Growing in the Fruit of Gentleness

gentleness

When our first son was born, after having 5 girls, it didn’t take long to begin noticing the ways boys and girls are inherently different.  I was amazed by how much bigger his hands were, even as a little baby, and there was a huge difference in strength.  As you can see, big and heavy did not deter him one bit!  He emptied the rack from the dishwasher because the wheels made him think it would make a fun ride. 🙂

Christian with dishwasher rack, resized

Our boys like to be physically active, their play is more loud than the girls, and they like to be rough and tumble.  Early on I noticed it was important to my husband to teach our sons to understand and value a gentle spirit.  When the boys were little, and would get too rough, it was not unusual for my him to take their hands and to show them the appropriate amount of strength to use.  I would hear his voice in hushed tones, all the while telling our boys, “Gentle, be gentle.” 

We teach the boys that God made them strong, and strong is good!  But their strength is not meant to serve themselves.  It is meant to protect those who are not strong, and uphold what God says is right.

Gentleness with Baby

Gentleness is mildness, meekness; by implication, it is humility.

Gentleness is not weakness, but rather, it is strength under control. 

Gentleness:

  • Trusts the Lord
  • Submits to God
  • Follows Christ’s example
  • Bows the soul–worshiping God in humility
  • endures ill treatment
  • Is a choice, every day.

Where does humility come from?  James 3:13 teaches that humility comes from wisdom.

“Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.”

How do we get wisdom?  I like the way the Amplified Version unpacks this verse:

The [reverent] fear of the Lord [that is, worshiping Him and regarding Him as truly awesome] is the beginning and the preeminent part of wisdom [its starting point and its essence],
And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding and spiritual insight.” Proverbs 9:10

Wisdom is seeing life from God’s perspective and, in humility, responding accordingly.

Jesus is our ultimate example of what gentleness looks like.  Philippians chapter 2 says that he did not consider equality with God something to be grasped (held onto), but he humbled himself and took the form of a man.

Why?  So that He could take up His cross and die on our behalf.  He explained it to his disciples, as he was preparing for his crucifixion, like this:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” John 12:24

Jesus knew that in order for him to bear many into the kingdom of God, to ‘bear much fruit’, he would first have to die.  In a Spirit of gentleness, He gave up self, and submitted to His Father God’s perfect plan, dying in order to bear us into the kingdom of God.

Remember that gentleness is born of wisdom?  We will always encounter different opinions about what is wise, but James 3 tells us the difference between the world’s wisdom and the wisdom that comes from God.

 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be arrogant, and [as a result] be in defiance of the truth.  This [superficial] wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly (secular), natural (unspiritual), even demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder [unrest, rebellion] and every evil thing and morally degrading practice.” vs. 14-16

How do I know if my responses are born of wisdom, and gentle?

But the wisdom from above is first pure [morally and spiritually undefiled], then peace-loving [courteous, considerate], gentle, reasonable [and willing to listen], full of compassion and good fruits. It is unwavering, without [self-righteous] hypocrisy [and self-serving guile].  And the seed whose fruit is righteousness (spiritual maturity) is sown in peace by those who make peace [by actively encouraging goodwill between individuals].” vs. 17-18

Those verses are full, aren’t they?  When I find myself in a difficult position, and I am weighing my possible responses, unsure of what is best, these are my go-to verses.

Is my response peace loving and gentle?  Am I being reasonable and open minded?  Is my response compassionate?  Is there any hint of selfish ambition or arrogance (looking out for me) in my response?

What if my boss is temperamental and difficult to work for?

What if my co-workers have it out for me?

When I’m in a situation where I’m being treated unfairly?

In 2013, I heard Elizabeth Elliot being interviewed on Revive Our Hearts radio program.  The name of that day’s program was “Leaving Self Behind”.  The show began with Mrs. Elliot asking the question, “Why not just be wronged?”

Looking at Christ’s example, she went on to tell the audience that only forgiveness frees us from an injustice.  I am to:

  1. Receive God’s grace (Matt. 18:21-35) God’s forgiveness of my sins through Christ’s sacrifice.
  2. Acknowledge the wrong that’s been done to me (to God)
  3. Lay down all my rights.  Jesus said to lose our life for his sake.  Forgiveness is the unconditional laying down of self.
  4. And the one who wrongs me?  Forgive him.  If he asks, forgive him in person.  If he doesn’t ask, forgive him in a private transaction before God.  Pray for him.  Ask for grace to treat that person as if nothing happened.
  5. Stand with Christ for them instead of with Christ’s adversary against them, even as God, for Christ’s sake, forgave me.

Now, no one is saying that if someone is being abused, or the law is actually being broken in the process of committing a grievance, that a victim should stand by and take it.  In those cases, there must be a separation and the judicial system must intervene.  However, the Holy Spirit working in our hearts can bring about the fruit of gentleness… we can forgive, regardless of how the courts may rule in regards to discipline.

I grew up in a home where people vied for “the last word” and it was important to be heard.  To this end, unfortunately, sometimes the ends justified the means.  The idea of laying down my desire for vindication was foreign.  It made sense, but oh, it was hard.  God doesn’t give me the privilege of having it be known that I was right.

I’ve had to suffer a lot because of my hard head, in order to learn to submit to God’s wisdom.  Estrangement from family in circumstances beyond my control led to ongoing grief, and what I know was {in essence} the desire for vindication that could lead to reconciliation, began to eat me alive.  I was so miserable.  I finally cried out to God and asked Him for help–I couldn’t live that way anymore.  It was killing me.

Immediately (even as I was praying), He showed me that my problem was allowing another person’s opinion of me to be more important than what God said about me.  The yucky, honest name for it?  Idolatry.  Yes, I was a pleaser.

He showed me that by continuing to put my heart out there, looking for approval where I would not receive it (whether right or wrong), I was “throwing my pearls before swine” and allowing myself to be hurt again and again.

Furthermore, if I allowed myself to act on my desire to set things straight, I could actually be interfering with what God was doing in that other person’s heart.   I needed to stay out of the way.

Truth is never affected by our perception of it.  It remains the truth.

I have a choice.  Rest in the truth, or get worked up by other people’s perception of it.

I chose to repent for my out of whack priorities and affirm God’s truth.  With God’s help, gentleness enabled me to be wronged, and forgive in a private transaction before God.  This is how we give grace.

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2, ESV

Growing in gentleness truly is a process of renewing our minds.

Strength under control.

Humility before God.

Submitting to His wisdom.

Sowing seeds of peace.

Giving up our rights when we lay down our life for Jesus sake.

Taking up our cross to follow Him.

Willingness to just be wronged.

Following Jesus’s example is counter cultural.

ripples of grace

May the choices we make in response to the people and circumstances in our lives create a legacy of Christ-likeness that will cover the world in ripples of grace.

 

The rest of the series, Growing in the Fruit of the Spirit can be found HERE.

 

 

 

 

 

3 thoughts on “Growing in the Fruit of Gentleness

  1. Pingback: Praying God’s Will; 1 Thessalonians, Chapter 5 |

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