Recently I was asked to give a 'talk' on gentleness during lunch at Christian school (the 'theme' for lunchtime throughout the term has been the Fruit of the Spirit: Galatians 5:22-23) . . . I only wrote down a few notes for the talk, but the LORD had begun showing me a few things in those notes that I thought it would be beneficial to look a little closer at . . . What you are about to read is the result. . .
The word 'gentleness' in the Galatians 5:22 passage is translated from the Greek word chrestotes: which is used in the Bible for 1) moral goodness, integrity and 2) benignity, kindness . . . (If you don't have your own concordance, you can check out this link) . . . which suggests (as any in-depth look at the Fruit of the Spirit will) that this is mainly pointing to a 'heart/motive' aspect, rather than just a way of behaving. . . (Ephesians 4:1-3)
However, as far as the practical aspect went, I began to think and try to find an example or picture of gentleness in everyday life that would be simple to understand. The first thing that came to my mind were Prismacolor Colored Pencils because the Colored Pencil teachers that I've known have a tendency to make a running joke out of how they want students to treat their pencils because of how expensive they are. Because of their price and the fact that they are easily broken, even tapping a colored pencil on something is greatly frowned upon. They are an item that needs to be treated with care. . .
But then I thought that that would be a really shallow example if left by itself, so I turned to the obvious and only Perfect example given us in Scripture - Jesus Christ. . .
As I looked through the Gospels in search of Jesus' showing gentleness, I thought about many of the examples where Jesus showed mercy and compassion, but God pointed me specifically toward the few accounts of Jesus with children. . .
And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them. ~ Mark 10:13-16
In order to understand some things it is helpful to know the subject’s opposite . . . and what is the opposite of gentleness? . . . I waited a bit after asking this question, watching as the children I had been speaking to began to think. And I was glad to see a little girl light up and raise her hand before giving the answer I was looking for: Violence.
I nodded and began to talk about how it was so rare to find violence used as a positive in Scripture. In fact, the only place I could find where that might be the case was in Matthew 11:12 – which suggests to me how aggressive we should be in ‘pressing into the Kingdom’ or in seeking to know God.
On the other hand, there is a veritable cornucopia of references to how vile and wrong violence or the violent person is:
The Lord tests the righteous and the wicked, and the one who loves violence His soul hates. ~ Psalm 11:5 NASB
Do not contend with a man for no reason, when he has done you no harm. Do not envy a man of violence and do not choose any of his ways, for the devious person is an abomination to the Lord, but the upright are in his confidence. ~ Proverbs 3:30-32 ESV
Those of you who have spent a lot of time in Psalms and Proverbs know that those are only a fraction of the examples and commands given regarding violence as it corresponds to the righteous or the wicked . . . And that those are mostly in the context of men dealing with other men – mere hints at the wrath of God concerning the subject. . .
After mentioning some of this, I returned to gentleness and asked the kids if they could give me examples of ways that we can ‘practically’ (as a physically conscious demonstration) show gentleness toward one another . . . Once again I waited as they looked up at the ceiling or at one another in search of ideas. A few good responses were called out, but a little boy finally called out a word that I could not help but think was given the child by the Holy Spirit.
The boy had said ‘kindness’ . . . I smiled at this suggestion as I realized that this was another of the Fruits of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23, and that it helped confirm my belief that all of the ‘fruits’ correspond to and find strength in one another as the Holy Spirit works them into the growing believer. I pointed this out as I continued speaking once the boy had suggested being kind as a way to show gentleness.
At this point I had no more notes, and at the moment I am still not quite sure where to go from here (only because there are numberless things that could be considered in Scripture starting from this point and moving into different things), so I ended my ‘talk’ by reading the following from my New American Standard Bible:
As for God, His way is blameless; the word of the Lord is tried; He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him. For who is God, but the Lord? And who is a rock, except our God, the God who girds me with strength and makes my way blameless? He makes my feet like hinds’ feet, and sets me upon my high places. He trains my hands for battle, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You have also given me the shield of Your salvation, and Your right hand upholds me; and Your gentleness makes me great. You enlarge my steps under me, and my feet have not slipped. ~ Psalm 18:30-36
J D White