1 “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on Him and He will bring justice to the nations. 2 He will not shout or cry out, or raise His voice in the streets. 3 A bruised reed He will not break, and a smouldering wick He will not snuff out. In faithfulness He will bring forth justice; 4 He will not falter or be discouraged till He establishes justice on earth. In His law the islands will put their hope.”
5 This is what God the Lord says - He who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and all that comes out of it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it: 6 “I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, 7 to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.”
1 Thessalonians 2:7-12
As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you, 7 but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. 8 We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us. 9 Surely you remember, brothers, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you. 10 You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. 11 For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, 12 encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.
Of all the qualities of Jesus that we are to imitate in our own lives, gentleness is probably the most obvious, but at the same time it is quite possibly the hardest. It is an area in which we all struggle, because gentleness is yet another Godly characteristic that does not come naturally to the sinful nature.
Gentleness in people is something that others admire, appreciate and value. It is part of the Fruit of the Spirit that God has given to us so that we can make the gospel attractive. God wants us to be gentle. He wants us to be gentle with those within the Church, and He wants us to be gentle with those outside the Church.
Over and over again, the Bible teaches us this same lesson. Ephesians 4:1-2 says, “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”
It’s an interesting phrase that Paul uses here – live a life worthy of the calling you have received.
One of the ways we live a life worthy of our calling is by living a life of gentleness. When we consider how patient and gentle Jesus has been with us, how can we not be gentle with others?
Philippians 4:5 says, “Let your gentleness be evident to all.”
We looked at Colossians 3:12 a couple of weeks ago. “As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”
Gentleness, meekness and humility are among the hardest Christian virtues to develop in our lives.
A person who needs humility thinks they don’t need it at all, and that’s proof that they do need it.
Are you a gentle person? How do you respond when someone rubs you up the wrong way, and just has a knack of annoying you? Are you sarcastic, rough, harsh or abrasive in how you respond, or are you meek, humble, and peaceable?
This fruit of gentleness should be seen by the world. Christians and non-Christians alike should see us as gentle people. Gentleness preserves us and brings peace in our lives. When we are calm and gentle with our responses to others, our lives are better for it.
But that’s not the way of the world, is it?
Standing up for yourself and speaking out when you’ve been wronged is seen as a sign of strength. Not retaliating and avoiding conflict whenever possible is seen as the opposite – a sign of weakness.
We actually feel good about ourselves when we’ve given someone a good and well-deserved tongue lashing, but that is not how Christians are to behave.
It is hard to respond sometimes with gentleness. Human nature tells us to stand up for ourselves and don’t allow others to get away with hurting us.
But our gentleness is to be evident to all.
We are to be gentle when dealing with people, especially when we are correcting them. Galatians 6:1 says, “If someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.” The Amplified Bible expands on that a bit: “If any person is overtaken in misconduct or sin of any sort, you who are spiritual, who are responsive to and controlled by the Spirit, should set him right and restore and reinstate him, without any sense of superiority and with all gentleness, keeping an attentive eye on yourself, lest you should be tempted also.”
Gentleness is also known as meekness. Being meek is part of being gentle.
But there are differences between meekness and gentleness. In many ways they are two fruits of the Spirit at the same time. Meekness is an inward and passive thing, and gentleness is an outward and active thing. What this means is that we can feel meek, but act gently.
When Moses, Jesus, John the Baptist, Stephen, and many others were standing up for truth, and what was right, they would speak boldly. They even called those they were speaking to as a brood of vipers, stiffed neck people, and hypocrites. But when they were accused they didn’t speak up for themselves or retaliate. This is meekness.
Meekness is not weakness. Meekness requires great strength and control.
Numbers 12:3 in the Amplified Bible again, says “Now the man Moses was very meek, gentle, kind, and humble above all the men on the face of the earth.”
Moses was a meek man yet he was one of the greatest leaders in history. He could be stern when an occasion demanded. He made the worshippers of the golden calf drink the dust of their own idol. This was holy zeal for the sake of God.
Stephen, the first Christian martyr, is another good example. His meekness shines through in his prayer for his murderers when they were stoning him: “He fell on his knees and cried out, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ When he had said this, he fell asleep.” (Acts 7:60)
He didn’t show any weakness when he took the Sanhedrin to task, which resulted directly in his execution. “You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered Him - you who have received the law that was put into effect through angels but have not obeyed it.” (Acts 7:51-53)
Both Moses and Stephen had a zeal for God, but meekness for self.
And what about Jesus? The Bible tells us that He was “led as a lamb to the slaughter” yet He cleansed the temple with a whip!
Jesus didn’t have to go to the cross, but He humbled Himself and did what was necessary in order for us to be saved from the consequences of our sin.
Someone wrote, “Meekness is holding back your strength when you have the power to really let someone have it.”
These are the kind of qualities we need to nurture and grow in our own lives, and as we’ve seen in the past weeks, it is God’s Spirit who is willing and able to do exactly that.
The Fruit of the Spirit is there for our taking but many don’t want it, because it requires some radical changes and sacrifices in our lives.
It’s really a choice we each need to make, and as we look back over this series during the past couple of months, the question remains the same. Am I going to live my life for God, or am I going to live it for myself?
