Why should we be gentle?
Matthew 11:28-30 - 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.29 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.30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
It is important to note that Jesus himself is described as gentle and lowly. This is part of his character that he points to in his promise to all who would come to him. So often we picture God as this wrathful being who is ready to strike with lightning any who dare to oppose him or any who do anything wrong. But this is so far from the truth. God, rather, is patient, kind, forgiving and fair. Yes, he must punish sin and cannot allow it to continue, but he also provides a way of salvation for those who accept. And those who come to Jesus will find that he is gentle and they will find rest and peace that is impossible anywhere else. Think of how much of Jesus’ earthly ministry is characterized by gentleness: spending time with the poor, healing the sick and the blind, calling twelve unlikely, largely uneducated men to be his students and carry on his mission, and when he could have spoken out against those who were lying about him to crucify him, he was quiet and allowed himself to be taken and killed for the good of all of us. That is not what we would expect if God truly was vengeful, angry and mean!
So, you might be thinking to yourself, okay great, Jesus was gentle, but why does that matter to me? Well, if you claim to be a follower of Jesus, then what you are saying is that you want to be more like Jesus. To follow Jesus is to seek to be like him. He is our perfect example of what right living looks like. This path is not just what is right for us to do, but it is also what is best for us to do. Living in gentleness toward others is what we are called to do because Jesus himself is gentle.
How are we to be gentle?
1 Timothy 6:9-11 - 9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. 11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.
In our interactions with others – Paul reminds a young man, Timothy, that what the world says will bring happiness doesn’t actually work. Love of money, Paul argues, actually leads to a lot of other evil and wanting more has actually led many people away from God and has caused great harm to themselves. Maybe you can think of an example of someone who pursued money above all else and how it has affected their family. This is contrasted by Paul to what a man or woman of God should be doing. Rather than seeking to build their physical wealth, they should focus on righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, and gentleness. Paul says that this gentleness that we are looking at is something that needs to be pursued or sought after. We have been saying this so much in this series but it is worth reminding ourselves again that we cannot do this on our own. These are not natural characteristics that we do but are the result of relying on the Holy Spirit to enable us to be gentle toward others. So when we say pursue gentleness, we mean to ask God to help you to be gentle, actively seek to respond with gentleness not intensity or anger, and stay aware to how you are responding to and treating others. Are you more characterized by anger and intensity, or are you more characterized by a gentle, humble attitude.
What can gentleness do?
Proverbs 15:1-2 – 1 A soft answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger.
2 The tongue of the wise commends knowledge,
but the mouths of fools pour out folly.
Proverbs tells us that gentleness, “a soft answer”, actually has the ability to affect how an angry person responds, “turns away wrath.” Gentleness can squash an argument before it even begins, keep you out of trouble at school, and maintain a friendship that otherwise could be broken. This is incredibly useful since we live in a world of hot takes, unrestrained “speaking our mind”, and social media where people seem to be free to say whatever they want no matter who is affected. In a volatile environment, the superpower of a gentle response can go a long way. Not only will you show others that you are mature and reasonable, but you always can potentially prevent arguments and save friendships simply by being like Jesus and being gentle toward others.
Proverbs 15:4 - A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.
A gentle response doesn’t just have the ability to stop a fight from breaking out, but it also can give life to those who hear. Think of how much nicer it is to be gently reminded about something you need to do than harshly. Would you rather your parent come in yelling at you or quietly reminding you of what you need to do before going out? I’d much rather have the gentle reminder!
Gentleness is a life-changing characteristic to show to others. It is not wimpy, nor is it not standing up for ourselves. It is an attitude that put others needs above our own and treats others with respect and care, just like Jesus did. When we show gentleness to others, we show them something that is not common and we have the ability to turn away the wrath and anger of others. This is what Jesus did, this is what we are called to do, and all of this is possible through the Holy Spirit helping us to follow Jesus and live gently with those around us.