If someone asked me to give one word to describe our world today and the way we’re responding to one another, gentleness would not be the first word I’d think of.
We don’t see a lot of gentleness today. Instead, we see people yelling at each other, shooting each other, fighting with each other on planes, in stores, outside schools, on social media. Gentleness seems to be missing in action these days.
Gentleness is a fruit of the Spirit, and it should be reflected in our lives as Christians at all times. But are we responding to others (especially those we disagree with or don’t like) with gentleness?
What gentleness is:
The Greek word Paul uses for “gentleness” in Galatians 5:23 is translated as meek, mild, gentle, or considerate. In older translations of the Bible, it’s often translated as meekness.
Gentleness is an expression of humility as we consider the needs of others, thinking of one another as more important than ourselves.
What gentleness is not:
Gentleness is NOT a weakness.
We typically don’t want to be described as meek or gentle, because meekness sounds like weakness. Some may think we’re not standing up for what we believe if we’re gentle in our responses to others. Gentleness is not a weakness. Jesus described Himself in Matthew 11:29, “. . . for I am gentle and humble in heart (NASB).” Jesus was gentle, but He was not weak.
Gentleness is a strength as we restrain from speaking and acting in our flesh with harsh words or unkind actions to others, and instead allow God to control our response and words.
A gentle person can still speak truth, even painful truth, but he does so in a way that doesn’t put the other person on the defensive (or offensive).
Gentleness is NOT just a personality trait.
You may be thinking: I’m just not a gentle person. God gave me this personality—loud, extroverted, boisterous, brutally honest. I say it like it is, and people are just going to have to toughen up and get over it. Gentleness doesn’t apply to me.
But if gentleness is only a personality trait that some people have and others don’t, and it only applies to those with a quieter, gentler personality, it wouldn’t be a command throughout the New Testament. Paul and Peter both exhorted the first century churches to be gentle with one another.
Paul exhorted the Ephesian church in Ephesians 4:1–2 to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love . . . (NASB).”
He exhorted the Philippian church in Philippians 4:5 to “Let your gentleness be evident to all (NIV).”
These are just two examples from Scripture; there’s more. Gentleness is not just for those who are quieter. It’s a fruit of the Spirit and should be evident in all believers.
So how do we develop gentleness?
We can’t produce gentleness on our own efforts. It’s developed in us as we abide in Christ. As we draw from His power living in us through the Holy Spirit, He produces the fruit of gentleness in us. We become more and more like Him as we abide in Him.
I will never forget a challenge given to us one summer when I was on staff with Cru. “If you want to bear fruit, don’t pray for fruit. Pray that you would abide in Christ, and the fruit will come.”
Take some time with the Lord and consider these questions:
Am I demonstrating gentleness in my words?
Am I demonstrating gentleness in my actions and responses to others?
Am I willing to surrender the way I want to handle things to God’s way?
If not, ask God to help you draw from His strength to respond with gentleness to those you may disagree with or dislike.
The fruit of the Spirit is gentleness (Gal. 5:23). As our world is showing less and less gentleness toward one another, let the gentleness of Christ be seen through us as we abide in Him.