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The Fruit Of The Spirit Is Love (Part 5. Love's Aspect - Gentleness)
Although this article is part of a series, it is a Complete study on its own. (5 of 9 in series)
* all [bracketed] words in Scripture verses are mine *
Love's Aspect - Gentleness
This is the fifth installment in a series on the fruit of the Spirit, love. As we have examined love, we have seen that it manifests itself in different forms that we can further study, forms such as joy and peace and forbearance, and the aspect in this study, gentleness or kindness. Paul, in writing the Galatians, reminded us that love has many facets and they differ depending on how the light of God's Word shines through it. I would remind you that the fruit of the Spirit is singular and the fruit of the Spirit is love. Then God modifies and transforms His love into the aspects that we can study and name as joy and peace etc. These specific types of love listed below were chosen with much care and thought, prayer and guidance. The study of these facets reveals much about what the Holy Spirit thinks in regard to His fruit. He bestows gifts and amplifies certain traits in His children so that we can see love expressed in some Christians as long-suffering while in others their faith or temperance shines forth. As we are mindful of loving God, working love out by serving Him, we know we love but it's interesting that we are not usually aware of the facet of love that others will see. Haven't you ever done something that you know is right and later you find someone coming to you and saying that was a kind thing to do or that you showed faithfulness in the thing that you did? Or maybe they say that what you did inspired joy, or infused them with peace. Chances are you didn't think of that at all when you were used of God to love. You probably didn't feel it as kind or gentle or meek, just that it felt "right" or that it was the loving thing to do.
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance." (Galatians 5:22-23)
What we think of when we see a gentle lamb in danger
The Biblical meaning of a "gentle lamb." Poor wolfie.
In an effort to validate the baser side of humanity, the popular concept of gentleness (KJV or translated kindness in NKJV) has evolved to mean something radically different than what the Bible originally intended it to mean. As soon as we say the word gentleness, an image pops into our minds. We conjure up the image of a small bunny rabbit, or an innocent lamb, perhaps a baby in arms. We picture something weak or incapable of defending itself. We think of something that falls prey to predators or lacks some edge to survive. Isn't that what the word gentleness implies? What about the word kindness? What images does that bring to mind? Aren't the nice, kind people the folks that lack the intestinal fortitude to succeed in life? Can you imagine anyone saying about your favorite action hero, "You know the man is okay, but he could demonstrate a bit more kindness?" Don't people think of kindness as going hand-in-hand with gullibility and emotional sappiness, even weak-mindedness? If someone says "That man is a kind soul," doesn't that mean he's an easy mark? Isn't kindness a hindrance, a nuisance, a detriment?
Granted, the element of niceness is present in gentleness. Kindness does not rage, riot, rampage or run amok. Gentleness has the connotation of being merciful. But it is far more than just being nice or pleasant. There are two words in the New Testament that are translated gentleness. The first, indeed, has some aspects of gooey goodness in it. The word is epieikeia Gr. (ep-ee-i'-ki-ah). It means mildness or kindness but it also means "suitability" and "fairness or equity", a concept far from the popular notion of "warm squishy-ness" and weak vulnerability. This word is used by Paul in describing Christ saying that he (Paul) was speaking with the people with the "gentleness of Christ." (2 Corinthians 10:1) He was pleading with the Corinthian church using the fairness and equity of Jesus in his assessment of them and their situation.
"But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality [fair, equitable], without hypocrisy." (James 3:17)
The other word translated gentleness is the one that is used in the list of aspects of love in the fruit of the Spirit. The word is chrestotes Gr. (khray-stot'-ace) and it means "usefulness, or moral excellence of character and demeanor." One literal interpretation is "to stand alone against sin." This too, is far from weak or ineffective. Gentleness, being an asset, is not a liability as the world would have you believe.
