Gentleness is having the tone and the touch of Jesus Christ.
When Jesus speaks of himself he’s gentle and lowly in heart. And He calls believers to learn from Him.
Jesus says: “…Learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt. 11:29; cf. 1 Cor. 10:1). We are called as Christians to be like Christ in our gentleness. To walk worthy of our calling as a follower of Jesus is to walk “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love…” (Eph. 4:2). Gentleness in tone and touch is a visible sign that one’s heart is at rest and calm under the influence of Christ’s grace.
We live in a rude culture of hostility and anger and vindictiveness and general unkindness. Christian gentleness can be an important response to this kind of behavior. In fact, gentleness by Christ’s grace may be are most effective and influential way of bringing change in our culture today.
How could Christians live influentially and effectively in the culture today, particularly in a time of confusion over sexual identity and name-calling in politics? Gentleness.
What could be our answer to aggressive driving? Gentleness.
What could be our response to rushed and rudeness? Gentleness.
What could cause those who perceive that Christians are unloving to listen to our Gospel? Gentleness.
What could be our answer to “pushy”? Gentleness.
What could be our answer to a sarcastic remark? Gentleness.
What could be our answer to those we may disagree with? Gentleness in tone and touch. Specifically, “speaking the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15).
Imagine that we could as Christians say with King David “…Your gentleness made me great” (2 Sam. 22:35-36) in the midst of a hostile and rude culture. This is the godly influence that could be useful to us as the Church.
Gentleness is a fruit of the spirit. The Spirit of God is pleased to rule over our hearts in such a way that our tongues may possess a gentle tone and our hands and bodies may be used as instruments of kindness with a gentle touch.
When we were young we read in our fairy stories about a gentle giant. As we got older and experienced more of the real world we were surprised to find that he’s not so gentle. But Jesus is. What was attractive about the gentle giant was that he was very strong, but in his strength, he treated others kindly. He was powerful, yet kind. Isn’t this story of the gentle giant really a story about our longings for one like Jesus Christ? Gentleness like meekness is strength that is under control and used in tone in touch to be kind and gracious to others?
One of my teachers used to speak of “gentle-ing himself” when he saw that his heart was upset or impassioned by sin or an aggravation of others. This teacher understood that lack of gentleness was a heart problem. It showed a lack of grace and a need for Christ. At times, I find myself thinking of this and seeking to gentle myself in places where there’s potential controversy or conflict, or in crowded places, or in long lines, or in times when I’m running late and there’s traffic, and when I perceive folks are being inconsiderate of my time. These are times to think about “gentle-ing oneself” methinks. By God’s grace…
Sadly, in the church, we can forget to gentle ourselves. Sometimes when we argue (discuss?) theologically, we can forget gentleness. We can so desire that the truth be told, that we forget tone and touch in telling that truth. We forget to “speak the truth in love” even to one another (Eph. 4:15)! Yet gentleness is one of the most important characteristics that should describe us in our engagement with one another, especially when we disagree. The Bible teaches us:
“The servant of the Lord must not be quarrelsome, but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil. Correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth…” (2 Tim. 2:24-25).
We see doctrinal positions and personal opinions publicly posted on Facebook and other social media. But what is revealed is often more than truth or a mere opinion. What we see are sinful dispositions and hearts that are in desperate need of Christ-like gentleness. Should we wonder by this kind of online behavior why many distance themselves from us and will not come to hear our Gospel?
Beloved, let us pray for kindness, the ability to teach or persuade others patiently, and to correct with gentleness. For every public display of lack of gentleness that is tweeted and posted on social media, as Christians, let there also be a transparently honest and humble public display of repentance tweeted or posted.
We should remember that like a lot of things in this life, gentleness is “caught” not “taught”. We can have an understanding of what gentleness is, and have an ability to define it, and even be dogmatic about what it’s definition is 🙂 yet we learn it best from seeing it in others. We learn it by imitation. We learn it from being in communion with Christ and learning to be like Him. The glory that will be reflected on us and in us as we are transformed by Christ’s Spirit is the temperament of gentleness toward others (2 Cor. 3:18). As King David, we can possess hands trained for war, living as warriors for Christ in the present cultural battle, and yet gentleness is what will make us great (Psalm 18:34-35). Gentleness is bold because it is God-like, but this does not mean that it’s ever fearful. If we truly want greatness, it must come through godly gentleness.
But gentleness cannot be learned while being rushed and in a hurry all the time. Gentleness cannot be learned in being concerned only about one’s self. Gentleness cannot be learned while seeking to exert one’s opinions without listening, or in seeking to be first (3 John 9). Gentleness cannot be learned as long as one would seek to be right all the time. As our forefather John Calvin wrote convictingly:
“You will never attain true gentleness except by one path: a heart imbued [saturated/permeated] with lowliness and with reverence for others.”
Need gentleness? Embrace Christ, and let him gentle on you through His grace. Then by His Spirit, gentle yourself and go and be influential and effective in your gifts and calling in this world. Let’s cultivate a culture of gentleness in our Christian congregations and in our larger community. Let us tweet and post on social media with gentleness, too.
Let us be a gentle-ing, counter-cultural influence,
by speaking the Gospel and living it out gently.
In Christ’s love,