Summary: Gentleness is power under control, like a tamed horse. Jesus described Himself as gentle and humble of heart, which is good news for us because life is hard.
Power Under Control: The Fruit of Gentleness
Matt. 11:28-30 October 31, 2004
I want you to think for a moment of someone you know who you would describe as gentle. Someone who, as you think of them, seems to embody the idea of gentleness. Can you think of anyone? Anyone want to share??
Not Highly Prized…
I don’t think we would find the concept of “gentleness” on many people’s top 10 lists of character qualities they would like to be remembered for. In our culture, gentleness is almost an archaic idea – oh, its nice, and where it is found it is probably a good thing, but it is basically benign, a fringe benefit, probably something we more likely associate with a grandpa or someone basically “harmless”. Our culture certainly does not consider gentleness something really important. Consider our elected leaders – does anyone think of Ralph as “gentle”? I don’t hear either of the US presidential candidates presenting themselves as “the gentle choice for president.”
Instead, we are supposed to be tough. We are supposed to be strong. We are supposed to be able to handle everything, manage it all, and come out still looking clean and tidy. Life is hard, but we should be harder. Gentleness?? That’s kind of an old-fashioned idea… certainly not desirable today.
Prized By God:
Does it surprise us, then, that we find “gentleness” as one of the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:23? As one of the character qualities that the Holy Spirit produces within us as He takes more and more control of our lives?
As the Holy Spirit lives within us, and as we allow God to form our character, one of the characteristics He produces in us is gentleness. I want to emphasize, as I did last week in the beginning of this series on the Fruits of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5, that these qualities are not about you and I working on them. Specifically today, gentleness is not a matter of us thinking and monitoring and making a concerted effort to be more gentle. Rather, gentleness is one of the things that the Holy Spirit produces within us. It is about God’s grace, God’s effort, God’s work, and not our own. Gentleness, along with the other fruits of the Spirit, comes as we “live by the Spirit” (Gal 5:16).
How many of you, when you think of God, would describe God as gentle? If I were to back up, and begin by asking you to brainstorm a list of the characteristics of God, would the word “gentle” make it onto your list anywhere? I’d be surprised if many of us included that word to describe God, and yet as I reflect on my life, I see over and over how incredibly gentle God has been with me. I used to think that was a reflection of my weakness – God knows I couldn’t handle it if He came down really hard on me, so He has just always chosen to be gentle with me… But I’ve changed my mind about that. God is gentle with me because that is His nature.
Some of you are maybe not so sure about that… Maybe you’ve been reading parts of the Old Testament, or studying the book of Revelation, or maybe you are looking at the circumstances in your own life at the moment and you are having a hard time with me saying that God is, by His very nature, gentle. So let me take you to Matthew 11:28-30. Now, it is very important before I read this passage to you that you understand this: this is the only place in the Bible where Jesus actually describes Himself. John, Mark, Luke, Paul – they all spend a lot of time describing what Jesus was like and what He did, but this is the only place where Jesus Himself says, “here is who I am…” Listen to the words He uses… (read).
I am gentle and humble in heart:
Did you hear that? Jesus described Himself as gentle and humble of heart. That is good news for us – sometimes life is hard, and all of us, if we will be honest enough to admit it, are really quite fragile. We are breakable, we need to be handled with care. Many of us retreat from our frailty and try to create strong walls around us that will protect our heart, but we usually do that only after we have already had our hearts broken, so it is a little too late. And yet, what Jesus is telling us is that it is ok to let Him into those hurts, to let Him come and penetrate those walls, because He is gentle, and will be gentle with us. More on that a little later…