"And the servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God will perhaps grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth." (2 Timothy 2:24-25)
So now I want you to picture, for a moment, an eraser. I want you to take that eraser and wipe that popular notion of what gentleness means, right out of your head. Where did the idea of kindness as being generally agreeable to everything come from? A gentle person is concerned with facts and is slow to anger because of the strength of their character. A gentle person does not rush to judgment. He is wise because he knows the word of God and the mind of God through the study of the written word of God. People of the world see the control of emotions and the slowness to anger as just slow. They see so many heroes depicted as "shooting from the hip" with no thought, just quick action with no consequence. Taking the time to access wisdom and perhaps pray for Holy Spirit assistance, is mistaken for being a pushover or weak-willed, of being too deliberate. If you think about most people today, you know that what shows most when they "get real" is their baser side. A person with a gentle spirit comes off as fake or phoney to them. People call a person that tries to show character in their life, a "boy scout" or a "goodie-goodie." Indeed, taking the moral "high-road" is a trip most people of the world won't even attempt. They know the pull of the flesh. That's all they have to live by. Instead of living moral lives they make excuses for their vices, weaknesses, and sin. Gentleness in action is fair and reflects godly character.
"Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit." (Titus 3:1-5)
"So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls." (James 1:19-21)
And there is something else about moral character - gentleness: it is a necessary trait to assure a Christian's usefulness to God. We are to pursue excellence of character at all times. Our testimony lends credibility to our words. Without gentleness or kindness moderating, the life becomes lead by the flesh, our words empty rhetoric. Without moral character, without gentleness, people are scared away and will not be drawn to the gospel message. They will say, "If that's Christianity, then I want no part of it!" I knew a Christian that was a perfect example of this. Doctrinally, she had every part right. She could give you chapter and verse of everything she believed, but she lacked a gentle spirit. No one was drawn to the gospel due to her testimony. She had a reputation for abrasiveness and brashness so there could be no fruit for God due to her lack of love. When one has the steady movement of moral character, gentleness in their life, people are drawn to them. People of the world see an example of excellence in their midst, whether or not they admit it, that characteristic in the Christian earns their respect. This winning of respect is illustrated in the passage in 1 Peter that speaks of a wife's submission to her husband. The gentle spirit that the wife being led of God displays eventually gets to her unbelieving husband and changes his heart.
"Wives, likewise, [husbands are to also submit] be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear [of God]. Do not let your adornment be merely outward - arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel - rather let it be the hidden person of the heart with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit which is very precious in the sight of God." (1 Peter 3:1-4)
The trait of gentleness contains a focus in attitude and a way of thinking that effects our every action. No gentleness means a lack of character, a lack of clarity. Indeed, without gentleness, a person lacks focus and could also be described as "tossed about by every wind of doctrine." Jesus displayed this fruit of the Spirit for us when he was faced with the death of the little girl. Do you remember? He said that the little girl was "not dead but only sleeping" and the people "laughed Him to scorn." He didn't raise up against the people's ignorance, did He? He was tender toward the girl and her family. He stood in the face of the ridicule unwavering. Never losing the focus, He served the Father's wishes. He was undaunted, sort of like a mountain stream that gently trickles its way down the hillside, and on the way, cuts through solid rock. Jesus ignored the ridicule and raised the girl from the dead with no fanfare. Then He said for them to give her something to eat, reminded them to say nothing, and moved on. Gentleness is like that; kind, morally pure, humble, focused, unwavering, unstoppable.
"That we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head - Christ." (Ephesians 4:14-15)
"While He was still speaking, someone came from the ruler of the synagogue's house, saying to him, "Your daughter is dead. Do not trouble the teacher." But when Jesus heard it, He answered him, saying, "Do not be afraid, only believe, and she will be made well." When He came into the house, He permitted no one to go in except Peter, James, and John, and the father and mother of the girl. Now all wept and mourned for her, but He said, "Do not weep; she is not dead, but sleeping." And they [the paid mourners] ridiculed Him, knowing that she was dead. But He put them all outside [the paid mourners], took her by the hand and called, saying, "Little girl, arise." Then her spirit returned, and she arose immediately. And He commanded that she be given something to eat. And her parents were astonished, but He charged them to tell no one what had happened." (Luke 8:49-56)
Jesus' gentleness made Martha say, "Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died." His very presence put her at ease, filled her with confidence. His demeanor was quietly self assured because He knew God was in everything He did. Works of gentleness are almost the exact opposite of works of pride. Where proud is loud and boasts of accomplishments, gentleness is humble. Where pride is empty in its power, gentleness is dynamic. Where pride hordes the glory to itself, gentleness defers all glory to God. Where pride would justify whatever means necessary to obtain the desired result, gentleness holds its course, holds to the ideal that God will work out all things according to His plan.
