Opposite of violent - cf 1 Tim 3.3, 1 Cor 4.21, and it is the opposite of self-assertion
Not a great quality today: don't see it with in the Apprentice; it is not recommended as the way to get on in business or in life.
But gentleness is not weakness. It is very close to meekness
Paul writes, 'by the meekness and gentleness of Christ' (2 Corinthians 10:1)
AND IF WE LOOK AT JESUS WE SEE WHAT THAT MEANS
Jesus says: Matthew 11:29 – 'Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden…'
And we see how he rides into Jerusalem on a donkey (Matthew 11:29)
He is making a very political statement.
But John explains this in John 12:12-16. The 'great crowd' (this is the crowd that wanted to make him King in John 6) are now acclaiming him as Messiah. Jesus does not refuse their acclamation. Instead he finds a donkey and sits on it. In other words he is saying, 'I am King, but I am coming not as a warrior, but in peace').
Someone said, 'People want to be lightly governed by strong governments'. I don't know whether that is humanly possible. But it is possible with God.
He is strong – the creator of all that is. He could demand absolute obedience and perfection from us. But he does not. He woos us, he grows us, he waits for us, he rebukes us, he sacrifices himself for us. He could be like a master with a slave, a ruler with a subject, a general with a private, a manager with an employee – but he chooses to be like a parent with a child. And he is so patient with us: we fall and we fall and we fall and we fall – and he still forgives and he still trusts. Love is ..
Paul starts to get this when he talks about his ministry among the Thessalonian Christians. He says, 'We were like a mother with her children ..' (1 Thess 2.7), and then goes on to talk about being like a father to children.
And in Galatians 6:1, he urges the Galatian Christians to restore the sinner 'gently' (Galatians 6:1 cf 2 Tim 2:25)
Of course being gentle with someone does not exclude discipline. Ask any parent or teacher. And there is a place for discipline with God. But the reason for the discipline, and the purpose of the discipline, is to restore and to heal. But the way that God exercises discipline is incredibly gentle:
Story of woman caught in adultery.
It is a great way to get things done.
That is why the bible says that we are to be gentle with non-believers (actually the one time Jesus was violent was not with outsiders, but it was when insiders were stopping outsiders from coming inside!).
Share the gospel: but do this with gentleness and respect.
We really need to hear this. Some go overboard and compel others to come in – and it puts people off. Others go the opposite way and say we must never try to proselytize.
"Civility, which I take to be a strong virtue and not simply wimpishness, requires that we not try to cram our beliefs down anybody's throats, whether we be Christian or non-Christian or even anti-Christian. But that we all try to articulate as persuasively as we can, what it is that we believe, of course in the hope that others will be persuaded."
Richard John Neuhaus in Rutherford magazine (Feb. 1993). Christianity Today, Vol. 40, no. 1
And so the bible commands us to be gentle (Ephesians 4:2); it calls us to pursue gentleness (1 Timothy 6:11); and it calls us to put on gentleness (Colossians 3:12)
So how can I grow to become gentle?
- Spend time with God. It is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:23). We will become like the one who we spend time with.
- Trust God, that he is in control: Phil 4:4-5.
Remove the I in our Christian service:
Helen Roseveare, a medical missionary in Africa, was the only doctor in a large hospital. There were constant interruptions and shortages, and she was becoming increasingly impatient and irritable with everyone around her. Finally, one of the African pastors insisted, "Helen, please come with me." He drove Helen to his humble house and told her that she was going to have a retreat—two days of silence and solitude. She was to pray until her attitude adjusted. All night and the next day she struggled; she prayed, but her prayers seemed to bounce off the ceiling. Late on Sunday night, she sat beside the pastor around a little campfire. Humbly, almost desperately, she confessed that she was stuck. With his bare toe, the pastor drew a long straight line on the dusty ground. "That is the problem, Helen: there is too much 'I' in your service." He gave her a suggestion: "I have noticed that quite often, you take a coffee break and hold the hot coffee in your hands waiting for it to cool." Then he drew another line across the first one. "Helen, from now on, as the coffee cools, ask God, 'Lord, cross out the "I" and make me more like you.'" In the dust of that African ground, where a cross had formed, Helen Roseveare learned the master principle of Jesus: freedom comes through service, and service comes by releasing our ego.
I hate saying this, but God does not depend on you. His kingdom does not depend on you. My nightmare re church falling to pieces.
- Trust God's timing: pressures to impetuousness, forcefulness is the sense that we have to do everything now.
- Know who you are in God: So often I lose gentleness when I feel that I am being belittled, taken advantage of, walked over, treated like a statistic – not treated as I deserve to be treated. Things that make me very angry are waiting in a queue (and the official is having a conversation with someone else), girl at desk of swimming pool (completely my fault!). I get angry with children when they fight each other – but it is a very different kind of anger. I know what I am doing. It is the difference between being angry and seeing red.
But actually I need to realize that my identity is tied up with God, with who he thinks that I am – and not here. We see that with Jesus as he kneels down and washes his disciples feet. John 13 says: 'Knowing that he had come from the Father and was going back to the Father, and that the Father had given him all things ..'
- Know your weakness, because it gives you compassion for others: Hebrews 5:2 talks of the priest. And Hebrews goes on to talk about how Jesus can show compassion to us because he was human and because he was tempted just like us.
Gentleness in Gal 5:23 comes in between faithfulness and self-control. It is very easy to be faithful to Christ and to lose gentleness. It is very easy to be self-controlled and to become harsh with others.
- How would you define a gentle person
- What makes you see red?
- How do you react when you are angry?
- How do you react to someone who tries to compel you to do something?
- Can you think of a gentle person who has influenced you?
Look at Philippians 4:2-7
How are joy in the Lord, gentleness, prayer, thanksgiving and peace connected?
6. It may be possible to be a minister and to strive for gentleness in your job, or to strive to be a gentle husband/wife/parent. How can one strive to be gentle if one is a lawyer, business woman, politician, soldier?