Fruit of the Spirit: 5. Gentleness

Far gentler. Gentleness is the fifth named fruit of the Spirit.

This quality can easily be mistaken with ‘meekness’, however it stands alone and is not only powerful but vital in building and maintaining relationships with both God and people.

The opposite is surly, rude, arrogant and loud, which can be tolerated for a short time only, and are despised by everybody sooner or later. If you have these traits it is wise to dispense of them.

To describe the attribute of Gentleness, Strong’s Concordance G5544 uses the interesting term, Benignity. It uses other terms such as kindness, but benignity seems to nail it.

Benignity is not a word we use in everyday English, and yet ‘benign’ is a term we are all familiar with in this modern world, and almost fear, as it is directly associated with cancer and tumors despite it being the more favourable term used in those medical conversations.

Benignity means, ‘not harmful in effect’. When referring to human character, it means, ‘kindness or tolerance toward others’.

I think both of these descriptions would be applicable.

For instance, in conversation, whether seeking an answer or answering, a gentle manner is always conducive to further dialogue.

Most people are drawn to a gentle spirit. It is appealing. Animals seem to recognise who has a gentle spirit. The Lord is also seeking a gentle spirit in us as it is in him, so he can converse and deal with us in a gentle manner. Like us, he much prefers beginning with gentleness when instructing, rather than using stronger persuasion.

Many scriptures link to gentleness.

King David, and the Apostle’s Paul, James and Peter all recognised, sought and preached a gentle spirit, despite living lives of conflict in their time.

2 Sam 22.36 (and reflects Psalm 18.35) David recognises this quality alone in the Lord as helping him change from a shepherd boy into a king.   “Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy gentleness hath made me great.”

Coupling gentleness with longsuffering, a piano teacher can bring a student through the grades to greatness, without the student feeling demoralised. The same applies to us as we help others along the same path we have been. We gently coach. God did that to David, and we see that when a good heart is combined with gentle instruction, anything can be accomplished.

In I Thessalonians 2.7, Paul informs the readers of the nature he used when teaching amongst them, and provides an illustration.

“But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children:”

Who wouldn’t want to be instructed by Paul? Often, we get the wrong idea of Paul due to the tough language he needed to use on some churches at times. Yet, we see the softer side of Paul here.

When tutoring Timothy, Paul impressed upon him the need for gentleness when dealing with all people, to ensure he did not use a different manner when working with various types of people in his parish.

2 Tim 2.24, “And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient”

Furthermore, when instructing Titus in his role of shepherd, Paul implies that God is not looking for overlords but servants to run the church. He links gentleness with meekness, the two qualities being different.

Titus 3.2, To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men.

James, when writing to the multitude, informs them of similar, emphasising the importance of not trying to force any wisdom any have received from the lord onto others. Here we see a nature we should all be growing towards when imparting any wisdom.

James 3. 17, “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.”

And of course, Peter, showing us that the heart of a true servant is not about choosing who and who not we shall be gentle with.

1 Pet 2.18 “Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward.”

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