An observation I read last week by Lance Witt really got my attention: “One of the most underrated and underestimated qualities of a spiritual leader is the quality of gentleness.” I certainly agree that gentleness is underrated and underestimated when it comes to spiritual leaders, but more than that, gentleness is a quality that is neglected by many Christians whether they are leaders or not.
The New Testament includes several calls for all followers of Jesus to cultivate and practice gentleness.
Colossians 3:12, “Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” Note the company gentleness keeps in this exhortation to Christians.
Philippians 4:5, “Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” Note the reminder that follows the instruction perhaps telling us both why we should and how we can be gentle.
Ephesians 4:2, “Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.” Note the specific example for being humble, gentle, and patient: making allowance for other’s faults. That same emphasis is made in Galatians 6:1, “. . . if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the
spirit should restore that person gently.”
In tune with Witt’s observation, in a list of qualifications for church leaders in I Timothy 3:3 the Apostle Paul says a leader “is to be not violent but gentle.” Towards the end of the letter in 6:11 he calls Timothy a man of God and tells him to “pursue righteousness, godliness, faith love, endurance and gentleness. And again in II Timothy 2:25, “Opponents must be gently instructed.”
I think part of the reason we don’t stress more the Bible’s call to be gentle is a misperception of the quality. Some wrongly think of gentleness as weakness and unbecoming. It might be helpful for us to be reminded that the Bible tells us Jesus was gentle. In Matthew 11:29 Jesus Himself declares: “I am gentle and humble in heart.” And in II Corinthians 10:1 the Apostle Paul refers to “the humility and gentleness of Christ.”
In classical Greek gentleness is associated with being friendly and mild. When used of animals it means they are tame and with people it suggests they are considerate and benevolent. Being gentle is the opposite of being harsh or overly stern or expressing unbridled anger. Gentleness is in contrast to demanding one’s rights or insisting upon one’s way. But it is more than just not being harsh, quick tempered, and rude. Positively gentleness is about being patient, magnanimous, and kind.
I don’t know about you, but I’m convicted. Too often I’m grumpy and irritable–not as gentle as I want and need to be. I want to more gracious; I want to be more like Jesus. How do I do that? Galatians 5:22 and 23 includes gentleness as a part of the fruit of the Spirit. I guess I need to open myself more, submit more, and cooperate more with Him.
What do you think?
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Sobering thoughts. I think you hit the nail with our seeing gentleness as a weakness. We still think power gets things done and we like the wisdom to see the rock slitting power of gentleness. Thanks for stirring the pot.
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Loved this timely reminder to be gentle. Thank you, Bob for your thoughtful and challenging posts to your blog.
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I think I’m grumpy way too often too…..I need to be more patient, kind, and forgiving.
Bob, I agree with your Biblical observations and your assesment of why more often than I like I am not gentle. It is so easy to be self centered. I also have more time now to grow closer to God in my quiet times, and conviction in this area, in the form of the ‘Fruit of the Spirit,’ has influenced my behavior. It is interesting how God can and does give believers similar understandings at the same time. I was blessed by your comments, thank you. Orv
I read this right after I yelled at my kids. Very convicting. I never noticed the call to gentleness in light of Christ’s return. So motivating to make sure I am characterized by gentleness with everyone. Even my last students of the day.