Gentleness

Preaching and Worship Resources about Gentleness

Gentleness is one of the nine fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5 and is a key Christian virtue in the New Testament. Rooted in the example of Jesus, gentleness is what enables Christians to treat all people — including those who oppose the Christian faith — with humble and respectful courtesy as a living sign that our very salvation in Christ emerged from sacrifice and from what the world labels "foolish weakness."

In Scripture

" . . .the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control" (Gal. 5:22, 23).

A life worthy of the calling "I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Eph. 4:1-3).

"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near" (Phil. 4:4-5).

Correcting with gentleness "And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to everyone, an apt teacher, patient, correcting opponents with gentleness" (2 Tim. 2:24-25).

With gentleness and reverence "But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated,[ ]but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame" (1 Pet. 3:14-16).

Points to Ponder

Not Wimpy: Gentleness is sometimes derided as an ineffectual way to live in the world. Gentleness conjures up a cuddly lamb, a mother stroking a child's hair, and all manner of other images that trend to the soft and fuzzy side of human behavior. No one would want a "gentle general" to lead military troops into battle, and the prospect of a "gentle CEO" would seem an oxymoron that might put some people in mind of the old adage "Nice guys finish last." But true Christ-like gentleness is rooted in strength and assurance. Christians are gentle not because they lack all conviction but because they are so convicted of the truth of the gospel that they feel no need to scream about it or foist it onto others in brusque and brash ways. Gentleness may conjure up the image of a lamb and, if so, that is apropos to Christ as the Lamb of God. But Christ is also rightly depicted as the Lion of Judah. The gentleness of Christ as Lamb is rooted in the power of Christ as Lion.

"Convicted Civility" Richard Mouw has written a good deal on the subject of how Christians should behave in the public square, particularly when facing opposition to the gospel or when encountering those who promote laws or other social practices some Christians find offensive. Mouw has argued that the fruit of gentleness plays a role in what he calls a kind of "convicted civility" that stands in stark contrast to the tactics many Christians have more recently adopted in shouting at people, picketing with offensive slogans painted onto signs, and so on. Mouw says: "God has a gentle and reverent concern for public righteousness. The question of the divine character is crucial to [the topic of Christian civility]. Many convicted Christians place a central emphasis on the harsher side of the Bible's portrayal of God's character: sovereignty, holiness, power, wrath, and the like. . . . God is a sovereign ruler — but in Jesus Christ he made it clear that he is that rare kind of ruler who comes to his people in the form of a servant. God is holy — but his holiness is revealed in his love for us. God is all-powerful — but his supreme power is displayed in the weakness and vulnerability of the cross. . . . As agents of God's righteousness, we are called to imitate the divine character. In our efforts at public discipleship, we need to cultivate the traits that are associated with God's own kindness and gentleness."

Prautes: In ancient Greece, prautes was prized as a civic virtue. Gentleness was the mark of a good citizen. The philosophers of Athens realized that if life in the much-prized Greek polis, or city-state, was going to work, then gentleness would be needed as the grease lubricating the gears of communal life. No one agrees with everybody else's ideas. In a polis of differing viewpoints, the person who ever and only insists on his own way, who is so inflexible as to foment constant ugly confrontations, would be like sand in the gears. Life could soon grind to a halt. In the Christian context, apostles like Peter put their own spin on gentleness. It's not that they sheared the word of what it meant to the Greeks, but the apostles relocated the center of gentleness in Jesus. It is the gentleness of Jesus that sets the tone. Jesus was the gentle soul who attracted children, the gentle man with whom outcasts felt comfortable, the gentle shepherd who depicted himself as gathering up lost sheep in his arms.


Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.