Well, as my Beloved would say, “Did you draw the short straw on this topic?” There are just certain things in Scripture that are difficult to speak or write on and here is why:
We fall short.
I know I fall desperately short. This one of many places Romans 7:15 comes to play in our lives, “Is it not?”
Romans 7:15, “For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.”
In a culture where snark is the new black, I am afraid we as believers have forgotten this evidentiary proof of who our Savior is and what He did when we turn a blind eye to our own harsh, prideful attitudes and boastful hearts.
Jerry Wragg wrote, “The Christian community tips its hat to the nobility of meekness, but in practice pride often wins the day.”
The Fruit of Gentleness
I am also the learner here. I am praying this study on the fruit of gentleness will settle in the deepest parts of my soul and take root to grow beautifully for my Savior’s sake. Since it’s a characteristic of the fruit of the Spirit, it must be evidenced in a believer’s life.
As I have looked to the Scripture for my help on this journey of a much-desired gentle spirit, I came upon what appeared to be a very oxymoronic verse regarding gentleness.
Psalm 18:35, “You have also given me the shield of Your salvation. And Your right hand upholds me, and Your gentleness makes me great.”
Your gentleness makes me great? It is surrounded by verses that, if removed from their context, would appear to be arrogant boasting by the soon-to-be king, David. This is why we must always read with the context of the passage in mind.
As I read a bit more, I learned the word gentleness here could also be rendered condescension.
Aha, now we are getting somewhere. We are getting a glimpse of the character of God!
In this great Psalm written by David, we see a man that is singing of the day the Lord delivered him from the hands of his enemies, namely, Saul and his armies.
Miriam Webster’s Dictionary describes condescension as a “voluntary descent from one’s rank or dignity in relations with an inferior.”
John Piper, “The only people whose soul can truly magnify the Lord are people who acknowledge their lowly estate and are overwhelmed by the condescension of the magnificent God.”
I love this definition because it describes exactly what Christ has done for us! Jesus Christ voluntarily came down (condescended) from the eternal throne room of His father, God, to rescue us from certain infinite death and eternal destruction caused by the incalculable sins we could not ourselves atone for. So, my friend, this is where gentleness our or meekness begins.
Gentleness Begins With the Gospel
It begins with Christ who transforms a dead sinner into a new creation by offering to exchange our yoke of self-righteousness for the yoke of Christ’s righteousness:
Matthew 11:29, “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.”
It is only a few chapters later we see our gentle Savior fulfilling prophesy as he prepares to die for our sins:
“Behold Your King is coming to you, GENTLE, and mounted on a donkey…” –Matthew 21:5
The bottom line is this; we cannot be biblically gentle on our own. It is a work that was wrought through the death of Jesus Christ. Consequently, gentleness requires brutal death to self in the life of the believer. So, it can’t be a weakness, but it is a strength under control. He calls us to His gentleness out of our weary and the heavy-laden hearts.
According to Blue Letter Bible, gentleness is “that disposition of spirit in which we accept His dealing with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting… Gentleness or meekness is the opposite of self-assertiveness and self-interest. It stems from trust in God’s goodness and control over the situation. The gentle person is not occupied with self at all.”
Truly, Christ has done the hardest part, and now by His grace, we are allowed to participate in the beautiful command to bear the fruit of gentleness. As scripture speaks about this gentleness we so desire, we can ask ourselves these four questions:
Do rejoicing and prayer characterize you? (Philippians 4:5)
In the context of Philippians 4, we see that a heart that is always rejoicing, not anxious, is in prayerful communion with the Lord with an attitude of thankfulness will also exhibit gentleness. It is hard to be occupied with oneself when we are always rejoicing in the Lord, taking our prayers to the One who superintends over all aspects of our lives, with an attitude of thankfulness. A gentle heart is wrapped in rejoicing and prayer.
If someone were to ask a person who knows you well if you are a gentle person, according to Philippians 4, what would the answer be?
Are you teachable and growing in wisdom or a hothead?
James 3:13, “Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom.”
According to the Strong’s dictionary, a wise person in the practical sense is one whose actions are governed by piety and integrity. John MacArthur helps us to better understand the meaning here as “a specialist or professional who could skillfully apply his expertise to practical situations. James is asking who is truly skilled in the art of living.”
Our lives lived out before the watching world will reveal our integrity (or lack thereof) and will show others whether or not we are applying everything we have been given pertaining to life and godliness. It goes back to James 1:21 as we receive the word in our hearts like “mellow soil” (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon) we are to put off all filthiness that remains in us. This would specifically be the deeds of the flesh. Additionally, in the context of James 1:21, we are to put off anger. A wise, understanding and teachable heart will not be easily angered.
Is Your Focus on the Perishable or Imperishable?
1 Peter 3:3-4, “Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.”
It is so easy to get caught up sinfully in the outward, the external. The world applauds it, markets it, and promotes it over the heart of God’s image bearers. When we forget the outer man is decaying, we will spend excessive amounts of time on the temporal rather than the eternal. However, Scripture calls us as women to dress in what is precious in God’s eyes – a quiet and gentle spirit. No one can take this beautiful quality away. It won’t fade or wrinkle. Instead, it carries us into the presence of our most beautiful Savior. Do an evaluation to see if you are spending more time on the imperishable or the perishable.
Are you considerate of others or self-centered?
Titus 3:2 says we are to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men. The word consideration here is actually the same Greek word that is translated “gentle” in Galatians 5. This takes us full circle. Do I show the magnitude of consideration to others that Christ has shown me? Do I “show, demonstrate, and prove” in a peaceable and gentle way? Here, we see the heart of gentleness displayed. There are times I do what is right towards others, but I don’t do it in a peaceable, gentle manner. When this occurs, my motives and desires do not love another biblically. Period. The context of this verse is rooted in how we consider others in light of how God has considered us (Titus 3:3-6).
Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “The man who is meek is not even sensitive about himself. He is not always watching himself and his own interests. He is not always on the defensive…To be truly meek means we no longer protect ourselves, because we see there is nothing worth defending…The man who is truly meek never pities himself, he is never sorry for himself. He never talks to himself and says, “You are having a hard time, how unkind these people are not to understand you.”
I know my heart has been challenged looking at these verses. If you are not sure you exhibit the fruit of gentleness faithfully, can I encourage you to take these three questions with the verses to a trusted sister-in-Christ (if you are a lady) or if you are a guy to a brother in Christ and ask them to help you evaluate your heart? Maybe, they will help you see where you can excel still more. Perhaps, they will be convicted, and ask you to help them! Wouldn’t that be a win/win for the kingdom of God?!
Christ tells us “Blessed are the gentle for they shall inherit the earth.” A gentle Christian is a truly happy Christian and others will be edified to be around you!
Kimberly Cummings is a native Texan who loves being a pastor’s wife, mom, writer, podcaster, and ACBC Certified Biblical Counselor. In all the counseling and teaching she provides, she makes it a priority to be both Christ-centered and practical. She is a bit of a coffee snob and makes time for wiggling her toes in the sand at the beach near her SoCal home.