Fruit of the Spirit – Gentleness
(Fragile Handle with Care)
Consider you are sending something fragile interstate. It has to be there quick. You have no choice but to send it by air mail. The baggage handlers see your package. It has a big sticker on it that says, HANDLE WITH CARE! It gets to the destination. The person receives the package, opens it, and it is broken. You ring up the baggage company and complain. Later you find out that A Current Affair ran a story about the lack of care the workers had for their job. The attitude they had was toward their pay packet. They lacked gentleness.
What is gentleness? The dictionary definition includes:
1. Kind: having a mild and kind nature or manner
2. Mild: being moderate in force or degree so that the effects are not severe
3. Using little force or violence e.g. a gentle tap on the shoulder
4. Not steep: not rising very steeply e.g. a gentle slope
5. Upper class: relating to or having a high social status or class
6. Chivalrous: having a gracious and honourable manner
The Apostle Paul in writing to the Galatians states gentleness is a fruit of the Spirit. Therefore, we who live by the Spirit ought to display this fruit. What does Paul mean by gentleness? The Greek word here is “prautes” [pronounced prah-oo’-tace]. This means mildness of disposition [temperament, character], gentleness of spirit, meekness.
“Gentleness, such a sweetness of temper, and especially towards our inferiors, as disposes us to be affable [pleasant, friendly, easy going] and courteous, and easy to be entreated when any have wronged us” – (Matthew Henry). This means our character is so friendly, and easygoing that others will naturally feel comfortable in approaching us, especially when seeking forgiveness.
Gentleness is more than an action. It starts as a character. The character of Christ! He displayed it and wants us to have it. Gentleness is something we need to strive for. It is something we need to clothe ourselves with. Finally we need it to be effective in our witness. I am going to expand a little on what gentleness is. The Apostle Paul gives us some very good advice.
- Christ needs to be displayed in us.
Christ’s character consisted of gentleness. We also must display it. The Apostle Paul writes, “Now I, Paul, appeal to you personally by the meekness and gentleness of Christ (I who am meek when present among you, but am full of courage toward you when away!) 1 Corinthians 10:1
The character of Christ was divinely ordained. The gentleness of Christ displayed is a heavenly temperament. Paul recognized this. He addressed the Corinthians through the heavenly temperament of gentleness. If this temperament was available for Paul it is available for us.
In counselling one is taught the art of empathic listening. The counsellor listens to the client then repeats back what they have heard. Gentleness of spirit is required. The counsellor has no room for judgements. Unconditional acceptance of the client is what is required. This displays the temperament of Christ. In dealing people Christ showed unconditional acceptance for those he ministered to.
- Strive for gentleness!
But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 1 Timothy 6:11 (New International Version).
Paul is saying that we need to strive for what is good. Flee from all sin and pursue all that is good and noble. This is a Paul’s major themes in some of his letters. Move away from evil, the selfish desires of living for yourself. It is Christ that lives in us (Galatians 2:20). The old man has gone, and the new has come. Put on those things of Christ.
When Paul uses the term pursue he is saying that we need to follow, run after, press forward. Pursue is a verb which means a doing word. Gentleness is something that is good and noble. It is a way to live a holy life. We need to continually strive forward towards it. Gentleness is a key character for living a holy life.
- Wear gentleness!
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Colossians 3:12 (New International Version).
Gentleness may come naturally to some people. Yet others have to strive for it. Whether it is natural or not, we are urged to clothe ourselves in gentleness. No matter what the situation, we must clothe ourselves in it.
Wearing of gentleness towards those who have provoked us is a divine temperament. In this Easter period we are reminded of the way Jesus was treated. He was flogged, betrayed, ridiculed, shamed He remained gentle to those around him.
We can easily fall into resentment of the wrongs and neglects against us. Paul urges us to wear gentleness as clothes. To do this gentleness requires us to curb our own anger, and patiently bear the anger of others against us.
- Witness in gentleness!
But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 1 Peter 3:14-16 (New International Version).
Confess Christ as the ground of your hope with gentleness and fear. The answer to foes is to be made, not with arrogance and offensive, but modestly, meekly, reverentially. Some Christians preach the gospel as to ram it down the throats of others. This turns people away from the gospel. Gentleness is attractive. In time your witness will reap the benefit.
Recently I conducted a funeral. It was an interesting experience. I am not a pastor, minister or a celebrant. The lady who asked me was someone I had known through College. Her father was a religious man. Close to his death he stipulated that he didn’t want a minister or celebrant to conduct the ceremony. Because of my theological studies I was the first person she chose.
In dealing with the family I had to be gentle. There were hurting family members who were sad and disillusioned. The lady’s brother in particular! He suffers from a slight form of schizophrenia. During a visit he had a bit too much wine to drink. He became aggressive, not to the point of hurting anyone, but in anger. With gentleness I was able to hear his hurt and pain. I was able to find positive traits in him. This helped build some relationship. In the end, he had calmed down and was apologetic for his behaviour. This was only obtained because I was gentle with him.
In this situation, I was able to be a witness for God. I wasn’t rash or obtrusive rather I was positive through gentleness. This was a trait that Christ displayed in his life and this is a trait that he wants from us as his witnesses.
People need to see Christ. Gentleness is bringing Christ’s character into our character. Others will then see. Christ will be displayed. There can never be too much gentleness. We constantly need to strive for it. We need to clothe ourselves in it so we are covered by it. Doing this others will see Christ. He will be witnessed.
Gentleness corresponds with the other fruits of the Spirit. Without it kindness has no works, patience cannot wait. Gentleness is the character and kindness the action which flows from it. Gentleness affects the way we behave towards others. How is our character? Is gentleness evident in our life?