Summary: God calls us to be gentle, even as he is gentle with us.
The St. Albert farmers’ market resumed this weekend, but if you were hoping to lay your hands on some juicy peaches, you’ll have to wait until mid-July. That’s when the peach harvest starts in B.C. When the peaches are finally delivered, how will you know which ones are ripe? By squeezing them? If you squeeze too hard though, you will bruise the fruit. So just as you don’t squeeze bananas to see if they’re ready to eat but simply look at their color, the color of a peach can determine ripeness. If there aren’t any hues of green, but only yellow, pink, and red, then your peach is ready to eat.
Unlike a sack of flour or a bag of rice that you can toss around without any damage to the product inside, a bag of peaches, apples, or any fruit really needs to be handled gently. That’s also the way that God wants us to treat one another. Gentleness is a Fruit of the Spirit. It’s also a characteristic that you might most often associate with mothers caring for their newborn. But gentleness is a characteristic that God looks for in fathers, in managers, and in older siblings—people who might have a tendency to treat harshly those “beneath” them. But this is not the way our powerful God treats us. Listen to our text from Matthew 11. Jesus said: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 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. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
When Jesus says that he is gentle, we shouldn’t think this means that he is feeble. Just picture the scene in the garden of Gethsemane when the soldiers stumbled backwards after Jesus simply identified himself as the one they were looking for. Jesus was proving to them that he had the power to crush them without even lifting a finger. Jesus’ example illustrates well that the Greek word “gentleness” means “power under control.” A tame horse is gentle. Its power is no longer wasted in pointless bursts of speed across the open prairie, or by hooves lashing out at the empty air. The horse’s power is instead harnessed for the good of the rider and farmer.
But gentleness, as the Bible defines it, is more than power under control. It’s power under God’s control. So even though a father could boss his family around to get them to do what he wants, he honors his Savior by copying his patient encouraging ways. Jesus did not resort to sarcasm to get his disciples to behave. Nor did he harangue and brow beat his disciples to get them to do what he wanted. Oh he rebuked them when they went astray, but he was also quick to assure them of his love and forgiveness. Fathers, are we treating our family the same way?
A lack of gentleness is not just something that men can struggle with, however, it’s often lacking in women. I recently overheard a rag session unfold between female nurses who were complaining about management. Sure, it seemed like they had some legitimate gripes, but like a bowling ball that gains speed as it careens downhill and does more and more damage, these women kept piling on the abuses and snide remarks about their manager who was not there to defend herself. Dear Christian women, take to heart these words of the Apostle Peter: “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. 4 Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” (1 Peter 3:4, 5). You be the one to take the lead in the work place to encourage and build up, rather than tearing others down.
God wants children to be gentle too. But f you’re an older sibling, it’s easy to throw your weight around, literally, as you shove little sisters and brothers out of the way to get to washroom first in the morning. And it’s easy to laugh at a younger sibling when they make an observation or comment you think is childish. But hold your tongue at times like that and consider how Jesus gently bore with the weaknesses of others. Think of how he dealt with that woman who had been caught in adultery (John 8). The Jewish leaders wanted to stone her to death as Moses’ law directed them to do. But Jesus said to her accusers, “He who is without sin should be the first to cast a stone.” Those words of Jesus can help you be gentle when you remember that at one time you too said things that were quite childish. You too were easily shoved around. And I doubt you enjoyed it! So why act that way now towards those who are not as strong or smart as you? Instead thank God for the chance he’s giving you to be gentle with others.