Summary: We develop gentleness in the body by balancing power and gentleness as we study God's Word, restore fallen brothers and sisters and in sharing the gospel.
Together we have been focusing on how to develop the fruit of the Spirit within our church so that we will be an alluring and attractive place to the world around us. As we’ve seen consistently, it is the “fruit” of the Spirit and not the “fruits” of the Spirit. There is only one fruit with nine related aspects that can’t be separated from each other. Today we’ll be focusing on the eighth aspect of the fruit of the Spirit - gentleness. We’ll set the stage by reading a story titled “Fussing, Fighting and Forgiving” from the book Home Town Tales by Philip Gulley.
THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT IS…GENTLENESS
As we have done throughout this series, we need to begin by trying to define the word translated “gentleness” in Paul’s description of the fruit of the Spirit. That is actually a very challenging assignment because we really don’t have one English word that captures the essence of Biblical gentleness.
The Greek word used by Paul here is “prautes”. Depending on the translation, it is usually rendered either as “gentleness” like in the ESV and most other English translations, or “meekness” as in the KJV. But neither of those words really gives us the full essence of this Greek word. Perhaps the best way to get a feel for what this word means is to think of it as the perfect balance of strength and gentleness. A couple of examples will probably help us out here more than a formal definition:
• A powerful horse obedient to the reins. If you watched the Preakness yesterday, this is exactly what you witnessed. The powerful racehorses, which weigh well over 1,000 pounds, are under the control of a jockey, who only weighs slightly over one tenth of that weight.
• A guard dog which is friendly to the family owning him. Mary’s sister has a couple of Doberman Pinschers who I wouldn’t want to meet if I was an intruder in their house. But with those they trust, they are among the gentlest dogs I have ever seen.
In both cases there is great strength present, but it is tempered by a gentle spirit.
There is also an aspect of prautes that is demonstrated in our relationship with God. Vine describes it as “an inwrought grace of the soul; and the exercises of it are first and chiefly to God. It is that temper of spirit in which we accept His dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting.”
Sometimes we can get a better feel for the essence of a word like prautes by focusing on its antonym. In the case of prautes, the opposite would be self-assertiveness or self-interest. So a person who has developed this kind of gentleness is not subject to emotional highs and lows because he or she is not occupied with self at all.
Obviously the best example we have of gentleness is Jesus. Look at Paul’s description of Him:
I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness [prautes] and gentleness of Christ…
2 Corinthians 10:1 (ESV)
We see this confirmed by Jesus’ own words:
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle [noun form of prautes] and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Matthew 11:28-30 (ESV)
Without a doubt, Jesus is the ultimate example of the perfect balance between strength and gentleness. Although He is fully God and could have employed His divine power at any time He wanted, while He was ministering here on earth He chose to keep that power under control and treat others with gentleness. This is quite apparent when we look at the way Jesus dealt with others. Several examples come to mind:
• The woman at the well in John 4. Even though this woman was living with a man that she was not married to, Jesus dealt with her gently as He revealed to her that He was the Messiah.
• The woman caught in adultery in John 8. Once again, Jesus dealt with this sinful woman in a gentle manner.
• In Luke 19, we read the account of how Jesus deals with a sinful tax collector named Zacchaeus by going to his house and sharing a meal with him and his friends.
In each of these cases, Jesus din not hesitate to confront the sin in the other person’s life, but He did it with gentleness. Although He certainly had the power to immediately judge each person for his or her sin and pour out His wrath, Jesus kept that power under control.
Jesus also clearly demonstrated the other aspect of gentleness that we looked at in His relationship with the Father. He accepted God’s dealings with Him while on this earth as good and He submitted to God’s plans without disputing or resisting. It is this aspect of the gentleness of Jesus that Paul is describing in this familiar passage: