Fruit of the Spirit: Gentleness

gentlenessfruitThe fruit of the Spirit we are dealing with today is gentleness. William Hendricksen says a number of synonyms are necessary to show the broad meaning of this word: yieldedness, reasonableness, big heartedness, geniality, considerateness. If we stop just here, how many of these qualities would characterize you? Would people say of you “they are the most reasonable, big-hearted person”

James Adamson uses the word “humane” in his commentary on James and said it describes “the man who is fair, considerate and generous rather than rigid and exacting in his relations with others…” It is contrasted with “strict justice” and is used of judges who do not press the letter of the law… It is also used of people who listen to reason. E. Vine says it is “the trait that enables us to look humanely and reasonably at the facts of a case…not insisting on the letter of the law.

The overview of the word gentle is the opposite of being rigid. In Philippians 4:5 the apostle Paul said: “Let your reasonableness be made known to everyone.” Commentator Dennis E. Johnson says: “The term refers to the calm and kind disposition that enables a person to offer a non-violent, even generous, response to others’ aggression. Aristotle explained ‘gentleness’ as a willingness to forgo one’s own rights according to the letter of the law. So this word nicely captures the thrust of Paul’s earlier exhortation about the way that Christians should treat each other: ‘Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others’ (2:4). Elsewhere Paul uses this word to teach that elders must not be quarrelsome, but gentle (I Timothy 3:3). Also believers should be gentle rather than quarreling (Titus 3:2). Paul associates gentleness with meekness as seen in 2 Corinthians 10:1.”

In Philippians 4:5 the apostle Paul expands the circle of those whom we are to treat gently. It goes beyond the church to everyone, even those who make our lives miserable. As children of God who sends sunshine and rain on the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45) as brothers and sisters of the beloved Son who died for us while we were still His enemies (Romans 5:10), we should extend kindness rather than retaliation to those who are inconsiderate and unkind toward us.

fruit-of-the-spirit_t-1024x768In Matthew 10:28-30 Jesus said: “Come unto me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle and lowly of heart and you shall find rest for your souls.”

Jesus in these verses gives us an example of selflessness. We deserve nothing from Him and yet even the yoke that He requires of us is light. He provides for us the very opposite of many of the aggravated mental stresses that drive us crazy. If we truly pay attention to His teachings, we will have lower blood pressure and a more peaceful life.

I leave you with a story that I’ve used before that gives us an example of a gentle life. Watchman Nee, a Chinese evangelist, tells of a Christian he once knew in China. He was a poor rice farmer, and his fields lay high on a mountain. Every day he pumped water into the paddies of new rice, and every morning he returned to find that a neighbor who lived down the hill had opened the dykes surrounding the Christian’s field to let the water fill his own. For a while the Christian ignored the injustice, but at last he became desperate. He met and prayed with other Christians and came up with this solution. The next day the Christian farmer rose early in the morning and first filled his neighbor’s fields, then he attended to his own. Watchman  Nee tells how the neighbor subsequently became a Christian, his unbelief overcome by a demonstration of a Christian’s gentleness and Christ-like character.

Can we truly live a gentle life for the glory of God and as a witness to others?

See you Sunday.