Gentleness is not a virtue that is often admired, let alone pursued. Rarely do you hear of anyone praying for a quiet, gentle spirit. Gentleness (or meekness) is generally misunderstood and undervalued.
In our modern culture, gentleness is perceived as weak, but gentleness is far from weak. It is in fact, a strength.
What is Gentleness?
Firstly, gentleness is also referred to as meekness and humility. We only have to look to the gospels to see gentleness lived out in the life of Jesus, our best role model.
He is meek and lowly in heart and even calls Himself that in Matthew 11:29:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28-30)
Meekness is Submission to God and to Your Fellow Man.
In the Scripture above, Jesus said, learn from me (Matthew 11:29). We learn how to become meek by getting to know Jesus, by binding ourselves to Him.
Jesus submitted to the Father’s will, to save humanity, to the point of death on a cross.
“Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross.”
Jesus’ meekness is demonstrated in many ways in the Bible. We often see Him as a servant. He is compassionate, humble, and tender-hearted. In the 42nd chapter of the book of Isaiah, God describes Jesus as so kind and gentle that he wouldn’t dismiss or discard even the weakest, most downtrodden person in the world. No one is insignificant in His eyes. It says, “a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.”
“Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen one in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him,
and he will bring justice to the nations.
He will not shout or cry out,
or raise his voice in the streets.
A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;
He will not falter or be discouraged
till He establishes justice on earth.
In his teaching, the islands will put their hope.”
Meekness is power under control. A meek person chooses to hold back, restrain himself in obedience to God, for the love of others.
What is it that brings us into Submission? It’s not easy to be humble, we all like to have our own way, it’s human nature, but for some, gentleness is something they avoid at all costs and even attack those who have the courage to cultivate it.
We all start on the spiritual path stubborn and proud. We can even be unrestrained, like a wild horse. We don’t want to be meek, broken, or tamed.
This resistance in our inner man is described perfectly in Pslam 32:9 where it writes, ‘do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.‘
It means don’t be like a wild horse who is no good for anything, bucking and fighting, yet at the same time, don’t be stubborn like the mule who won’t move.
It’s really only possible to submit to God and become meek through the power of the Holy Spirit because we can’t do it on our own. So, where do we begin?
Put Off The Old Man (Self)
Put Off The Old Man and clothe yourselves in righteousness. The old man is what’s known as our old sin nature in the Bible. It was who we were before salvation.
The old man is that self-absorbed self that is steeped in self-interest and self-focus, with strong lustful desires. It is the part of us that needs regeneration because of the Fall of Man (Adam & Eve).
..to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:22-24)
“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.”
Clothe Yourselves in Meekness (Humility)
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” (Colossians 3:12)
We have an essential role in bringing peace to our lives and our environments. It’s not enough to just pray for peace, and run off to some secluded place to meditate and hide from our troubles.
We need to be able to keep our peace around others. There is a lot of advice in the Bible on how to avoid stirring up strife amongst others.
In one proverb, the Bible warns us not to befriend “hot-tempered” people for fear that we may become like them, but we will still have to have a calm answer for them if they are in our workplace or even our family.
They should be avoided, but if you do however encounter an angry person, stay calm and gentle. This is your weapon against their wrath, for meekness triumphs over wickedness.
“Don’t befriend angry people or associate with hot-tempered people,
or you will learn to be like them and endanger your soul.” (Proverbs 22:24-25)
What does the Bible say we should do to cultivate gentleness?
- Do not speak evil of anyone
- Avoid quarreling
- Do not befriend hot-tempered people
- Give a soft answer to anyone who stirs up your anger
- Be humble
- Don’t think too highly of ourselves
- Be compassionate
- Be kind
- Be patient
- Have a soft heart
- Pray without ceasing
- Walk in the Spirit
- Use gracious words
- Delight in the Lord
- Pursue holiness
- Be considerate towards others
- Be quiet – listen more than you speak
- Live like a servant to all
- Have a teachable spirit
- Have a repentant heart
- Be generous
- Be fair
- Show mercy
- Forgive others
- Be flexible (not rigid)
- Be calm – don’t fret
- Be faithful
- Listen and obey God
There will be times when it will be most difficult to be gentle and humble in heart. Let’s look at a few of these now.
How do you react when you are….
It’s not easy, it injures us. What is the first thing you want to do when these things happen? Probably react in anger – RETALIATE!
But, we know from experience that these people take pleasure in hurting others, they are wicked. What did Jesus do?
“When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.” (1 Peter 2:23)
The Bible tells us never to take revenge as God says, “Vengence is mine, I will repay.”
God deals with all sin, and any wrong that has been done to you in your life will be judged by God Himself, who is a just judge. No sin goes unpunished. Leave it to God, for He will do a better job of it than us.
The best thing we can do is to forgive those who’ve hurt us.
And finally.. be considerate to all people. Practice gentleness with everyone. It’s good to be mindful of this as we go about our day to day business so that we won’t be taken by surprise if someone is rude or arrogant towards us.
Be ready to respond with a kind word or a soft smile.
“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1)
Living as children of God with a gentle and quiet spirit
To live like this is pleasing to God. We are His children and He wants to care for us, as a mother cares for her child
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5)
To inherit the earth means you will have peace with God and in your own heart, but better still, the meek and gentle in spirit will reign with Christ in His kingdom, in eternity.