The word is used to describe soap for babies and women’s deodorant. When used in front of the word “men” it can conjure up ideas of men holding doors open and offering a woman a seat instead of making them stand. You may hear about a gentle breeze blowing after a gentle rain has gently kissed gentle blades of grass.
Even the word gentle sounds soft.
It seems both sexes fight against being labeled as gentle these days in favor of being labeled as strong.
I was taught as a boy that it was best to be strong. When I think of strength, brave hearted warriors with nicknames come to mind. Richard “The Lion Heart”, William “The Conqueror”, and Alexander “The Great”.
Can you imagine anyone being afraid to step in the ring with “Tissue” Mike Tyson?
Our sports teams are given menacing nicknames like Lions, Tigers and Bears.
It would be odd for a player nicknamed “Beast Mode” to play for a team named the Seattle Soft Talkers.
Our culture doesn’t reward gentleness. Anger and aggressiveness often masquerade as strength. There are enough examples that rule the headlines where people are “calling for”, “blasting”, “criticizing” or “threatening” and we regard those actions as strong.
Regardless of culture’s desire for strength over gentleness, we have enough biblical evidence that in regard to the Fruit of the Spirit, being gentle is anything but weak.
Gentleness is Not Being Soft
Gentleness does not come from a weakened position. We see that evidenced in Jesus Christ who could have called down an army of angels to silence the mockers, to destroy the abusive and to demonstrate to Pilate his Kingship.
But instead, He asked for the forgiveness of those who mocked Him, He endured the blows from those He could crush with a thought, and He allowed a Roman prefect in an outlying territory to question His all-powerful position.
Paul could have rallied those to rise up after he was imprisoned but he urged them to remain humble and gentle. When you think of Christianity, Jesus and Paul come to mind as those who suffered in body, mind and spirit to bring so many the good news of God’s grace.
Their gentleness superseded vengeance. Their strength was exhibited in not using their power to eliminate opposition. Certainly we can agree neither one of them was weak.
Gentleness Demonstrates Control
We are often blown away by a way an athlete can manipulate their body to perform amazing tasks during competitions. But do we give as much credit to a person who can fight against emotion to remain calm and deliver a well-thought, truthful yet loving response to a hurting person?
In a world where instant gratification goes hand-in-hand with high-charged emotions, how important is it that people can take a step back and try to address an issue with the goal of communication in mind?
Jesus diffused tense scenarios with gentleness. Paul did likewise. Aren’t we taken aback when somebody has every reason to lose it and go into a tirade but instead chooses to respond with grace and dignity?
Gentleness is Not Up For Debate
“Let your gentleness be evident to all.” – Philippians 4:5
We don’t get to choose to be gentle. It’s expected of us as Christians. When we parade around as tough, strong and Christian, it tends to mix the message of what Christ came to do in and through us.
Whether we are commenting online, playing pickup basketball or driving on the highway, we are still Christians and need to remember it’s not just the world watching, God is ever present and invested in our actions and words.
If there are any “ifs” and “buts” that come to mind related to current events in our society and across the globe, we don’t have an out. Jesus commanded for those to believe to take up their cross daily and we shouldn’t expect an easier road when it comes to demonstrating humility and gentleness.
The Bible also promises a gentle answer will turn away wrath. How easy has it become to meet an angry statement with opposing anger? Try the gentle answer and see what happens. God can be glorified within that scenario.
I don’t think we’ll ever see the day when the Chicago Charmins square off against the Oakland Origami. But I do think we can counter an aggressive, angry culture effectively by choosing gentleness each day in our relationships and with strangers we encounter.
Then maybe the word “gentlemen” will stretch beyond kindly acts into life-changing examples of trusting God more than we do ourselves.
“He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.” – Isaiah 40:11
“You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your right hand supported me, and your gentleness made me great.” – Psalm 18:35
“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” – Proverbs 15:1
“To speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.” – Titus 3:2
“But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” – 1 Peter 3:15
“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.” – 2 Timothy 2:24-26
“Gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” – Galatians 5:23
“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” – Galatians 6:1