Summary: This is the nineth sermon in the series on "The Fruit of the Sprit" from Galatians 5:22-23.
The great African American Contralto Marian Anderson died of congestive heart failure on April 8, 1993, at the age of ninety-six. She retired from singing in 1965. Once in an interview Miss Anderson was asked by a reporter to “name the greatest moment in her life.” “The choice seemed difficult to others who were in the room that day, because she had many big moments. For example:
“There was the night Conductor Arturo Toscanini announced, ‘A voice like hers comes once in a century.
“In 1955 she became the first African American to sing with the Metropolitan Opera Company in New York.
“The following year her autobiography MY LORD, WHAT A MORNING,
was published—a bestseller.
“In 1958 she became a United states delegate to the United Nations.
“On several occasions during her illustrious career, she received medals from various countries around the world.
“There was that memorable time she gave a private concert at the White House for the Roosevelts and King George VI and Queen Elizabeth of England.
“Her hometown, Philadelphia, had, on one occasion, awarded her the $10,000 Bok Award as the person who had done the most for that city.
“In 1963 she was awarded the coveted Presidential Medal of Freedom.
“There was that Easter Sunday in Washington D. C. when she stood beneath the Lincoln statue and sang for a crowd of 75,000, which included Cabinet members, Supreme Court justices, and most members of Congress.
“Which of those big moments did she choose? None of them. Miss Anderson quietly told the reporter that the greatest moment of her life was the day she went home and told her mother she wouldn’t have to take in washing anymore” [--Alan Loy McGinnis, The Friendship Factor.]. The greatness of Marian Anderson was seen in her meek spirit.
“The Fruit of the Spirit Is Gentleness.” We are going back today to the translation found in the King James Version, “The Fruit of the Spirit Is Meekness” for our sermon title. Here is the reason. Of all the virtues Paul expounds in his list as fruit of the Spirit, this term is the hardest to covey in English. I believe meekness comes closer in expressing the meaning of the original Greek than does gentleness. The Greek language is so often much more expressive and colorful than the English. It is almost impossible to translate the term rendered here as “gentleness” in the New International Version or “meekness” in the King James.
I believe it was Sir William Gurney Benham, who coined the phrase, “Meekness is not weakness.” We normally think that is the case in our society today. Meekness somehow connotes spinelessness or paints a picture of an individual that can easily be run over or taken advantage of by others. When it comes to Christian discipleship, however, meekness refers to one who has a patient, gentle disposition, one who is willing to submit to the actions and opinions of others; one who respects the feelings of others. The meek disciple is the one who is willing to submit in total surrender and obedience to the control of the Holy Spirit upon his or her life.
Now here is the difference between gentleness and meekness in Scripture. The word in the original Greek New Testament refers to more than simply external conduct and more than personal human relationships. It is an inward, spiritual grace that is directed chiefly to God. It accepts all of his dealings with us as good. Meekness is unquestionable surrender and obedience to the control of the Holy Spirit in my life. It is more a state of mind and heart and requires the power of the Holy Spirit in order to practice it in one’s daily Christian walk. Gentleness, on the other hand, refers more to outward actions rather than to inward motives. The term in English that comes closer to expressing the eight “Fruit of the Spirit” is meekness.
The Greek word is often used to describe “an animal that has been tamed and brought under control.” In applying it to the Christian disciple it refers to one who has fully submitted to the control of the Holy Spirit. Maxie Dunnam and his daughter Kimberly Dunnam Reisman share a beautiful illustration of what this means for the Christian in their book The Workbook on Virtues and the Fruit of the Spirit. Their story originated with Evelyn Underhill: “Evelyn Underhill used a sheepdog as a model for the Christian. She says that a well-trained sheepdog sits at his master’s feet looks him in the eye, never moving until he receives his command from the master. Then when that command is clear, he responds immediately, goes to do his master’s bidding, and, in it all, never ceases to wag his tail” [--Maxie Dunnam and Kimberly Dunnam Reisman, The Workbook on Virtues and the Fruit of the Spirit, p. 175.]