By Shawn McMullen
It’s next to last in Paul’s list of spiritual fruit (see Galatians 5:22, 23) and often takes a back seat to other virtues. In fact, when was the last time you prayed, “Lord, make me gentle”? If we understood gentleness, I think we would seek it more earnestly.
Paul understood it. He wrote, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with . . . gentleness” (Colossians 3:12, NIV 1984). Warning Timothy of the evils of greed and discontent he wrote, “But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue . . . gentleness” (1 Timothy 6:11). He instructed the Ephesian Christians, “Be completely humble and gentle” (Ephesians 4:2). He called on elders to be “not violent but gentle” (1 Timothy 3:3), and he described his own ministry among the Thessalonians with these words: “We were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children” (1 Thessalonians 2:7).
Gentleness has been defined as mildness in dealing with others. Gentle people are sensitive to the needs and feelings of those around them. Even so, there is no weakness in gentleness. It is a trait born of God-given strength.
A Gentle God
Isaiah painted an awe-inspiring word portrait of God in Isaiah 40: “The Sovereign Lord comes with power, and his arm rules for him” (v. 10). The description that follows leaves us trembling at God’s might and majesty. But within the portrait the prophet also adds, “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young” (v. 11). God is a gentle God.
A Gentle Savior
“See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9). Jesus demonstrated great boldness and strength. He exposed the Pharisees’ hypocrisy. He drove moneychangers from the temple courts. He endured unimaginable suffering. Yet he also blessed little children and healed a cowering leper with a tender touch. He is a gentle Savior.
Yielding control of our lives to the Holy Spirit leads to gentle behavior.
Gentle Christians make others feel at rest in their presence. They don’t lead you to think they are silently judging you. They go out of their way to make others feel comfortable.
Gentle Christians treat others respectfully. They live out Paul’s admonition to “consider others better than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3). The boss, the sales clerk, the server in the restaurant, and family members all receive the same respectful treatment.
Gentle Christians are gracious. They don’t say, “I speak my mind and let the chips fall where they may.” Their conversations are “full of grace, seasoned with salt” (Colossians 4:6). Gentle Christians speak the truth in love. When they speak hard truths, they say them with tears.
Gentle Christians are confident. Free from the burdensome desires to have their own way and to get the last word, they are living proof of Isaiah’s promise, “The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever” (Isaiah 32:17).
Why not begin praying today, “Lord, make me gentle,” drawing on God’s strength as you “Let your gentleness be evident to all” (Philippians 4:5)?
This article is adapted from one that first appeared in The Lookout on August 26, 2001.