The Fruits: Gentleness

Gentleness. When we use the term "gentle," we often use it to describe how to pet an animal, hold a baby, or balance the cake pan on your lap when you are driving to small group. So, when growing up, I thought the Christian virtue of gentleness similarly required Christians to be delicate, soft-spoken, and cautious around others. But this doesn't accurately capture gentleness. Sometimes translated “reasonableness” in the New Testament, gentleness is a quality that refers to “playing nice” because other people are made in the image of God too. Gentleness means controlling your anger, reigning in sarcasm or cutting remarks, and being compassionate to annoying people.  While the world’s default is anything but gentleness, this is our mark of being the people of God.

Gentleness (along with related terms like reasonableness and meekness) is often include in lists of Christian behavior because it demonstrates the correct posture of a Believer: we see ourselves as under God and under others. Gentleness requires the surrendering of your rights, privileges, honor, and competitive nature so that God is in control and others are appropriately valued. It’s quite appropriate that Jesus is depicted as a lamb and the Holy Spirit as a dove—both traditionally “gentle” animals. Through Gentleness we demonstrate of the strength of the Lord in us. Speaking about God, Psalm 18:35 says, “your gentleness made me great.”

Our relationships with others must be approached with the utmost respect and kindness. The church at Crete is reminded “to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people” (Titus 3:2). How we handle anger inside us is especially important for gentle living. Proverbs 15:1 suggests, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” James 1:19-20, commands, “let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” Our reasonableness as people of God also helps us reach those who have fallen into temptation. Galatians 6:1 advises restoring a person who sinned with gentleness—using tact, humility, and understanding over anger and punishment to bring them back to righteousness.

This trait is also a tool for witnessing. Famously in 1 Peter 3:15, a verse often associated with apologetics and defending the faith, it says that we should be prepared to give an answer for our hope "with gentleness and respect.” Similarly, 2 Timothy 2:24 says “the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness.” Our interaction with outsiders and opponents must be gentle. The world sees anger, spite, and unreasonableness too much; we are called to act fundamentally differently. This is why Paul is clear as day in Philippians 4:5 when he writes “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.” Our manner matters.

Discussion Questions

  • Why do many people struggle with acting gentle or reasonable?
  • Why is out-of-control anger a problem in a Christian perspective?
  • How would the world change if Christians approached life with gentleness?
  • How can our reasonableness and gentleness be tools for sharing Jesus with others?
  • What actions can you take to make yourself a more gentle person?

Prayer Prompt

Confess that you are prone to give into your own desires for control and triumph over others. Ask God to lead you into the gentleness that Jesus displays. Pray that your reasonableness is a witness to others that God transforms us for the better.

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