"When Jesus came, He found that he had already been dead in the tomb four days...Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him, but Mary was sitting in the house. Now Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you."...Then when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died." Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled. And He said, "Where have you laid him?" They said to Him, "Lord, come and see." Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, "See how He loved him!" (John 11:17, 20-22, 32-36)
So how do we cultivate love in this form? How can we achieve the quiet strength of gentleness?
1. First Of All One Must Know God.
If you desire that quiet power in your life that the Bible calls gentleness, you must first know who God is, because it is from Him that the power originates. Gentleness is not just a decision that is made in oneself. Gentleness is a work of the Holy Spirit and His presence must be in you to be able to implement this attribute. This knowledge required can't be just a knowledge that God exists, but it must be a personal relationship with Him. When you ask the Lord into your life and receive His salvation, He will change you from the inside out. He will not only give you a new heart but He will live inside it. What you found impossible to do as one who is lost, now becomes part of God's plan for you, your normal way of life. Within the new nature He gives, is the ability to reflect God's gentleness.
If you know you are a sinner and powerless over your own destiny, if you know that you need a Savior to live a life of power, if you are crying out in your soul for a second chance, you can pray this prayer:
Jesus, I cry out to you now. I know that my sin weighs me down and that I need a second chance. I live a life of weakness and I want you to live in me. I ask you to forgive my sin and come into my heart. Please Jesus save me and fill my life with your power and strength. Thank you for dying for me to pay for my sin. Thank you for saving me. Amen
2. Obey God First.
Once you become a saved believer, one that has cried out in the sinner's prayer to God, it is still imperative that you not "listen" to your flesh that will try to override the Spirit's leading. As God speaks to you in a small still voice that you can hear in your spirit, the flesh screams at you and pulls at your senses to obey it instead of God. Focusing your attention on that steady, gentle Voice is not always easy at first. Gradually, you will be able to hear His voice as clearly as you do your flesh's frantic screams. You will learn to notice it first, in the midst of the noise and fuss the flesh makes. In the simple obedience, is an incredible power. At first it is power over the sin that so easily besets us and then works to be a power that stabilizes all those around you. You may not even be aware of it but the Spirit will make a difference in the lives of others. Obedience brings forth a gentle spirit and Holy Spirit power.
3. Learn God's Will.
Once you're willing to obey God, follow His directions and His leading. We know that underlying every move we are to make is God's perfect will. What is God's perfect will for us? We know that God is not willing that any should die, so witness is one aspect of God's perfect will. The other aspect is that God is deserving of all the glory. If any act does not bring glory to a holy God, then it is not God's will or His leading. Following His will despite any distraction is kindness or gentleness in the Biblical sense.
4. Fear Not.
Fear tends to cancel out love, and love cancels out fear. "Perfect love," we are told, "casts out fear." Gentleness is an aspect of that perfect love. Do you have patterns of fear, as I do? Are you seized with paralyzing terrors? Picture in your mind that mountain stream that cuts through solid rock. Do you remember our illustration? As you feel the fear, let your mind laden with Scripture trickle right through it, like that mountain stream. Allow a thought to reach out to Christ. Don't just say words, indeed sometimes words won't come, but reach out with your heart. You will feel the grip of the terror begin to lessen. You will feel the power of the love, of the gentleness. When the fear eases then run to God in prayer for safety.
"Love has been perfected among us in this; that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment, But he who fears is not been made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us." (1 John 4:17-19)
May God bless your efforts to love Him. May each of you know gentleness as God intended. May each of you find the gentleness of God and pass it on to a dying world to bear much fruit to His glory.
Others in this series of independent articles: