Gentleness

Fruit of the Spirit Series

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)

How can a person know if you are a Christ follower?

            Is it your theology?

            Is it your community?

            Is it by your spiritual gifts?

While these are good, they are not complete in of themselves. In fact, they are not the determining factor of how someone should recognize that you are a follower of Christ. Instead, a person should know that you are a genuine, spirit-filled believer simply by your character. The Holy Spirit has been and is continually cultivating the attributes that best demonstrate your walk with Christ. What are these visible attributes? The fruit of the Spirit.

The fruit of the Spirit is not nine separate ‘fruits’ – rather, the word in Greek is singular showing that the ‘fruit’ is a unified whole, not independent characteristics. Therefore, it is one ninefold “fruit” that characterizes all who truly walk in the Holy Spirit. It’s imperative to remember that the fruit of the Spirit is produced by the Spirit, not by the Christ follower. Our role as Christ followers is to completely abandon ‘acts of the flesh’ and its desires (Galatians 5:19-21,24) and to yield to the Holy Spirit’s transformative work in our lives (Galatians 5:25).

With all that said, it is of the utmost importance to understand the nature of the fruit so we can grow in our relationship with Christ and in our witness to the world. I decided to choose a quality of the fruit that is usually misunderstood and possibly the most mysterious of the bunch:

Gentleness.

I’ll admit, I did not have a good grasp of what gentleness was. I first found this out the hard way when I was dating my now wife Valerie. One day, when I was spending time with the Lord, I came across the fruit of the Spirit. Somehow I began analyzing which characteristics of the fruit I was ‘good at’ for dating purposes (not a great recommendation to do). It went something like this:

 “Joy? I got that down… I’m full of fun and life, who doesn’t like that?”

“Peace? I’m an even-keeled individual that doesn’t react in chaotic situations, I think she’ll dig that.”

 “Goodness? I think she sees I’m a pretty good guy.”

As I continue on, I get to good ol’ gentleness.

“Gentleness? What is the point of this characteristic? It’s definitely not the most important and I don’t really have it, so I think I’ll bypass this one.”

Immediately, the Lord spoke to me and said something to the effect of, “Gentleness is the one characteristic that Valerie cherishes the most and what you will need to have developed in your life.”

BOOM. Talk about a reality check from God Almighty!

As I soon found out… The Lord was right. I did not know how to date biblically, and Valerie took quick notice! On top of that, I wasn’t a natural ‘gentleman’ either. Although the story is long (but definitely worth hearing sometime!), Valerie had patience with me and helped reveal to me the value of gentleness.

On that note… What is gentleness?

‘Prautes’, the Greek word translated ‘gentleness’ in Galatians 5:23, means to submit to one’s strength in a posture of meekness.[1] Baker’s Dictionary of Biblical Theology describes gentleness as, “sensitivity of disposition and kindness of behavior, founded on strength and prompted by love.”

Were you surprised to see strength used to describe gentleness? I was.

In fact, that’s exactly what gentleness encompasses – strength under control. It’s restraining the power that you have (or could use) to exemplify the love of Christ. What makes it powerful is that you don’t fully use the power that’s in your control.


WE SEE THIS IN ARGUMENTS WITH LOVED ONES:

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. – Proverbs 15:1

We’ve all been in the place where arguments ensue. Perhaps we’ve thought back to those times where we shouldn’t have talked back or responded so poorly. Think about a specific instance where this has recently happened to you: If you could turn back the hands of time to that incident but respond with a ‘gentle answer’ instead, how much different would that conversation turn out? Or better yet, your day or your relationship with that person?

WE SEE THIS IN PRESENTING THE FAITH TO THOSE WE DON”T KNOW:

“But in your hearts revere 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.” – 1 Peter 3:15

We can have all the ‘answers’ and show that we know our stuff (strength not under control), but if we don’t have gentleness, it will fall on deaf ears. It’s not about how much you know or how passionate you are, but how well you communicate the character of Christ. Are you considerate? Are you listening to their doubts? Are you demonstrating care?

WE SEE THIS AS A LIFESTYLE THAT IS TO BE DEMONSTRATED DAILY:

 “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” – Colossians 3:2

Gentleness is not something you ‘achieve,’ it’s something that you continually live out. Being that we ‘clothe’ ourselves with gentleness, it is a daily choice to make. We know that this is not the attitude and disposition of the world as gentleness can be seen as weak. Yet the ways of the world are not always God’s ways, are they? A gentle spirit demonstrates to others around you that you are part of the Kingdom as His chosen people. As a result, you’re different. You can let others go before you or ahead of you. You don’t need to be aggressive to get your point across and you don’t need to prove that you’re right. In fact, the wisdom that comes from above, among other characteristics, is gentle in its response (James 3:17). 

WE SEE THIS IN JESUS’ LIFE AND IN HIS WORDS:

“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. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:29-30

Thank God that we can choose the yoke of Jesus, for He is gentle! What he could easily demonstrate in His power He withholds in His wisdom when dealing with us. The reality is we only get two choices: Jesus’ yoke or the world’ yoke. The yoke is easy and when we fail, He is gentle with us. Or the yoke that is difficult filled with stress, anxiety, and is unforgiving in our failings. If we submit to Christ, we will see gentleness develop since that is a foundational character of who He is.


I hope that this brief study on gentleness has not only helped you understand what it means but to encourage you in your walk with Christ. For this week, think about the relationships that you have with those close to you – in what ways can you be gentle in your response with them? Ask the Holy Spirit in your quiet time to reveal to you ways and opportunities for gentleness to be more prevalent in your daily life. And remember, gentleness like all of the fruit of the Spirit, is the evidence that the Holy Spirit is working in your life! As such, part of representing Christ is to, “Let your gentleness be evident to all” (Philippians 4:5). May it be so!


[1] ‘Gentleness’ and ‘meekness’ are often interwoven, in that the same root word is used by Jesus to describe those who will inherit the Earth in Matthew 5:5.

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