THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT IS…GENTLENESS
By: Paul Anderson
That means that the Spirit is gentle. The Spirit knows how to convict without condemning. The Holy Spirit who came as a mighty wind at Pentecost came upon Jesus as a gentle dove.
Jesus said, “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” (Matt. 11:28,29). He was speaking to people who had experienced the oppressive leadership of the religious leaders and were weighed down with guilt, shame, and impossible expectations. Jesus invited them to encounter his kind of oversight.
Jesus demonstrated gentleness with the woman taken in adultery. The leaders wanted to condemn her to get back at Jesus, but his kind words set her free. He was gentle with the Samaritan woman who was on her sixth man. He was gentle with the woman who crashed the party and anointed the feet of Jesus. She received a rebuke from Simon but affirmation from Jesus. He was gentle with Mary, criticized by the disciples for wasting precious perfume. He memorialized her extravagant deed. How kind of Jesus to defend those who love him.
We have ways of applying pressure to people, of imposing guilt with questions, even when we don’t need to: “Didn’t you call them?” can sound like an innocent question, but if the person already knows he didn’t call them, does he needs a question which has the impact of demeaning him. No one knows better than Jesus how to offload those feelings. He was full of grace and truth, but what rubbed off onto people was grace. “Of his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” People who knew they were sinners received grace from the holiest man on earth. One might have expected them to feel condemnation in his holy presence.
Jesus was gentle with Peter after he denied Jesus three times. Peter probably wondered if it would ever be the same. It wasn’t. He loved Jesus even more because of the kindness Jesus showed him following his failure. Imagine the people who have needed forgiveness and were given a rebuke instead. Others needed an encouraging word to keep on keeping on. They were given silence or a question instead, and they decided to hang it up. Some needed a hug and got a backhand. Jesus knows what you need and invites you to receive from him. He is gentle.
Jesus was gentle with the professional killers who put him on the cross. His first order of business was to forgive them for doing something they didn’t know they were doing. It looks to us like they knew, but Jesus saw it differently. He was gentle with the man next to him on the cross who had reviled him. When his outlook changed from mocking Jesus to asking for his help, Jesus gave him grace and offered him paradise.
Jesus was gentle with Zacchaeus when others were anything but gentle. They didn’t want anything to do with this thief of a tax collector, but Jesus treated him like he belonged—and it evoked a remarkable change of heart in Zacchaeus. Others were no doubt saying, “We need to see a change in behavior before we treat him with respect.” Jesus, on the other hand, looked past his faults to his future—and drew him into his destiny in God.
We know what “gentle” feels like. It feels like a hug when you’ve blown it, like a word of forgiveness when you stepped over the line, like an affirmation when you know you deserve a put-down.
Jesus was gentle to the blind man, taking him away from the crowd before praying with him. He was gentle with the leper who said, “If you will, you can make me clean.” He was gentle with a Canaanite woman who asked Jesus to heal her demonized daughter, although it didn’t look like gentleness at first. Jesus saw her humble heart, and drew it out for the disciples to also see, before delivering the daughter.
Jesus determined never to break a bruised reed or put out a smoldering wick (Matt. 12:20) like his adversaries did. He gave to John the Baptist a word of praise at the point of his deepest uncertainties. He accommodated himself to doubting Thomas rather than giving him a well-earned correction. Even more remarkable is his gentle treatment of Judas, about to betray him (John 13:21; Matt. 26:50). He lived out the prophecy, “He will not quarrel or cry out; no one will hear his voice in the streets” (Matt. 12:19). He welcomed Blind Bartimaeus, ridiculed by the crowd for calling out to Jesus in his need. He affirmed Matthew’s decision to follow him, saying that people like him are the very ones he was called to reach, and announcing “mercy, not sacrifice” (Matt. 9:13). Jesus never tripped over his religious zeal as the Pharisees did. Their wooden faith made them unkind and inconsiderate. His zeal made him caring, compassionate, and accepting. He saw the need behind the deed. He saw brokenness where others saw irritation. He knew how to respond, when others only knew how to react. Rather than returning evil for evil, he got even with love and forgiveness. It made sinners want to hang around him. Remarkably, “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats” (I Peter 2:23).
Paul made an appeal to hardened hearts at Corinth “by the meekness and gentleness of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:1). He said that those called to restore a fallen brother needed to do so gently (Gal. 6:1), just like Jesus did. As a friend says, “Jesus is the kindest person I know.” Seeing the way he treats people makes me want to be like him. The more we look at him the more we are changed. We become what we behold. Let’s behold the gentle Christ.