The Fruit of the Spirit: Gentleness (Part 2)


 In an earlier sermon, I began to give a short introduction to Paul’s letter to the Galatians. I spoke about how it sets out to establish that our salvation has nothing to do with our keeping rules and laws, and that as the themes of the letter develop, important questions are answered:


How do we get saved?
Through faith in Jesus and what he accomplished on the cross.
We looked at Gal 3: 26 – 27.

Our baptism is an outward illustration of what is happening to us spiritually:

(1) We are baptised into Christ. He takes us into himself

(2) We put on Christ.

The Bible speaks again and again of us as ‘in Christ’. This is what it’s talking about. God looks at us and sees Jesus.

How do we stay saved?
We looked at Gal 4: 6 – 7

The Holy Spirit, or as this passage expresses it, ‘the Spirit of God’s Son’, takes up residence in our lives. He then sets about the process of reproducing his characteristics in us.

What does a life led by the Spirit of God’s Son look like?
This is where we pick up the phrase ‘the fruit of the Spirit’. I suggested that an alternative phrase might be ‘the harvest of the Spirit’ – the result of the Spirit’s activity in us.

And what are these results?

‘The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.’ (Galatians 5: 22 – 23)



 If importance was measured by how many sermons you heard preached on it, ‘Gentleness’ probably wouldn’t feature very highly on most people’s list. And it comes right near the end of Paul’s list in Galatians. So that means it can’t be that important, can it?


I would like to challenge that view.


First, remember how Paul pictures us at our baptism: he says we are ‘putting on Jesus’. Did you know that Jesus invites us to do the same? Here’s the evidence:


‘Come unto me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest,’ he says. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you shall find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’  (Matthew 11: 28 – 30)


Paul tells us: ‘put on Jesus’; Jesus tells us: ‘put on my yoke’. Same idea, different words.


But here’s the point I want to make. Did you notice how Jesus described himself? 


When Jesus wanted to talk about his key defining characteristic, he chose gentleness.


Second, look at the evidence we find for this in the Bible. For example:


Keep the idea of gentleness in mind as you listen to these OT prophecies about Jesus:

‘Here is my servant . . . my chosen one in whom I delight. I will put my Spirit on him . . . He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out.’ (Isaiah 42: 1 – 3)


Doesn’t this give a picture of Jesus gently healing the hurts of the people life has left bruised and battered?


Here’s another one, from Isaiah 40: 10 - 11:

‘See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power! 


And how does he demonstrate his power? Awesome miracles? Does he blast his enemies? 


No, none of this. See how Jesus shows his power:

‘He tends his flock like a shepherd: he gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.’


Even if Isaiah hadn’t used the word ‘gently’, it’s got gentleness written all over it!


And did Jesus actually fulfil these prophecies?


If you were here two weeks ago you’ll be able to answer this! For those who missed it, Tim spoke about Jesus’ plans and how people continually interrupted him. He highlighted the quality of Jesus that showed through again and again: compassion. Is it possible to separate compassion and gentleness?


Consider three people who interrupted Jesus:

 Example 1, from Luke 8: A man called Jairus who wanted Jesus to heal his daughter who was on the point of death.

When Jesus got there the girl was dead. Look at his words to the girl (v 54): ‘He took her by the hand and said, ‘My child, get up!’


Example 2, same chapter. Jesus was late to Jairus’ house because he was delayed by a woman. She’d had internal bleeding for 12 years and was desperate for a cure. Jesus was on an important mission, but he gives her time and heals her. Again, listen to his words to her (v 48): ‘Then he said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.’


Example 3, from Luke 5. A man with a nasty disease, possibly leprosy, falls at Jesus’ feet and says, ‘Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.’ There were a variety of possible responses to this statement from such a person. Listen to the one Jesus chose (v 13): ‘Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. Be clean.’


Keep looking at those words. Say them any way you like. Which way sounds the most   authentic? Isn’t it the way that carries the sense of compassion and gentleness?


What does this mean for us?


This is the Jesus who has come to live his life in and through us! That’s what we are called to be like!


You see, the fruit of the Spirit is not supposed to be like a bouquet of flowers put in a vase and set on some shelf for people to say ‘Oh, don’t they look nice . . . . . And don’t they go well with the colour scheme?’


Nor are they meant to be the subject of a sermon for learned minds to weigh up and fit into some nice theological system.


Jesus lived his life in the hurly-burly, nitty-gritty, cut and thrust of 1st Century Palestine . . . and now he aims to live it in us in 21st Century Basildon, and Hockley, and Rayleigh, and Billericay, Benfleet and Wickford and wherever else you live, work and rub shoulders with humanity.



It has nothing to do with laws and rules, and everything to do with life.


And that’s not all!


The Greek words translated ‘gentleness’ are actually very difficult to put into English. It has no real modern English equivalent. The nearest is an old English word most often used in the King James Bible: ‘meekness’, which is not used much today. When it is used today, it is often misunderstood and thought of as a mushy kind of sentimentality, having all the character of a soggy cornflake!


Nothing could be further from the truth. In no way could you read that kind of interpretation into the examples we’ve just seen of Jesus at work. 



So what is ‘meekness’?


My research indicates that ‘meekness’ mainly describes an attitude of heart, and has two applications:

            (a) Our attitude towards God;

            (b) Our attitude towards other people.


Attitude towards God





It is an attitude of a heart at rest; at rest because it is content in and with God, not struggling or contending against God’s will. It is not concerned with self-assertiveness or self-interest, but focusing on God’s will and God’s provision.


This attitude toward God spills over into how we approach his word to us. James says, in his letter, in ch 1 v 21: ‘Get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent, and humbly accept (or, ‘receive with gentleness’) the word planted in you, which can save you.’


Paul challenges Timothy to steer clear of things that that lead to loss of faith. One of those things is a desire to be wealthy. Paul gives Timothy this command, in 1 Timothy 6: 11, 14:

 ‘But you, man of God, flee from all this! Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness (or, meekness).

Keep this command . . . until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.’

The implication is that displaying the fruit of the Spirit is more valuable than a healthy bank balance.



Attitudes towards others


The second aspect of ‘meekness’ has to do with our attitude toward others.


We are told that meekness is an awareness and acceptance of who we are in God, but it doesn’t seek to flaunt itself or claim importance, or insist on other people’s recognition of it. It recognises the worth and value of others.


How do you put this idea into one or two words? Bible translators have expressed it as:

Tolerance                   Mildness                     Humility

Gentleness                 Meekness                   Show consideration

Not needing to force our way in life


An example of this kind of attitude can be found in John chapter 13, when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples during the Last Supper, just before he was arrested and crucified. Read it for yourselves later. 


The thing I want to note is found in the bit beginning in v3:

‘Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal . . . and began to wash his disciples’ feet.’


Jesus used this to teach his disciples about the importance of serving one another.  And gentleness is right there as a key component of a serving heart.


Paul wrote this to Titus (ch3 vv 1 - 2):

‘. . . . be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility (or, ‘gentleness’) toward all men.’



The reward of gentleness


Did you know that God promises a reward to people who display gentleness? It’s in Matthew 5: 5

‘Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth’  (NASB)



And finally . . .  


Let me sum up with these two Scriptures:


‘Come unto me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest,’ he says. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you shall find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’  (Matthew 11: 28 - 30)


‘Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.’ (Colossians 3: 12 - 14)




Ben Benest September 2008

Ben Benest, 04/10/2008