Random Acts of Godliness: Gentleness (published in print 11/24/13)

God’s gentleness is seen throughout the Bible.  In the Old Testament we see it in Isaiah’s description:  “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young” (Isaiah 40:11).  Again, in Isaiah 42:3:  “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice.”

Along with these descriptions, we see God’s gentleness throughout the Bible when, again and again, the people of God turned away, only to come back ashamed and filthy.  In every case God was there to receive His repentant people back and to restore them. 

God is gentle with the frail and weak.  We might ask why only the fail and weak.  However, if we would be honest with one another, like the people of Israel, we are all frail and weak. lacking the strength to do or be anything that would be considered righteous on our own.  It is in that truth that we see God’s gentleness best, when we are unable to attain godliness and God extends His hand of mercy to us.

So what is gentleness?  Is it a passive lack of a response to a wrong?  Is being gentle to be equated with being weak?  Not in any regard!  Gentleness begins from a place of strength; thus God’s gentleness flows out from His great power and strength.  Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology defines gentleness as “sensitivity of disposition and kindness of behavior, founded on strength and prompted by love.”  

In God’s great love for those He created, He reaches out to each one of us as Jesus did with the woman taken in adultery.  Her actions were found out, and she was indeed guilty.  Yet Jesus, with patience and gentleness, saved the woman by shining the light of truth into the hearts of all those who were ready to stone her.  “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7).  He didn’t deny her guilt, but exposed the sin of those who were considering themselves righteous.  Then he ministered to her with these words:  “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Gentleness speaks the truth but does not need to be forceful or harsh.  Gentleness understands that true righteousness wins out, just as Jesus’ gentleness allowed Him to suffer and die on the cross for the sake of all creation, even though others jeered and cheered at his death.  Gentleness is compassion given even to those who don’t deserve to receive it.  It is God’s mercy toward us.

So what is our response to the gentleness of God?  Having received God’s mercy in Christ’s sacrifice, having been born again by the Spirit of God into newness of life, we find ourselves in a huge battle.  Our fleshly nature wants to be arrogant and proud that we belong to God, that we are redeemed.  We want to lord our “good fortune” over those who don’t know our Savior and who are living lives of sin.  We don’t want to be gentle. 

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15).  We are to answer those who ask about our faith, but to approach those asking in a manner reflecting our Lord’s approach to the one who is lost and the one who has sinned against us.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity (Colossians 3:12-14).

Our response to others is not to project judgment and condemnation, but rather to reflect the grace and mercy that we have received from God. 

Finally, we need to recognize that gentleness is a fruit of the Spirit of God in our lives:  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law (Galatians 5:22-23).

You see, when we try on our own to be gentle and loving, especially toward those whom we have something against, we regularly fail, oftentimes seeking revenge and justification.  But the gospel response, the gentle response, is one that considers the failings of the weak, even those who do not recognize their own weaknesses.

Pray today and ask God to help you to grow the fruit of gentleness in your life.  Use gentle speech and gentle actions.  Be gentle with those who antagonize you, to those who aggravate you, to those who don’t deserve gentleness, because God in Christ has been gentle to you.

Blessings!

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