When my son was two, he was the most gentle kid I have ever known. He loved and had compassion for others and wouldn’t think of hurting anyone else. But when another kid bit him? He just stood there are cried.
As we continue our study of the fruit of the Spirit, we come to gentleness. Being gentle is a good thing, but when does gentleness cross the line into weakness? How to we balance being gentle with standing up for what we believe in?
These aren’t easy questions.
Paul addresses the answer to these questions in 1 Corinthians, as he writes about coming to the Corinthian church to deal with some of their issues. He says,
What do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a rod of discipline, or shall I come in love and with a gentle spirit? 1 Corinthians 4:21 NIV
He uses the same root word when he writes to the Ephesians.
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Ephesians 4:2 NIV
In Galatians 4:23 (fruit of the Spirit) and both of these verses, gentleness (or gentle) comes from the Greek word prautes, which means “gentleness, meekness, humility.” Strongest NIV Exhaustive Concordance.
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Vine’s Expository Dictionary tells us that there is no really great English word to describe this kind of gentleness or meekness.
The meaning of prautes is not readily expressed in English, for the terms meekness, mildness, commonly used, suggest weakness and pusillanimity to a greater or less extent, whereas prautes does nothing of the kind…the Lord was ‘meek’ because he had the infinite resources of God at His command. Described negatively, meekness is the opposite to self-assertiveness and self-interest; it is equanimity of spirit that is neither elated nor cast down, simply because it is not occupied with self at all. p.728
So, to have the fruit of gentleness in our lives means when we deal with people, we deal with them in humility. It’s loving them and looking out for their best interests instead of putting ourselves first. It’s seeing the needs of others and responding.
But does it compromise the gospel? Not at all.
No matter how much we love others, we love Jesus more, and our first allegiance is to Him. If someone hurts us, as my son was hurt many years ago, we don’t just have to take it in the name of gentleness. However, we must not respond with harshness either. We can walk away. We can talk it out. We don’t have to take it, but we don’t have to bite back either. The strength in this kind of gentleness comes from the love and wisdom that we are given from God himself.
1 Peter 3:15 says,
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. NIV
So let’s stand up for our beliefs. But let’s do so in a way that draws others to the gospel rather than pushing them away.
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