Gentleness should be a way of life

If you had to describe in a few words the culture that you are living in, there is a good chance that you would not use the word ‘gentleness’.

Is it part of the culture of your local church or the organisation you work or volunteer for? Is it something that others experience when interacting with you?

Come to me…for I am gentle and humble in heart.

Gentleness is not optional in the Christian life. Being part of the fruit of the Spirit of course means that it is a character quality of God himself – which he wants to reproduce in us. And not only does God want us to exhibit gentleness, he has firstly modelled it himself and especially so in the life of Jesus.

In Matthew 11: 28-29 Jesus says, “Come to me… for I am gentle and humble in heart.”

Perhaps the clearest example of gentleness in action is in John 8 where Jesus dealt with the woman caught in adultery. By the letter of the Law he could have stoned her; but he didn’t. He could have spoken to her harshly, but instead he spoke both gently and firmly. He could have piled on the guilt and condemnation but instead he spoke and acted in such a way as to lift her up and give her the opportunity to change.

So here we see the key quality of gentleness in action: it holds us back from what we could sometimes justly do or say (e.g. criticise, judge and condemn) and instead imparts mercy and grace such that the heart issue is exposed but yet the person is shown acceptance and love, and empowered to leave sin behind and aspire to lead a godly lifestyle.

I recall an incident some years ago when I needed to address a Youth Leader for somewhat reckless actions which had unintentionally endangered someone’s life and potentially caused serious damage to our relationship with the local school. By the grace of God I was able to help him see the heart of the matter, spelling out the potential implications but giving him the opportunity to really learn his lesson and to grow stronger from it all. Truth, but administered with gentleness, as in Galatians 6:1 “If someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently.”

This same mind-set and heart attitude should also be exhibited when sharing the gospel with others, as in 1 Peter 3:15, “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.” So demonstrating gentleness in this context means that we shy away from a manner which leaves the hearer condemned and rejected, and instead demonstrates the heart of God to lift up and bring about a genuine heart change.

You may also like to read this short article by Tim Keller or listen to this podcast by Pete Cornford.

Rob & Helen Coleman (Grace Church Bolton, UK)