The Fruit is the Spirit – Gentleness
Our pastoral staff has been taking turns writing about the fruit of the spirit for several weeks now, and for each of the fruits that I have written about, I have started by thinking back and trying to recall what I had previously learned about that fruit.
When I tried to think back on what I had learned about gentleness, I could think of were the covers of the Amish romance novels that my wife occasionally reads. I couldn’t recall a single sermon, book, or conversation on the topic. So I knew I had some digging to do.
The Strength in Gentleness
Well as it turns out, the fruit of gentleness is not simply the ability to look awesome in bonnets.
The word Paul uses for “gentleness” in Galatians 5:22-23 is prautes, which has the same root as the word Jesus uses to describe those who will inherit the earth in Matthew 5. It’s usually translated as “meek,” “mild,” or “gentle.” But Strong’s Concordance says that “the gentleness manifested by the Lord and commended to the believer is the fruit of power. The common assumption is that when a man is meek (or gentle) it is because he cannot help himself; but the Lord was gentle because he had the infinite resources of God at his command.”
Strength, power, and control; these are not words that come to mind when we think of gentleness.
But consider Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem. In the account we are given in Matthew 21, the author refers to Christ as a fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy: “Look, your king is coming to you, gentle and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.” – Matthew 21:5 (HCSB)
The king of kings appears – the most powerful figure Jerusalem has ever known –and the grand entrance that he chooses is . . . gentleness. He could have come in accompanied by ten thousand trumpeting angels, or riding on clouds of fire. He shows up on a donkey.
Just after this entrance, he overturns the tables of cheaters in the temple. (Gentle?) Then he heals all of those who come to him. (Gentle.) Then he curses a fig tree. (Gentle????)
Yes, Jesus is gentle at all times. He is “gentle and humble in heart.” – Matthew 11:29 (HCSB). Jesus has prautes, both as a cute little baby and later when he is throwing tables across the temple.
Gentleness, then, is not relinquishing strength. On the contrary, the Spirit is powerful, and we are given access to that power. Gentleness, meekness—prautes—is recognizing that we are not the source of power, but the instrument of it. And as that instrument, we are fully under God’s control. We are not to wield that power harshly or without purpose.
Growing in Gentleness
As I studied up on gentleness, I found myself convicted. I am not always as gentle as I should be. I saw the connection in an area I have been addressing in my own life and a lack of gentleness. I sometime use the gifts that God has given me harshly, particularly when it comes to language and words. The desire to use language to gain social status, to prove a point, or to get a task accomplished, often comes at expense of my family and friends.
So for the last several weeks I have been trying to do a sarcasm fast. I have been intentionally putting the power of my words back under God’s control, asking him to give me gentleness. And where I expected to feel awkward, humorless, unproductive, and humiliated. I have instead been noticing opportunities for sincerity and encouragement more clearly.
For me, prautes means not being sarcastic and surrendering the power of my words to God. It might mean something different for you. Just don’t confuse it for bonnet-wearing dandelions. At its essence, it means recognizing that the Spirit is not only the source of our power, but also the guide of our power.
In what areas of your life is he asking you to let him be that guide?