Summary: Gentleness is both gracious and strong. It requires the great strength of the Spirit.
Martin Field asks the question, “Have you ever heard of the “Dependent Order of Really Meek and Timid Souls?” When you make an acrostic of the first letters of its name, you have the word, “Doormats.” (Overhead 1)
Their official insignia - yellow caution light. Their official motto is: “The meek shall inherit the earth, if that’s OK with everybody!”
Upton Diskson founded the society after he wrote a pamphlet entitled, “Cower Power.”
As we come closer to the end of our current series, The Fruits of the Spirit, we stop at one that is, at times, a challenge to express - gentleness which often in the past has been referred to as “meekness.”
I suggest this morning that we call it the “gracious” fruit because to be gentle is to be gracious. And to be gracious is a critical demonstration of our commitment to Christ and evidence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. I like what Chuck Swindoll has to say about gentleness and why it requires such strength:
“In our rough and rugged individualism, we think of gentleness as weakness, being soft, and virtually spineless. Not so! ... Gentleness includes such enviable qualities as having strength under control, being calm and peaceful when surrounded by a heated atmosphere, emitting a soothing effect on those who may be angry or otherwise beside themselves, and possessing tact and gracious courtesy that causes others to retain their self-esteem and dignity.... Instead of losing, the gentle gain. Instead of being ripped off and taken advantage of, they come out ahead!”
I saw and video graphed gentleness being expressed in the midst of great power and strength at the Toledo Zoo this past summer as the family and I observed a baby gorilla and its mother. Here is a brief clip of that experience. (By the way there are two babies and two mothers) Video clip
What strength, what power, and what gentleness the gorilla mothers express! They could easily crush those small ones. But they don’t. They give us a clear picture what gentleness truly means. Gentleness is a fruit that requires great strength because it requires graciousness.
As I searched the Bible this past week regarding gentleness, I came across a couple of verses that I believe give us some very, very important and key concepts regarding gentleness that God expects us, as Spirit filled and Spirit led people, to demonstrate in our lives. Each has something important to say about gentleness.
Our first stop is Matthew 5:5, that was read a few moments ago:
“God blesses those who are gentle and lowly, for the whole earth will belong to them.”
A few months ago, Susan gave me a copy of an interview with Jane Pauley, the longtime NBC reporter and former Today co-host that appeared in an Indianapolis Woman magazine that she had been given.
As the article concluded, it noted that Pauley no longer had close family in Indiana as her parents had passed away some years ago. And when asked about her years growing up on the eastside of Indianapolis, she was quoted as saying something to effect of “looking in the rearview mirror of her life and seeing the dignity of ordinary lives in Indiana.”
The dignity of ordinary lives - that could be a great description of what passes for gentleness, couldn’t it?
In this segment of scripture Jesus is beginning His three years of ministry with the twelve. And He begins with a presentation of some qualities that are essential for being a follower and one of them is gentleness.
RVG Tasker in his comments on this segment says that these eight characteristics are, among other things, “a declaration of the blessings which all those who display [these] virtues experience in part, and will enjoy more fully hereafter.”
Now what is a blessing? It is important to understand this word because it gives us a fuller meaning to the place of gentleness.
The Greek word for blessing is eulogia. E-u-l-o-g-i-a, eulogia. It means “eu” or well and “lego” or to speak. In other words to bless some one is to speak well of them. (Eulogy comes from this word as well.)
So we could read this verse as “God speaks well of those who are gentle and lowly.” Why then does Jesus say this?
A couple of reasons, supported by scripture: First, pride inhibits God’s blessing and God’s work in our lives. We see this in various gospel accounts when Jesus confronts those who are spiritually proud and what it has done to them and others.
Luke 11:43 and 44 is a good illustration. Jesus is eating at the home of a Pharisee where to the Pharisee’s amazement Jesus does not go through the ceremonial washing prior to eating as required by the religious requirements. A conversation starts in which Jesus says in verses 43 and 44, “How terrible it will be for you Pharisees! For how you love the seats of honor in the synagogues and the respectful greetings from everyone in the markets! Yes, how terrible it will be for you. For you are like hidden graves in a field. People walk over them without knowing the corruption they are stepping on.”