at the Water's Edge

Living life and learning all I can along the way!

Fruit of the Spirit: Gentleness

Our bible study group has decided to take some time to look at the so-called “fruit of the spirit” as listed in the book of Galatians – and to study each one of these fruits, evaluating the prevalence of each in our own lives.  I hope to be able to share parts of my study and reflections here, as we go through each of the topics.

This week we’re looking at the word “gentleness”.  The meaning here extends beyond that of common use to a sort of gentleness of spirit:

“it consists not in a person's "outward behaviour only; nor yet in his relations to his fellow-men; as little in his mere natural disposition. Rather it is an inwrought grace of the soul; and the exercises of it are first and chiefly towards God. It is that temper of spirit in which we accept His dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting; it is closely linked with the word tapeinophrosune [humility]…”  --Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words

Gentleness is one of the characteristics of God, which I think is beautifully displayed in this passage from 1 Kings.  A little background: in this passage, the prophet Elijah is fleeing for his life.  He goes to Horeb, the “mountain of God” and God says this to him:

The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.”

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. –1 Kings 19:11-13

Notice the mighty wind and earthquake and fire – all signs of power that we would expect to be associated with God.  But here, they are not.  God was not in wind, the earthquake or the fire.  But after these things had passed, God came in the form of a gentle whisper.  God goes on to give instructions to Elijah and I think helps calm his fears.  Certainly God is strong and powerful, but there also remains in Him a spirit of gentleness, and sometimes it is out of that gentleness that he whispers into our lives. 

Jesus is also described as gentle.  It was prophesied about him:

See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. –Zechariah 9:9

Jesus also says this of himself:

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. –Matthew 11:29

You can see from that verse how gentleness and humility go hand in hand.  It’s a condition of the spirit that will show through as “fruit”.  Jesus invites us to join Him in this gentleness of the soul.

Christians are exhorted to show gentleness to others and have a gentleness of spirit that is like God’s.  Philippians 4:5 tells us to let our “gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.”

Gentleness goes along with the other fruits of the spirit in the way we live our lives and treat others, as demonstrated in this verse:

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. –Ephesians 4:1-3

Again, gentleness goes hand in hand with humility here, and it is also paired with the fruits of patience, love and peace.

We are called to have a heart of gentleness also towards ALL, including those whose viewpoint may differ from our own:

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. –1 Peter 3:15-16

Treating others with gentleness and respect can have a great positive impact on our relationships and leave others more open to hearing about our faith, but spiteful or callous responses have the capacity to destroy.  Just as Proverbs 15:1 says: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

We examined the following verse in our study on patience, but it applies here, too:

Through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a gentle tongue can break a bone. –Proverbs 25:15

As seen from the passage above from 1 Kings, sometimes gentleness can be more powerful that forcefulness.  When we have a heart of gentleness we have a heart that reflects Christ and a spirit that is inviting to others.  God works through this spirit of gentleness to bring forth “fruit”.  My challenge this week is to think about my responses to people and situations, and to try to step back and respond to whatever life may throw at me with gentleness rather than with careless or harsh words.

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Hi there! My name is Dana and I live in West Michigan with my husband, Tom and our dog Copernicus. I created this space as a place to share the things I learn along this journey I call life. I work in marketing and I'm a sort of Jane of All Trades, interested in all things nature, gardening, cooking, exploring and learning new things. This blog is a conglomeration of my interests, hobbies, life and life lessons. Thanks for stopping by!