When I say the word gentle, what pops into your mind? If you are like me, you struggle to come up with many mental images…a gentle breeze, a gentleman, a mother with child. That is where my imagination stops when considering gentleness. Why? Perhaps because I am part of a society built upon the antithesis of gentleness.
As a Christian desiring to bear the spiritual fruit of gentleness, I should behave with sensitivity of disposition toward others. However, raised in a culture of self centeredness, I often do not consider the feelings of others when I speak and act. Rather than behaving with intentional mildness, tenderness and meekness (much to my shame) I demand my own way in a severe or rough manner in order to get my point across. Can you relate?
But what if I made the conscience decision to treat everyone as though they are as precious as an infant. Even more so, what if I treated everyone as though they are a child of God; one made in His image. For the Christian, this should be our default.
The Gentleness of Jesus
As we come into contact with the world around us, those who are dead in their trespasses and sins, we have the responsibility to display the gentleness of our Savior. Our hearts should recognize their desperate need of repentance and salvation. Rather than just harboring disgust for the outworking of sin we see, our response should be like that of Jesus who proclaimed…
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing!Luke 13:34
In a poignant moment of tenderness on His way to the cross, Jesus stops and laments the unwillingness of His own people to receive His love and salvation. His heart’s cry was repentance for those who would make themselves His enemy. Instead of simply showing distain for the sin of His people, Jesus saw their condition for what it truly was; separation from God.
In scripture, Jesus is consistently revealed as compassionate and gentle toward sinners. He came to seek and save that which was lost; His mission has not changed. If we are on mission with Christ, we must go with the same disposition He displayed as He walked amongst sinners.
The Gentleness of Paul
As we seek to tell the dying world around us about the one true and living God, it may not always be well received. In fact, we will most likely face opposition, even from those we have regular interaction with such as family, friends, co-workers or neighbors. Taking our cue from a man who was severely persecuted as he tried to love his countrymen, Paul says…
“And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.”2 Timothy 2:24
Those who are apart from Christ, and therefore serving Satan, need to hear the truth. Overwhelmingly our culture says we cannot know truth. “You live your truth” is the new mantra. However, Jesus said, “I am The Way, The Truth and The Life. No one comes to the Father but by Me.” This is a definitive truth claim!
Let us not recoil from speaking the truth (in love, of course) but rather proclaim it as we are given opportunity; we are simply a messenger. Our directive on how to deliver the message is with gentleness, patience, and humility. Our earnest desire is that God would grant a heart of repentance and true freedom to the one ensnared by sin and the devil.
The Gentleness of The Saints
As part of the body of Christ, we are commanded to walk with gentleness toward our brothers and sisters.
I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.Ephesians 4:1-3
This isn’t always easy to do, especially when we feel like we have been mistreated or misunderstood. The word beseech is strong…it isn’t a suggestion but rather begging with urgency. This is important! Endeavoring means that it is going to take some hard work and intentionality.
Does this mean I simply ignore sin in order to get along? No, but sometimes it may mean the sin has to be left at the foot of the cross through prayer. Other times it may mean confronting the sin head on.
Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.Galatians 6:1
Why an emphasis on the spirit of gentleness in the restoration process? Because if we come at a brother or sister with any other spirit, the message proclaimed will most likely not be heard. If it doesn’t sound like Jesus, it doesn’t sound authentic.
In dealing with another persons sin, the message is not mine, it is the Lords. I don’t change the message and I don’t mess with the delivery. As a messenger of my Lord, my chief aim should be to rightly represent the One who sent me. This is the same Lord who gives the invitation…
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 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 11:28-29
So today I encourage myself and you fellow reader, let us represent the Lord rightly in all of our dealings with the sinners in our lives, giving the invitation to come to Jesus with a spirit of gentleness.
Whether a quick interaction in the grocery store, a longer conversation with an unbeliever in your sphere of influence, or a brother/sister in Christ, let us be known by our gentleness. Through the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives, the good fruit of gentleness will be produced, which is always helpful and needful as we proclaim the message of Christ.
Special thanks to Mary Lisa & Hannah Patton for allowing me to photograph them as we discussed our wonderful Savior over a cup of coffee!