dispositions that predispose us to think, feel, and act in specific ways.”
So what if our habits become virtues? What if we practice and study the fruits of righteousness so often that they become instinct, reflex? I think the world could benefit from a collection of people (Christians) that reflexively respond with gentleness rather than anger, or hate, or resentment, or spite.
The world we live in right now, this year of chaos and uncertainty, makes it hard to pursue righteousness. It’s much simpler to blend into the voices calling for violence. It’s much less controversial to stand behind the walls and watch the riots destroy history. It’s so much easier to stand by and watch the call for unity cause even more division than we saw in the first place.
But our lives as humans were never meant to be easy. Our lives as Christians, however, have a purpose beyond comfort and ease, but one of sin and hell conquered, and a kingdom rising.
A Prayer for All us Mountain Goats
My prayer for you today, and in the days to come, is that you truly develop a habit of gentleness.
I pray that in spite of everything going on in the world today, you’re able to sense the peace of the promises of God, and let that fill you with a hope and a purpose that is unending. I pray for the health and safety of every one of you, and for discernment and biblical hunger to overwhelm you with wisdom and knowledge.
I pray that you search for the answers by walking through the gospels with Christ, rather than alongside “moral speakers” of this world.
I pray that you will be okay.
Christian, Writer, Coffee Addict
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