Bible study: The ladies come to their tables to find a variety of material swathes of wool, velvet, satin, flannel, lace and burlap and others. They were asked to consider which material best describes them, spiritually and personality wise. As the gals ran their fingers across the flannel print and the white cotton, they expressed warmth and softness, a bold contrast to the rough burlap. This got us thinking about the ‘soft’ side of God.
Gentleness, the eighth listed fruit of the Spirit.
Some translations use humility (Setting aside any overblown sense of importance or self-righteousness) and meekness (Strength under control) in place of gentleness. Basically they are the same word in the original language. The Complete Word Study Dictionary of the NT defines gentleness as, “The inwrought grace of the soul.” Not just the inward grace of the soul, that it dwells there, but INWROUGHT. Inwrought is not a word we use much today, or use at all. But oh it has the most beautiful imagery. It is intricately woven material with a particular pattern. (Of fabric or woodwork, stonework and metal) It is the adding of another element, working it into the material, like beautiful delicate embroidery. To take this additional element out would leave holes, gaping holes.
Gentleness is the evidence of God’s grace worked into our soul, a life that yields to His loving presence, as it is intricately woven into our mind, will and emotions, yielded, giving way to govern our imagination, conscience, memory, reasoning and affections. The inwrought grace of the soul.
David wrote of God, “You give me Your shield of victory, and Your right hand sustains me; You stoop down to make me great.” Psalm 18:35 (emphasis mine) the word translated as ‘stoop down’ is ‘anwah’ (pronounced: ‘on-vaw’) in the Hebrew, it is also translated as gentleness and humility, referring to qualities of meekness. “You stoop down…” If God in all HIS majesty and authority and greatness ‘stoops down’ – shouldn’t we?
Paul wrote: “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently.” (Gal 6:1) Restore him … gently. May we too stoop down. Stoop down even when we have the ability to stand tall, stand strong, and stand over.
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Eph 4:2, (also emphasized in Col. 3:12, 1 Tim. 6:11) Peter wrote: “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” 1 Peter 3:15
Martin Luther said: “True followers of the Gospel must not be sharp and bitter, but gentle, mild, courteous, and soft-spoken, which should encourage others to seek their company. Gentleness can overlook other people’s faults and cover them up.” “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8
Ever known someone who is a bit prickly, they have some rough edges? Their words may come across as sharp. How do these rough spots become smooth and even soothing? It is the filling of the Holy Spirit. He has got to get to the depth of us. (I know grammatically that doesn’t sound good, but oh so true.) We need to allow Him to go to all the broken places in us. Penetrate and permeate in us! I know I am a HOT broken mess without Jesus. I know I am a work in progress, He working Himself into all of me, my thoughts, and my ever changing emotions. (I am WOMAN!) I NEED His Holy Spirit to come and soften my edges.
I know I need it, but do I always want it? Jesus speaks to this in John chapter 5. Remember the lame man at the healing pool, he had been coming to the pool for 38 years, and well here he still lies. Jesus comes, seeing him in this condition and asks him, “Do you want to get well?” What a ridiculous question! But is it? The man goes on to explain that “no one will help him…” (whine!) Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.” (v8,9) I find it interesting that Jesus directly told him to pick up ‘HIS’ mat, not just the mat (or reach for someone else’s mat) Pick up what you have been laying on all these years; pick up what has been YOUR comfort. Laying there is familiar; it’s what the lame man knew. Jesus telling him to pick up his mat, removing it encourages there are no relapses available, with no mat he can’t go back and lay down. And while you’re at it …get a move on… walk! How do I respond when Jesus asks me if I want a change, do I want healing, oh yes I may NEED one, but do I look around for excuses, do I look for what comforts me? Do I reach around and attempt to take what others have? Point to ponder.
Gentleness is giving a soft answer without anger. The Greek philosopher Aristotle said gentleness or meekness is that virtue that stands between two extremes, uncontrolled and unjustified anger (or QUICK ANGER) and not becoming angry at all no matter what takes place around you. What we may call a happy medium, right on balance, acting in righteousness. Paul said, “Don’t sin by letting anger control you.” (Eph 4:26) He didn’t say anger is a sin. Jesus was meek and gentle, and sinless, yet He did get angry, in a righteous way. (see John 2:14-16)
“Meekness is an active and deliberate acceptance of undesirable circumstances that are wisely seen by the individual as only part of a larger picture.”1 That is ‘wordy’ please read again. Basically it is humble submission to God’s will. YES, the ‘S’ word. Submission. God will not make us, He is gentle, a gentle teacher. Jesus says: “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 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. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” – Matt 11:28-30
When researching the yoke and the training of an ox, (Yes, there are MANY articles and websites for such a thing, really!) it stated: When fitting the ox with the yoke, it is BEST that the ox raise its head up into the yoke for the most comfortable and easy fit. This comes by time and trust, that the animal is willing to voluntarily lift their head to the master. If FORCED DOWN by the master, the fit could cause irritation, causing the ox to lean, favoring one side and not work at full potential. Yet another image that God COULD be strong and FORCEFUL, but He is not.
Bases for Training: Establish leadership quickly and firmly. Train regularly, maintain control. Be firm, insist on obedience. Be patient and understanding, being consistent in everything you ask. Once the ox chooses the harness: Teach ‘Turn right, Turn left,’ teaching Step In (step toward), and Step Out (step away) Work on giving animals a variety of tasks in a variety of environments. Wow, I am such an OX!
