“But the fruit of the Spirit is…gentleness.” ~Gal. 5:23
When I first began to write this letter, I thought that it would be an easier fruit to write on. But after starting this letter over again four or five times, I’m beginning to realize how much is implied in that single word. A soft answer, a calm touch, humility and a spirit of peace. Like so many of the traits listed in this section in Galatians, gentleness overlaps some of the others. We speak more gently when we are self-controlled, peaceful, loving, joyful, and kind. What is gentleness? According to Strong, it is another word for humility or meekness. And what is humility? As one author put it, humility is not the state of always degrading yourself, but is the state of always being so focused on God that you forget yourself. So again, what is gentleness? It is one of the results of forgetting yourself. Think about all that that means. When your days are filled with meditating on the glory of the Lord and on the majesty of His name and the excellence of His Word and the breathtaking beauty of His creation, when you lose track of time when you are on your knees singing praises to God and laying your cares at the foot of the Mercy Seat, when your lips are constantly turning your conversations with others to the greatness of the Lord, when someone compliments you on a job well done and all you can do is thank the Lord for seeing fit to bless your way, then, I assure you, the Lord will give you a spirit of gentleness. Now you may be saying, “Yes, yes, but what are some practical ways to apply this? You have said what must come first, but you haven’t yet said what comes after. What does it look like to be gentle towards others?” Well imagine that one of your siblings has asked you where a certain book is and you give an answer. After your sibling looks around for that book, comes back, and tells you it’s not there, you get up, walk over to where you said it would be, and sure enough, there it is. All at once you are irritated at having to get up out of your comfy seat, annoyed at the tone of voice your sibling used, and frustrated that they didn’t actually look where you said. All that you feel like doing is either to walk sullenly back to your seat without saying a word or to make a sarcastic comment that is by nature cruel. Gentleness would be to simply say, kindly, “There you are” and hand them the book. Now one of the hard things about writing on the fruit of the Spirit is, like I said earlier, in some cases, traits overlap. In the case above, gentleness is a combination of self-control, love, longsuffering, and kindness. Take another situation: a family at church has just received news that while they were on vacation, their house flooded and thousands of dollars worth of furniture and belongings was destroyed. Or imagine that a friend’s grandmother just died the morning before. In each of those situations, gentleness wouldn’t be shown so much in words as in actions. Especially right after the loss of a loved one, people sometimes just need an understanding hug or a shoulder to cry on. When confronted with a situation where it is difficult to discern what the right response is, again, forget yourself. First, eliminate any response that would not give God glory. Second, with the remaining options, try to find the one that does the best job at either soothing, comforting, encouraging, or bringing joy to your neighbor. I know it is hard to remember to do so when the situation actually presents itself and that analyzing the situation could take longer than you have. I’m not saying that it is easy to be gentle. What I am saying though, is that the more you practice being gentle, the easier it will become. So forget yourself! Keep your focus on the Lord by memorizing, praying, and living out the Word. Build up and do not destroy; mend and do not break.
Your brother in Christ,