Fruit of the Spirit: GENTLENESS.

Galatians 5:22-23 - "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, GENTLENESS, and self-control." Against such things that is no law."

So many pursue greatness at the expense of gentleness.  I've never been to a leadership conference where gentleness made any list worth noting.  Grit, check.  Guts, check.  Hustle, check.  But gentleness?  Maybe if you're dreaming of becoming a flight attendant.  Imagine "gentleness" showing up on your leadership Strength-Finders assessment.  It would prompt embarrassment for most, especially if they are wanting to prove they have the chops to handle the breakneck, cutthroat, smashmouth world of a growing ministry or an intense industry.  It feels like it would expose you as soft and perishable, fragile even.

So try and picture the horror of the first Christ-followers looking to turn the world upside down when they saw this attribute added to the Top 9 list.  As if the other 8 weren't subdued enough.   How are you supposed to impose your strength and enact your vision with this perceived impediment?  How are you supposed to establish the Alpha presence in the room with this disposition?  But that wasn't how Jesus was going to get things done, move things forward.  He showed them the way of gentleness and meekness when he humbly knelt down and washed their feet showing them that the greatest among them must be a "servant to all".  A leader was a servant.  I'm sure they didn't think this ministry philosophy would make it past the one month anniversary of His ascension.

"Take my yoike upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." - Matthew 11:29

This idea of gentleness and humility wasn't modeled by leadership and power in Jesus' day.  It was all about dominance and violence, intimidation and aggression.  This was how you garnered respect and ascended the ladder of leadership.  But Jesus called his followers to compassion.  To treat people with a tenderness that they weren't expecting, least of all from a leader.

No doubt Jesus had read and probably memorized most of the Proverbs.  He knew the power of gentleness and remembered the wisdom literature passed down to him from his parents growing up.  I can almost hear his mother Mary reminding him of the counterintuitive, countercultural character of a  child of God...

"Remember this wisdom of Solomon who said, 'A soft tongue breaks the bone.' (Proverbs 25:15) and 'a gentle answer turns away wrath.' (Proverbs 15:1) You don't need to yell to make a point, son.  You don't need to be harsh to make your mark.  Trust the truth, Jesus, and speak it in love."

Maybe this is why He was said to be 'full of grace and truth', and why Paul later encouraged people to 'speak the truth in love'.  This was the way of the generous and gentle heart of Jesus.

As Ralph W. Sockman said, "Nothing is so strong as gentleness. Nothing is so gentle as real strength."  I don't know if our world believes this, but it is true.

I have often prayed that God would grant me thick skin and a soft heart throughout my life.  It seems impossible in our world to not grow calluses where you are rub the wrong way and numb scar tissue where you are wounded badly, but I believe God can somehow give us a gentle heart even as we are hurt by living with the vulnerability and transperancy that gentleness requires.

This is what Christ was like and this is what it means to be Christ-like.

He didn't react with retaliation to insults or respond with harshness to rejection, he stayed calm in the crossfire and coolheaded in conflict.  This same Spirit that lived in Jesus was left to abide in us and to bear its fruit through us.  Paul said to the church of Corinth "I urge you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ".  His passionate appeal to the people was motivated by these characteristics of His Lord and Savior.  He encouraged the church in Galatia to be full of mercy to those who fell from grace and were caught in sin by saying, "You who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness."  This spirit comes from the Spirit.  Our base nature is to write people off when they abuse our trust or confuse our gentleness for weakness.  Or maybe it's just me.

When someone takes advantage of my good graces or simply shows their true colors in a moment of weakness, I find myself shutting myself off from them.  I hear a phrase rise up inside my mind: "They aren't safe.  I will only let safe people into my world."  I know we all need boundaries, especially when it comes to our 'inner circle', but can I push back on this boundary business for a moment, the inner circle language we are hearing all over the place these days?  Cause I think we've used it to justify cutting people off and closing ourselves off.

It's just not what Jesus did.  In fact, he let some pretty messy people into his inner circle, one who denied him, another who betrayed him and the rest of the twelve, save one (John), who turned tail and abondoned him in his greatest hour of need.  When he rose from the grave and returned to these same men days later, he did a crazy thing.  He appeared to them and "served them breakfast on the beach" as a sort of peace offering.  He extended the olive branch.  And his gentleness broke their bones.  It cut them to the quick.  This spirit of gentleness and grace forever changed their lives.  They began living this ethos and teaching every new disciple to do the same.

Paul, who wasn't a push-over, said of himself, "I was gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her children" when talking to the church of Thessalonica.  What a word picture.  Sounds just like Jesus' words as he cried over the city of Jerusalem before his execution.  "Oh, Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how I desired to gather you like a hen gathers her chicks but you would not have it."  The nurturing instict of a mother is employed as a metaphor by Jesus and his first followers, and this spirit of gentleness is still the way God breaks through the hardest walls today.

I feel like I've said this with each of the fruits of the Spirit, but this doesn't come easy for me.  I don't just wake up gushing God and spilling Spirit all over the place.  I have to walk with Him, listen intently to Him, abide in Him, and clothe myself in Him.  I need him before me, behind me, beneath me, and beside me.  I'm dead meat when I go rogue.

So I chain myself again today to His chariot. "I crucify myself with Christ so that I no longer live, but Christ lives in me." - Galatians 2:20

God, make me a gentleman.


Popular Posts