Cultivating Gentleness

Cultivating Gentleness

Are you gentle? How would you know? The fruit of the Spirit is seen in the Christian who is gentle. Gentleness, or meekness, is often defined by culture as softness, usually implying weakness. Christians sometimes define it as controlled strength.

But the seventeenth-century Dutch pastor and theologian Wilhelmus à Brakel points us to a description more consistent with the New Testament uses of the term. He observes that the root of the Greek word is “a derivative of the word ‘to transfer,’ ” and thus that the gentle person is one “who readily establishes contact with others and with whom others easily make contact in turn.”

In short, gentle people are approachable people. Meek people have something worth communicating or transferring to the souls of others, and they work to do so. They also know that they need to receive from others, so they are ready to listen.

People know instinctively that the gentle of heart build bridges to transfer the treasure with which they’ve been entrusted. And they sense that it is safe to connect with them in order to receive that treasure. The gentle person keeps lines of communication open; he is approachable, even to opponents or strangers. He is more than just “nice.” Communication is easy, or at least looks easy, for the Christian who has disciplined himself to bear such fruit. Gentle people reach out to others in ways that make others want to reach out to them.

Conversely, what kind of man or woman lacks gentleness? It is easy to see that the loud, insensitive, rough person fails the test of gentleness. But the withdrawn, shy person also fails to qualify as gentle. The work of the Holy Spirit is necessary for each of these souls to become gentle.

A gentle person can relate to all kinds of people. Even when situations are awkward or when difficult matters must be discussed, meek saints leave others knowing that they love them even in the midst of conflict. And that, indeed, requires great strength. Jerry Bridges wrote, “Gentleness is illustrated by the way we would handle a carton of exquisite crystal glasses; it is the recognition that the human personality is valuable but fragile and must be handled with care.”

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