If I’m going to insist on having my own way, it is going to be extremely difficult for me to display qualities like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Displaying and living out the Fruit of the Spirit doesn’t just mean a few tweaks and changes here and there. It requires a complete and total change of heart. Paul pleads with us in Philippians 2:1-4, “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
In 1 Timothy 6:11 Paul gives advice to Timothy on how to conduct himself. He warned him to stay away from things such as greed, envy, strife. He wrote, “But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith.” That same call goes out to all who confess Jesus as Lord and Saviour.
Christians are to be gentle. It is to be one of the characteristics that defines who we are as Christians. We are to be gentle.
If you are ever being harsh with someone, you are not being gentle with them. The two are opposites.
Billy Graham defines gentleness as, “mildness in dealing with others. It displays a sensitive regard for others and is careful never to be unfeeling for the rights of others.”
This is what Paul was talking about in our reading from 1 Thessalonians today. “As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you, but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.”
One commentator writes, “Gentleness is illustrated by the way we should handle a carton of exquisite crystal glasses. It is the recognition that the human personality is valuable but fragile, and must be handled with care.”
Each person is valuable but fragile, and we need to keep this in mind when dealing with people. One unkind, thoughtless word can do immeasurable damage.
The kind of gentleness that we are to have is rooted in love.
This gentleness is the direct result of the Holy Spirit working in our lives. It is not some outward thing that we put on, that is external, that has nothing to do with the heart. No. It’s a characteristic that is based upon love, because there is a false, counterfeit gentleness in the world that is superficial.
I found a story of a man waiting in the queue at an airport one day. The man ahead of him was angry and upset. He complained about everything, and let the poor girl who was serving him really have it. He complained so much that he was actually abusive. But through it all she was pleasant and courteous, and she kept smiling. She kept her cool, apologised for the inconvenience, and wished him a pleasant journey. The man behind was amazed at how she held it all together in the face of such an attack, so when it was his turn to be served he complimented her on how she’d handled such a difficult customer. She smiled and told him that it was her job, that that’s what she was trained for. “But how do you do it?” he asked. She leaned forward and whispered, “It was easy. He is going to Paris, and I’ve just sent his luggage to Tokyo.”
That’s not the kind of gentleness we are to have. It may be a funny story, and some would say the man probably got what he deserved. It’s an illustration I found on the internet, so whether it’s true or not, I can’t say. But if it is true, her outward gentleness was fake. It was a counterfeit gentleness, and rerouting the man’s luggage to the other side of the world was not rooted in love.
As Christians we are to be different. To have Godly gentleness, we need to love people. We need to think about what’s best for them and do things that are sensitive and caring.
All of the qualities of the Fruit of the Spirit are good qualities to have, and even those who do not believe in God would absolutely agree that the world could certainly use more gentleness, respect, peace, joy, etc.
But Christian gentleness has a goal that goes beyond mere good manners. Normal gentleness is good manners, but the reason we are to be gentle first and foremost, is to help people come to Christ, and once they have come to Christ, to help them have a closer walk with Him.
That’s the purpose of Godly gentleness.
1 Peter 3:15 says, “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.” Our gentleness should attract people to the Gospel. Remember, you’re not going to force anyone into the Kingdom of God by being critical and judgmental of them. But you can love them into the Kingdom. God will deal with their hearts. It is His Spirit that will convict them of their sin and change them from within. Our task is simply to love, and show gentleness and respect.
The prophet Isaiah was speaking about Jesus when he wrote, “A bruised reed He will not break, and a smouldering wick He will not snuff out.”
The Bible scholar Jerry Bridges wrote about this verse, “The bruised reed and the smouldering wick refer to people who are hurting, spiritually weak, or of little faith. Jesus deals gently with such people. He does not condemn them for their weakness. He does not come down with a heavy hand; rather He deals with them gently.”
That’s our example to follow. When we are dealing with unbelievers, we need to be gentle with them and point them to the gentleness and rest they will find in Christ.
And we’re to apply that same gentleness within the Church, when interacting with fellow-Christians.
In Isaiah 40:11 we read about how Jesus treats His people. “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.” Just imagine how different the Church would be if we treated each other like that all of the time!
Jesus carries His lambs close to His heart. He deals gently with them. This means that we are to deal gently with each other. The kind of atmosphere that Jesus wants for His people is one of gentleness. In His Church He wants His people to be in a place where we can grow strong together. In the Church Jesus wants us to experience gentleness, not harshness. He us to experience love, not anger.
Galatians 6:1 again: “If someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently.”
We are to carry one another’s burdens and in so doing, fulfill the law of Christ.
In our personal interactions in the Church, we are to be gentle with each other. We are to be sensitive to one another’s needs and be gentle, kind and uplifting. That’s how God wants us to behave in the Church.
While I was preparing this I came across a series of questions that one Christian leader wrote for his congregation to consider, and I found them extremely challenging.
Is gentleness one of your defining characteristics?
If others in the Church were asked to write down some of the characteristics that you exhibit, would gentleness be on their list about you? Are you known for your gentleness? You should be.
Many of us fall far short in this area.
You often hear people say, “I call a spade, a spade. I tell it like it is. I don’t pull any punches, and if people don’t like that, well, that’s just their problem.”
People like that are not gentle, and they are not displaying this Fruit of the Spirit.
We all need to be more gentle.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
Are you gentle like Christ? Do you love sinners like Jesus does? Do you love your fellow Christians like Jesus does?
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.”