Summary: When criticism is leveled toward you, your best response is gentleness. That is strength under control.
This week has been a bit stressful for me. We have had some unrest in our church body. Some negative comments have been made. We have lost a major player in our worship team along with his family. I, as the pastor, was taking the heat for things I really could not understand. However, I want you to know I handled the criticism with gentleness toward this couple. I encouraged them to stay and work through any problems. Although, at times, I think they wanted me to insist or recommend they leave, I refused to do so.
I have decided to take this opportunity to teach on gentleness and having a gentle spirit. I am not sure if you will encounter either party but if you do, please keep the spiritual fruit of a gentle spirit about you.
Let us begin by understanding the word “gentleness.” When we hear that word, we may think of someone who is considerate or kind. Or maybe you think of something that is not harsh or severe but rather mild and soft.
This week I rode a camel at the Renaissance Festival along with Debbie and Ava. The owners advertised it as a gentle giant. It was led around a very short track by its handler. Debbie noticed him feeding the camel something as they walked. He informed her that it was chewed tobacco from his own mouth. The camel recognized the order on his hands as his handler and it kept the camel from becoming bored. I shudder to think what a bored camel might do.
I did some research on camels and discovered they have an average height of 8 feet. They have the ability to carry over 900 pounds. Their mouths are large with 34 strong, sharp teeth. They will kick if threatened. Suddenly camels do not sound very gentle. However, they are gentle when properly handled. This gentleness is the type described in the Bible.
The word “gentleness” in the Bible is comprised of two words; one meaning “To endure- often unpleasant circumstances.” the other meaning is “the positive moral quality of dealing with people in a kind manner.” In other words, “gentleness” is strength under control. It is enduring, in a kind manner, a hardship created by a person therefore displaying God’s positive moral quality of gentleness.
Today’s teaching is about being understanding, being gracious, being tender, being reachable, and being self-controlled. If we desire to have the spiritual fruit of gentleness in our lives then we must be understanding.
Philippians 2:3-8 “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.”
We must have the same attitude that Jesus possessed. He was God in flesh. Yet He considered himself a servant to the masses that surrounded him. He was God in flesh. Yet He turned his back on all of his divine privileges.
How do we treat people who are in service to us? Do we come across as arrogant, wanting to remind them of their role? Are we less than friendly to the cashier, bank teller, or waitress? Do we demand our own way based on the consumer mentality that the customer is always right?
If Jesus were here today, how would He treat these people? Would He be humble, being more concerned about how their day was going than his own? Would He be interested in their struggles and difficulties? Would He puff-up and say “Don’t you know who I am?” He was God and He humbled himself. Should we do less?
Not only are we to be gentle to others but also to our spouses.
1 Peter 3:4-5 “You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God. This is how the holy women of old made themselves beautiful. They trusted God and accepted the authority of their husbands.”
Wives are to exhibit a spirit of gentleness. They are to deal with their husbands in a kind, not controlling manner. It is their trust in God, not their man, yet excepting his role as the husband that true beauty is found.
There is a Hebrew word for desire that we need to examine. It is found three times in the Bible, once in Song of Solomon and twice in Genesis. In Genesis 4:7 God warns Cain that sin is crouching at his door desiring to control him. We find that same Hebrew word in Genesis 3:16.