Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
As parents, many of us know what it’s like to have a newborn baby in the house. Remember when your first child was born? He or she came home, and there was great excitement as the room was ready, and all the preparations were made.
I recall holding my first child—I was afraid as I held this tiny child that I would drop her. I needed to be very gentle in handling this precious gift from God. As I got more experienced as a father, I realised that children are not quite as fragile as they first appear. But it opened up this topic of gentleness. And it’s interesting to see the word used in the Bible. Paul expressed it like this in dealing with others: “But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children” (1Thessalonians 2:7 – ESV).
Christians Are Called to Be Gentle
So, as Christians we are called to be gentle in dealing with other people. One writer said,
Gentleness may well be called the Christian spirit. It is the distinguishing disposition in the hearts of Christians to be identified as Christians. All who are truly godly and are real disciples of Christ have a gentle spirit in them. (Jonathon Edwards)
Some people disagree with this idea of gentleness. They say there’s no room for it. Might is right, they say, and the job has to be done in the quickest and most efficient way, no matter who or what gets in the way. Others say, In today’s world there’s no room for gentleness.
But I think it’s very helpful to look at the topic from a Christian perspective. Jesus talked about himself, for example in Matthew 11:29: “I am gentle and humble in heart”. Even before Jesus came, the prophets had predicted the Messiah would be known for his gentleness. We read in Zechariah 9:9: “See your king comes to you…gentle and riding on a donkey”. Isaiah 42:3 said the Christ would not break “a bruised reed” or “snuff out a smouldering wick”.
Gentleness Means Understanding Human Frailty
These word pictures accurately describe a gentle Messiah who would enter the lives of broken, hurting people. And there are many today who are in distress, feeling like they are breaking apart. They need a gentle Jesus who will come alongside them with a tender touch. Not like thoughtless Christian people who say, Just get over it and get on with your life. Perhaps someone has said this to you—it’s not very helpful.
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The Bible affirms that those who call Jesus their Master will also display gentleness. Philippians 4:5 says, “Let your gentleness be evident to all”. In Colossians 3:12 Paul writes, “…clothe yourselves with… gentleness”. And in his letter to Timothy says, “…pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness” (1 Timothy 6:11). Peter also says that our speech should have “…gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). In those New Testament times, Christians had plenty of enemies who did everything to destroy them. But here it was, you should have respect even for your enemies. Some people say, They didn’t deserve to be treated respectfully. But this misses the point. The gospel is not about winning an argument; it’s about reconciling people to God and to each other. Grace and gentleness build bridges.
“Let your gentleness be evident to all” (Philippians 4:5 – NIV)
There are many bruised people today. They have been hurt by life’s experiences and need a gentle word, not an aggressive argument. It’s easy to let people know what we think in an unkind fashion, only to find it was the wrong thing to say. We can let our temper and anger get in the way at the wrong time. In Scripture, gentleness is frequently placed in opposition to words such as ‘harsh’, ‘violent’, ‘unrelenting’, ‘strict’ and ‘severe’. Gentleness means understanding human frailty, and is a willingness to support, help, teach, and counsel with a patient spirit. It means trying to understand the other person’s situation, even if you find it difficult to do so.
After all God is gentle in his dealings with me. What right have I got to refuse the same grace to others? Maybe it’s a hard lesson for us to learn.
(To be continued in Gentleness is OK – Part 2)