Galatians 5:22, 23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
There is a popular quote that goes like this “ If you think being meek is weak try being meek for a week”
Gentleness which also means meekness is a misunderstood and often despised characteristic. Gentleness has lost its appeal for many people because many believe that meekness is synonymous with weakness. Even dictionaries define gentleness as timidity or weakness.
What is gentleness?
One thing that we must be clear about is that biblical gentleness is not timidity or weakness. The word of God speaks against timidity and it specifically says that we have not being called into or given a Spirit of timidity. Two people the bible describe as gentle were Jesus and Moses. They were both far from timid or weak. Jesus had to stand before leaders both religious and otherwise and He always spoke with confidence and authority. Even when He chased those who were trading in the Temple of God He did so with total authority. Moses also was far from timid. He had to lead a multitude of people who were already so stubborn and out of control yet he led them with confidence and gentleness . Even when he had to stand in front of the most powerful man of his day-Pharaoh- He did so with boldness but gentleness.
To get a better idea of what biblical gentleness is one has to look in the bible. Looking back again to Jesus and Moses. Jesus was described as gentle and humble of heart. Moses was described as so gentle that he was more gentle than anyone on the face of the earth. How is it that these two can be so powerful yet gentle. Biblical gentleness can best be described as strength under control- that is strength that is under the control of the Holy Spirit. Gentleness is not just one thing but rather it is being many things- whatever the Holy Spirit will require you to be in any situation. Gentleness has many characteristics and so it can not adequately be described in one word.
Gentleness is humility
If you look at some bible translations Moses is described as humble. First of all I want us to see pattern here. Jesus and Moses were described as gentle and humble which means that gentleness goes hand in hand with humility. We can safely say that one of the characteristics of gentleness is humility. Jesus says we should learn gentleness and humility of heart from Him and rightly so. No one else understands gentleness like Jesus Himself.
However humility alone cannot adequately describe gentleness because gentleness is much more.
Gentleness is submission
Biblical gentleness can get confusing for many. Many expect that all christians have one of two characteristics. They expect that a believe is either a docile self deprecating pushover or an arrogant all knowing, never wrong bible thumping extremist. One can not blame those people for embracing these extremes because the human heart doesn’t understand the totality of biblical gentleness. This is why Jesus also confused a lot of people. Jesus was submissive. This is why many could not understand how he was able to stand up to the religious leaders with such ferocity and still be able to relate to the outcasts at that time.The problem was that many believed that gentleness was for the helpless or the disadvantaged members of society. Many couldn’t understand how someone who called himself a King- at least a King of Jews- could allow himself to serve and be so lowly.
This is the same issue many today have with gentleness. They also wrongly assume that gentleness is reserved for a group of people- a group such as a church congregation under the authority of a powerful and unquestionable leader or a wife under the authority of an unyielding husband. This is far from what Jesus taught as gentleness. He first of all taught that every believer should be gentle and that only those who are gentle can inherit the earth. In other words only those who are gentle have the ability to take over the earth for God. A leader shows gentleness by instructing those under their authority with love and respect. They receive other people’s opinions and teachings with humility and respect and do not assume that they are always right. Gentleness is being a servant leader rather than a tyrant or dictator.
Gentleness is trust in God
A gentle person willingly submits to those who are in authority over them out of their submission to God rather than out of fear or out of trying to get preferential treatment. Only those who trust in God can be gentle when they are treated unfairly. Only those who put their trust in God understand that gentleness is not from fear but from willingness. This is why wives are instructed to not give way to fear but rather but rather have “a gentle and quiet spirit which is precious in the sight of God.” How does a wife remain gentle to a husband who is a bully? Not by cowering like a coward or living in fear but rather by trusting God to direct her on how to relate or not relate to him.
Gentleness is such a powerful characteristic that is so misunderstood and so often overlooked. It is a character that every believer must have to be effective in doing the will of God. It can only be displayed in those who willingly submit to the leading of the Holy Spirit.
Only those who can submit to the leading and direction of the Holy Spirit can be gentle. Gentleness requires that you humbly back down when you can be speaking up and speaking up when you would rather be quiet.
Matthew 5:5″Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.”
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.”
Numbers 12:3 “(Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.)”
Ephesians 4:2 “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”
1 Peter 3:4 “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.”
Temitope Talabi is a founding member of The Trent Voices currently reside in Austin, TX. She graduated with a PharmD from Texas Southern University in Houston, TX. She works as a community pharmacist and spends her spare time writing to build and encourage others through the word of God. Temitope is also currently working on a series of self-help books created to empower people to take charge of their health and wellness, the first of which is scheduled to be released early next year.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.