“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
-Galatians 5:22-23 (ESV)
Pause for just a moment and give that word some thought. What does gentleness look like? If you’re like me, perhaps that word brings a certain person to mind, someone who has touched your life with a kind and gentle spirit. Or maybe you envision some imaginary person or circumstance, like a mother and her newborn baby, or someone caring for the sick or elderly. The word gentleness is often used synonymously with words like tenderness, humility, kindness, and meekness.
Gentleness is Christ-likeness, and it is the characteristic of a woman under the control of the Holy Spirit. It is intertwined with the other fruits of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22-23, and like those other fruits, it is something that we have to put on daily and make a concerted effort to practice. As sinful humans, gentleness does not come easy, especially in a society where women are encouraged and expected to speak out and take charge and think of themselves first. However, gentleness is an attribute of a godly woman walking with Christ. But why are we called to be gentle?
First, gentleness allows you to be approachable and build trust with others. People will come to you when they know they won’t be reprimanded or judged, but rather embraced and loved. It builds confidence in relationships, both within our families and with those we encounter outside of our homes. Gentleness opens opportunities for sharing the love of Christ, and that is our job wherever we are. “Let your gentleness be evident to all.” (Philippians 4:5)
Second, gentleness opens communication and closes arguments and disagreements. As Proverbs 15:1 states, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” When conflict arises, it is so easy to lose control of the tongue and say things that cannot be taken back. Sometimes it isn’t even the words that are said, but rather the tone with which they are said that causes friction. However, when we remember to give the Holy Spirit control and use the fruits He has provided, we can respond with gentleness and avoid many misunderstandings. We often reference the Proverbs 31 woman when we evaluate our roles as wives and mothers and daughters of the King. Proverbs 31:26 alludes to this “gentle responding”… “She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.” Keep in mind that responding with gentleness does not mean we have to be doormats or ignore biblical wrongdoings! Sometimes situations must be dealt with and confrontations have to be made- the key is to take the time to pray first, remember that we have the power of the Spirit in us, and allow Him to use us in those situations. Speak with “wisdom and faithful instruction.”
Gentleness also enables us to love the way Christ loves. When we look at the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ ministry, we see the epitome of gentleness. Jesus ministered and served and preached with a meekness that drew people to Him. He took the time to meet needs with humility, touch people and heal them, and reach out to those of all walks of life. He pointed out sins, but did so in a way that still demonstrated great mercy and compassion. He had the power to destroy anyone who hurt Him, yet chose to love in the face of persecution. As followers of Him, we are called to exhibit this same measure of gentleness to those we encounter each day. “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Ephesians 4:2)
As we have studied the different fruits of the Spirit, it has become increasingly obvious that each individual fruit is dependent on the other fruits. Gentleness flows from a life of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and (as we will see next time) self-control. Only when we are tapped into the power of the Spirit, spending time cultivating our relationship with Christ, communicating daily with God, and submitting to His lordship in our lives will we be able to experience the fruitful life that He desires of us.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
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.