So often I encounter people who are not merely assertive but aggressive, predominantly coarse rather than careful; people who are eager to expound their opinions and knowledge rather than reserved and reflective, thoughtful and Socratic in dialog. Consequently, they often lack an understanding about what others are saying because they don’t listen well. Should they happen to hear what I’m saying, they might acknowledge it only to treat it as fodder for a polemical reaction. In fact, the things I just described are true of me most every day. The grimaces on the faces I encounter regularly remind me of this!
Gentleness can be likened to being mild mannered, having a calmness of spirit, softness in speech or meekness of heart. It is the absence of harshness or cruelty or behavior that frightens or alarms the senses.
- Gentleness is the very quality of Christ in which every believer is invited to share. “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle.” (Matt. 11:29; also 2 Cor. 10:1).
- Gentleness of God’s Spirit is the tone from which erring believers are to be restored to fellowship with God. “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently” (Gal. 6:1; see also 2 Cor. 10:1).
- The Spirit’s gentleness is not reserved for mature believers only, but must be evident in all believers, however small or great. “Be completely humble and gentle” (Eph. 4:2). “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.” (NIV 2011, Tit. 3:1–2).
- Gentleness is the manner in which arguments are confronted. “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 2:24–25; see also Prov. 15:1).
In a culture where disagreement runs deep, Christ’s gentleness truly stands out. It is the means by which controversy is destabilized and arguments are disabled. A gentle demeanor is neither manufactured nor artificial, and it cannot be feigned. Like all the qualities of God’s spiritual fruit, its source is in God alone and, for that reason, is unique and unmistakable. When the gentleness of Christ is “evident to all” (Phil. 4:5), conflict is disarmed, ears are opened and hearts are softened to catch a glimpse of God’s love and the peace that he brings. Gentleness may not be the primary posture I have during a heated discussion, but if it were, I suspect my relationship with those who are disagreeable would be significantly improved.
Paul Adams, Holy Trinity Member