Being a grandparent is a really incredible thing. To be able to hold a newborn baby in one’s arms is amazing. As the great hymn, “Because He Lives,” says, “How sweet to hold a newborn baby and feel the pride and joy he gives; but greater still the calm assurance: this child can face uncertain days because He lives!” But holding a child has risks. Because of their lack of muscles and strength, they must be supported. They need to be held gently.
In the Bible, the word for “gentle” is sometimes translated as “meek.” Being meek is probably not something most people aspire to. In our way of thinking, meekness not only sounds like weakness; the two words mean virtually the same thing. But true gentleness resembles strength more than weakness.
When we hear the word gentle, we might think of a mother picking up her infant son from a crib. She softly holds him and cradles his head, moving slowly and not holding so tight as to squeeze him. We might also think about an archaeologist on a dig, patiently and carefully unearthing artifacts with the slow strokes of his or her delicate instruments. We might also think of meeting a dog or cat for the first time. Reaching out our hands in a non-threatening manner… to be gentle.
Now, instead, imagine that mother gripping the baby by the leg and dragging him out of the crib like a sack of potatoes. Also, imagine the archaeologist getting a shovel and chopping hard at the ground around the artifact, smashing against the precious piece of history. Imagine coming at a kitten with a big stick. Which examples better describe how people in the world treat each other overall?
Even after thoroughly pointing out the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus Christ defined a spirit of gentleness and showed how He truly felt about even those who were opposed to Him. In Matthew 23:37 He cries out, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” Gentleness is feeling this way about other human beings.
In Matthew 11:29, Jesus said, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls”, Here Christ makes a connection between gentleness and humility.
This connection is also seen elsewhere in the Bible. The apostle Paul reinforced this idea in 2 Corinthians 10:1: “Now I, Paul, myself am pleading with you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—who in presence am lowly among you, but being absent am bold toward you.” Paul included the words meekness and lowly in conjunction with gentleness. These words help show that gentleness requires humility because along with pride and feelings of superiority come rough reactions and stubborn, know-it-all answers.
So what then is gentleness? It is the humble and meek attitude of wanting to help other people instead of wanting to be superior to them. This attitude flows from a spirit of real love for the individual—having a true, outgoing concern for their well-being. Such an attitude is shown in how we think about and treat others and what we say to them.
Philippians 4:5 tells us to “let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.” Why does God want those He is working with to be concerned with how gently they think, act or talk? God has all the power in the universe, yet He is gentle with us, and He wants us to learn to be like Him. Then, when He gives us power, He will know that we will not use it cruelly or rashly.
The question then becomes why should we express gentleness? There are several reasons: God is overwhelmingly gentle with us when we sin and need correction, and He expects us to be the same way with others. Also, gentleness shows the world that the way of violent encounters and situations ruled by emotion is not the better way. And God wants us to demonstrate gentleness because human beings require a gentle touch in order to truly change their lives and come to Him. As the writer of Proverbs suggests in 15:1, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
This leads to the “How” question. Gentleness is typically regarded as something that is weak, mild or non-assertive. But when we consider that it is a result (“fruit”) of God’s Holy Spirit being active in our lives and that being gentle requires the strength of self-control, thoughtfulness, tact, and concern – we see it in an entirely different way.
Modern examples of gentleness are distinctly uncommon. How do we stay above the harsh, cruel and angry world around us? I would suggest learning to quickly apologize after an emotional outburst. Secondly, remember God’s gentleness shown to us. I would suggest we would rather face God in His gentleness rather than His wrath? Lastly, constantly check your attitude. Gentleness is other’s focused, not “self” motivated.
Being gentle doesn’t mean that we should not be strong in our beliefs, but it does imply that we should be wise and loving in expressing those beliefs to others. God shows tough love and teaches hard lessons to humans, all the while being the very definition of gentleness.
In his book “Grace for the Moment”, Max Lucado offers a pledge that we could all make our own: “Nothing is won by force. I choose to be gentle. If I raise my voice, may it be only in praise. If I clench my fist, may it be only in prayer. If I make a demand, may it be only of myself.”
Those words convey how demanding it can be to choose gentleness. But we can do that because we have experienced the Lord’s tender love. We can trust that he will abundantly provide the strength we need to be gentle. His meekness is greater than our weakness. Let’s do our part.