Thursday, December 31, 2015

Gentleness

“I want a kinder, gentler nation.” This is a quote from Then President George Bush. Clearly he was a man who saw a nation that was becoming more selfish and greedy. This was way before the market crash of 2007 when the greed of U.S. banks brought down the economy and ruined many peoples retirement hopes. President Bush talked about the “1000 points of light” or goodness that might be done to help others in need. This President and once CIA Director knew that gentleness is not a word of weakness but power under control, like meekness. He knew that gentleness is part of the “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22). In this last year I had chosen kindness as my word or trait and fruit of the spirit to emulate. This has turned out to be a very difficult journey. God has clearly been working on me to be kind to difficult people. Perhaps the theme verse for 2015 has been, "If it is at all possible, as much as it depends upon you, be at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18). I believe key to doing this is kindness. It is also important to be gentle, so I have chosen it as my challenge for 2016.

“I like George Bush very much and support him and always will. But I disagree with him when he talks of a kinder, gentler America. I think if this country gets any kinder or gentler, it's literally going to cease to exist. I think if we had people from the business community — the Carl Icahn’s, the Ross Perrot’s — negotiating some of our foreign policy, we’d have respect around the world.” 
       Donald Trump

This quote from Donald Trump is very timely during a presidential election year. This man has run a campaign marked by sarcasm and rudeness. He has intentionally tried to hurt people in an effort to gain superiority over them. Mr. Trump is all about winning. He has chosen as his favorites corporate raiders whose careers have been all about money and not helping the companies they have invested in. Admiration and high regard or esteem is what respect is about. This is gained by honorable acts, not bullying.

Gentleness is a strong hand with a soft touch. It is a tender, compassionate approach toward others' weaknesses and limitations. A gentle person still speaks truth, sometimes even painful truth, but in doing so guards his tone so the truth can be well received. I like this definition from Wikipedia. This is a definition like meekness, which mean absolute power under perfect control. How is this possible? Only by turning the reigns of our lives over to God. We cannot be gentle and meek any more than we can love like 1 Corinthians 13 describes except under the perfect hand of God. Gentleness is a noble and honorable, not harsh or severe characteristic. I particularly recognize the importance of being able to speak the painful truth. This is a trait of a peacemaker. This is someone who is able to put aside his or her own needs to talk with another. “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience…” (1 Peter 3:15).

Now comes one of the most difficult responsibilities of a Christian, dealing with sin and leaving to God the judgment. “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each others burdens in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:1-2). We are not the judge, God is. However, we have the responsibility to tell someone when they sin. Matthew 18 reminds us to do so carefully and if they don’t listen to take someone else with you. This is not to club the person over the head, but for restoration and reconciliation as the goal. Proverbs 15:1 reminds us “A gentle answer turns away wrath.” Jesus Himself self-described as “gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29). This is why we can come to Him. This is why a gentle disposition is attractive to others. Paul told the Ephesians as our calling, “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 4:2-3). 

The Bible is pretty clear on how we are to act towards others. Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against another” (Colossians 3:12).  This is why Scripture describes the attributes of an elder or pastor in these terms. “Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome…” (1 Timothy 3:2-3).


God is speaking of the “inner self,” when He speaks of the wife who will have the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in the eyes of the Lord (1 Peter 3:4).  This is the spirit Jesus has, gentle and riding on a donkey. Yet, He will bring His harsh judgment to the earth soon for our disobedience. He will be riding a white steed and He will come in the clouds and all people will see Him and the same time and bow their knee and worship Him. He is gentle and all-powerful and just. I am encouraged that gentleness is part of the fruit of the Spirit and that being so is being like God.

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