Summary: Gentleness is possibly the most misunderstood virtue. Many people think of gentleness as being weak, timid, or passive. This is not the biblical understanding of gentleness.
The Virtue of Gentleness
The Core Virtues of the Christian Life
Have you ever watched a 2000-pound horse pull logs? A few years ago, a friend called to tell me that a man who lived over the hill from us was having some trees cut out of his yard and they were using a Belgium horse to drag the logs. Lisa, Adam Aaron, and I loaded up and went to watch. Like most little boys, Adam and Aaron were fascinated with horses.
We had fun watching the man lead the horse. I couldn’t believe how well trained the horse was. The man never spoke above a normal tone of voice. The horse would back up, turn left, turn right, stop, walk, or run at his command. I thought to myself, “Life would be a lot easier if Adam and Aaron were that well trained.”
What astounded me the most was this. Here was a man who might have weighed in at 160 pounds leading a horse that weighed over a ton. If that horse didn’t want to obey his owner, he could have kicked him into the next the county. Instead, that beast of burden had humbled his will to that of his owner. That big, strong Belgium horse was strength under control.
Gentleness is possibly the most misunderstood virtue. Many people think of gentleness as being weak, timid, or passive. This is not the biblical understanding of gentleness.
The biblical understanding of gentleness is what I saw in that Belgium horse, strength under control. Gentleness is strength under control. Say it with me. “Gentleness is strength under control.”
There are two people in the bible who were great models of gentleness.
The Bible tells us in Numbers 12:3 that Moses was the most gentle man on earth. I don’t know about you, but I have never thought of Moses as being gentle. I always pictured Moses as a strong, no-nonsense, type of leader.
· He returned to Egypt and announced to Pharaoh and the Hebrews that they were leaving Egypt.
· He parted the Red Sea.
· His anger burned at the Hebrews when they built the golden calf.
· He struck the rock with his rod and water came from it.
Not exactly what I’d think of as gentle man. The problem with our view of Moses is that we see him through the eyes of Cecil B. Demills. In his movie, The Ten Commandments, we do not see the gentle Moses we see in the Bible. Moses was gentle because of his relationship with God. He may have been a strong leader, but it was because was had humbled himself to God.
Moses exemplified strength under control.
· Moses returned to Egypt and spent time with the Hebrew leaders building trust and confidence.
· The Red Sea opened when God told Moses and the people move forward toward the sea.
· The anger Moses had toward the people when they built the golden calf was divine anger.
In Exodus chapter eighteen, Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, comes to visit. This scene shows the gentleness of Moses. He would sit all day settling disputes among the people. Jethro gave Moses some advice about delegating authority to those who were qualified so they could help him. Moses followed his advice and everyone was happier, including Moses. Moses wanted to hear the people’s problems and help them. But there were too many for him to handle alone. Moses was not too proud to allow others the authority to make decisions.
Moses modeled strength under control.
An other biblical example gentleness was Jesus. Jesus gave this invitation: “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke fits perfectly, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 NLT)
When you look closely at the life of Jesus, you’ll see strength under control. Jesus did and said only God told him to do and say. He was obedient to God. He had humbled himself to God. Numerous times the Gospel writers tell us that Jesus had compassion for the crowds. He gave of himself for them. He taught them. He healed those were sick. He cast demons and evil spirits out those who were possessed. He comforted those who were mourning. He raised the dead back to life. Jesus was a gentle man.
But Jesus was no push-over. He went toe-to-toe with the religious leaders. He sparred with them frequently about the interpretation of the Law. He drove the moneychangers and those selling animals out of the Temple courtyard with a whip. He commanded demons to leave. Jesus was strength under control.