Violence is the way of the world, but gentleness is the way of the Lord (Mt 21:5). We live in a world of instant exposure to carnage caused by violence. In theory, like sheep ready for slaughter, we should all be very ready for death because we observe so much of it around us. Unfortunately, we grow numb to violence when it is far, far, away. We feel safe because we can turn the channel. Still, there is a roaring lion prowling around with designs on us. We do not dwell in a gentle world.
My neighbor recently brought home a green-eyed tan pit bull. Buster has free reign of my neighbor’s back yard. He is quite a beast. He drools, as He growls in the lowest of tones. When I peek over the five foot wall between us, he mobilizes with ominous intentions for my well-being. My neighbor tells me Buster is delightful and quite harmless; however, I believe Buster’s demeanor far more than my neighbor’s assuring claim. There is nothing gentle about Buster.
Gentleness is foreign to me, too. I have grown up in a warring nation. I love college football. I was a policeman in the military. I have lived in downtown Philadelphia and southeast Los Angeles. When people in my neighborhood look at me, I observe a stereotypical distrust in their eyes because of the color of my skin. I have been taught to walk and talk assertively. I have a friend who has a beautiful wife, but he always carries a small white fluffy dog wherever he goes. I think he is working on being gentle, but he makes me nervous.
My personal problem point is that gentleness is not my nature, nor my environment. This might explain why I struggle with gentleness. A man of the world might ask me why I am concerned with this issue at all. A couple times this week I stumbled on the same passage of Scripture while working on my computer and turning the pages of my Bible. The apostle Peter wrote, “To sum up, let all be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kind-hearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil, or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing (1 Pet 3:8–9).” Christians understand the conviction of the Holy Spirit, but it is difficult for me to explain sanctification to a non-Christian.
God is conforming Christians into the image of the perfect sinless Son of God, Jesus Christ (Rom 8:29). The process of making a saint holy is called sanctification (Jn 17:17; 1 Cor 1:30; 1 Thess 4:3). When a car is knocked out of alignment, it must be realigned to drive straight. Sanctification is like realignment. Cars do not realign themselves, and neither do Christians. God is faithful to realign His people, and He is gentle in doing it.
Jesus Christ is gentle, “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold your King is coming to you, Gentle, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden (Mt 21:5).’” Even as a Lamb prepared for slaughter by His enemies’ schemes, Jesus remained gentle with them, though they wished to remove His name from the earth (Jer 11:19).
Gentleness is one of the many attributes of God. We must recognize from our own experience how varied a person’s attributes are based on circumstances. God is more consistent in the display of His attributes because He does not operate in the sphere of sinful passions. God, by nature, is gentle. He, by nature, is also the full representation of each of His attributes. In other words, He is not just gentle. God is the same regardless of whether He is pouring out wrath on unrepentant sinners, or healing the wounds of His people. God is gentle, and I am not. God’s work is to make me gentle like Christ Himself is gentle. At this point, some might recognize the absolute need for a miracle work of God.
The Apostle Paul was trying to emulate Jesus when dealing with the Corinthians, “Now I, Paul, myself urge you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ — I who am meek when face to face with you, but bold toward you when absent (2 Cor 10:1)!” Paul confessed he was gentle with the oft irascible Corinthians when in person, but he wrote letters to them with great intensity. Like a stern father Paul wrote to teach, reprove, and rebuke the people he loved. In a moment of clarity, Paul acknowledged the dichotomy of his presentation. His desire was to come to them the next time in gentleness, not severity (1 Cor 4:21). Paul was a sinful man, and like Moses, he struggled with being gentle with God’s people. Me, too.
Gentle Jesus taught His disciples to be gentle, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls (Mt 11:29).” Notice the blessing of rest for the gentle, as one who has a rich inheritance, “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth (Mt 5:5).” The imagery of sheep should be a default self-reflection for a Christian. We never use terms like, “ferocious sheep,” or “fearless sheep,” or “blood-thirsty sheep.” Gentle sheep is one recognizable word picture. Paul used the imagery of a nursing mother to express an acceptable approach in dealing with other believers, “But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children (1 Thess 2:7).”
Of course, when a sheep is not gentle, it is like an aberration of nature. Sheep look stupid when they pretend to be something other than sheep. Sheep have no defense mechanism, and they have no tools for aggression. They totally rely on their shepherd for their food and protection. A Christian’s trust in Christ manifests in gentleness because of the indwelling Spirit of Christ producing this attribute in the life of the saint.
Gentleness is one fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:23). A discontented sheep is a bitter biter and a head butt hellion. Christians who drift away from the Good Shepherd lose their gentleness and endanger themselves on the fringes of His appointed pastureland. Paul instructed and reminded the Philippians, “Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near (Phil 4:5).” Sensing the nearness of the Lord helps calm the sheep of His pasture and His loving rest causes them to be gentle.
Paul wrote to several of the churches with a mention of the need for dealing gently with one another. Women in the church should be gentle with a quiet spirit (1 Pet 3:4). Gentleness is a key feature to the Christian walk, “Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, 3 being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph 4:1–3).” Gentle Christians bring peace and unity to the church, whereas discontented Christians do not.
Qualified elders of local churches must be gentle (1 Tim 3:3; Tit 3:2), and they must continually pursue gentleness, as men of God (1 Tim 6:11). This was the compassionate attitude of the high priest in the Temple ministry (Heb 5:2). The ignorant and misguided can cause trouble in the church, but gentleness is the way of reconciling a wayward saint and keeping the peace within a flock. As the Proverb says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath (Prv 15:1a).”
Gentleness is the prescription for dealing with those in opposition to a pastor’s ministry (2 Tim 2:25) and in the restoration of a repentant sinner (Gal 6:1). The wise and the understanding minister God’s word in the wisdom of gentleness (Jam 3:13). Apologists for the Christian faith must be gentle (1 Pet 3:15). The stewardship of ministry comes from above, and it comes down to us in the spirit of gentleness (Jam 3:17), like a gentle wind blowing (1 Kgs 19:12). Gentleness received from God should be gentleness extended to others.
In summary, we have considered the manifestation of an attribute of God in the life of a Christian. We have seen from God’s Word how gentleness is the way of Jesus and the way of His disciples. Christians look too much like the world when we are not gentle with others.
In conclusion, I offer my confession of sin. I was not a gentle person before God caused me to be born again, as a child of God. As a Christian, I have fallen short of the glory of gentleness seen in God, in Christ, in Paul, and prescribed for all believers in Christ. In this, I have resisted the Holy Spirit, even to the point of grieving Him. It is God’s gracious work to show us our sins, grant us grace unto repentance, and to further conform us to Christ through sanctification. I hope I have successfully shown this to be a work of God’s Word, and I know it to be a work of God’s Spirit. For anyone reading these words written from my heart, I humbly ask for your forgiveness, if I have not been gentle with you in any way.
Gentleness is a heart issue that begins in one’s mind. Gentle thoughts produce gentle affections, which manifest in gentle words. I can only close with a prayer to add to my confession and repentance, regarding gentleness.
Please join me if you feel the conviction I feel, “Father, I confess I have not been gentle. Forgive me for this sin, so graciously brought to my attention by your Spirit and your Word. In learning of your gentleness and the gentleness of Christ, I am acutely aware of my gentle teacher, the Holy Spirit, and I want to be gentle as You are gentle. For the sake of the name of Jesus Christ, and as a not-so-obedient follower, I ask for the grace of gentleness to be manifested more fully, as a gift of Your Spirit. Knowing that gentleness pleases You, it is my ambition to please you. Help me to be gentle, I pray, in the name of Gentle Jesus. Amen.”
David E. Norczyk
January 6, 2021