“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” – God speaking, Isaiah 30:21. David says of God speaking to him, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you.” – Psalm 32:8
I don’t know about you, but I want to be a trainee with a ‘harnessed heart’ rather than a hardened heart, knowing that what He is training me for now, will indeed benefit me and others tomorrow. Notice He says come to Me … and I will give you rest. Then He proceeds to talk about harnessing in for WORK! The rest is not from work, but IN our work. We need to allow God to train us – minister to us so He can minister THROUGH us, in gentleness.
“The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.” God speaks to Elijah in a gentle whisper. (1 Kings 19:10-11) How many of us have been or are in what seems like earthquake – mountain splitting circumstances and wind so strong it will indeed knock us over, and we still can’t seem to see or hear God … just wait. Wait for the gentle whisper.
Walking in the influence of the Holy Spirit allows God the opportunity, permission, the invitation to continue to work His grace into us. May His intricately woven Presence create such a beautiful pattern of gentleness.
Ernest Hemingway said: “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” Good-bye old mat. This ox is going for a walk, a yoked walk.
Side Note: We closed bible study with a large glass clear vase full of broken pieces of plates, emphasizing we are broken people. As God heals us up, we ‘will’ get broken again, using a rubber mallet I smashed another plate and added it to the vase. We could see all the pieces, with large gaps not making us whole. Taking oil, I poured it into the vase, the oil representing the Presence of God filling in, softening our edges and healing us. ‘WE” need to invite the continual pouring of His Spirit.
In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love & good deeds.” – Heb. 10:24)
1Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, “Meekness
It was the summer of 1983, home between semesters of my seminary days, I was standing behind the counter of my father’s fast food restaurant, when a small boy reaching his arm up, releases a fist full of coins onto the counter. The smile on his face could melt any Dairy Queen blizzard. Raising his eyes to mine, he simply stated “A vanilla cone please.” Looking at the coins still rolling on the counter, I knew he didn’t have enough. Taking my index finger, I began to count the silver and a few copper. When there was none left to be counted, the boy’s face grew very solemn. He too knew it wasn’t enough. I reached into my pocket and pulled out a couple more coins and placed them along side his own.
His response shocked me. With a suspicious look, he again reached forward and began to pull his coins away. I told him, it was ok. He now had enough. I tried to match the tone in my voice with that of the kind gesture. With a slight pause as if struggling against his better judgment, his smile returned, and I quickly scooped the coins away and proceeded to make him the LARGEST ‘small’ cone I have ever made complete with a curly-Q top. That moment impacted me, and has never been forgotten.
Suspicious kindness, sad isn’t it. We often are not used to receiving kindness, our first reaction is … pause .. question the motive …then refusal, worried that there HAS to be something wrong, or WAIT, what do you want in return? Our society has become so ‘ME’ oriented, that to think then act on behalf of another with goodness takes great concentration, not to mention ‘risk.’ For some, to be kind is a sign of ‘weakness.’ DUDE! Sad.
St. Paul speaks directly to the qualities that do NOT (notice the ‘NOT’) come naturally to us, “Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, PUT ON heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience…” (Col. 3:12, emphasis mine) we are not born with them, they are a CHOICE. A day-to-day, moment by moment choice. We slip our arms into the garment and wear it, we wear …HIM, Jesus.
Kindness is the softer side of creation, the God in us peaking through with love, and mercy. It is described by scholars that kindness is the inner heart attitude of tenderness, gentleness, then goodness takes over and acts on the heart attitude. I see it in the word picture of one walking by a blind man, holding a charitable cup for money. The HEART sees the man, the heart feels the man, the heart responds with God to the man, filling his cup. Love, kindness and goodness all go together. Love sees, kindness feels, goodness does, read that again. (see also: 1 Cor. 13, Eph. 4:29-31) I might add, that in one of Paul’s ‘lists’ (oh how he loved his lists) Gal. 5:22-23, he shares the ‘Fruit’ of the Spirit, notice it is ‘singular’, it is not ‘Fruits‘, he admonishes us to walk in the ‘package deal’ of Jesus. Picture if you will, someone has just delivered a most fabulous fruit basket and sets in in front of you, individual delicious items, but all in the basket as one gift. “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” ALL evidence of Jesus.
Abraham Joshua Heschel, a leading Jewish Theologian had this to say about kindness, “When I was young, I used to admire intelligent people, as I grow old, I admire kind people.” TRUE Godly kindness does not require a return on your investment. It is self-less-ness. We see, we feel, we do.
What is the opposite of kindness? Severity, cutting something or someone short or quick, in that we do NOT see THEM! We do not feel them or do for them. We see, feel, do only for ourselves. (ouch!)
May we all be challenged to be kind beyond ourselves. Spreading some Sonshine, with wonderful bouquets of gentleness. Remembering that WE have been bathed in God’s kindness and goodness. Taking an extra moment to listen. Find more coins in our pockets, open more doors, whatever is needed at the moment. Like the little boy with ice cream at the counter, he now has ENOUGH! God uses US in the ‘enough’ equation.
In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds” ~ Heb. 10:24)