Today is Gentleness Day
Gentleness is eighth in Paul’s list of the fruit of the Spirit. It is part of the image of God that the Holy Spirit is forming within us. Now it may be a surprise but gentleness has to do with power and might. Weakness is not gentleness and can never be gentleness. But when one who is strong enough to do damage, instead devotes their strength to care for the weak and helpless that is gentleness. It is power and might restrained and focused to do good to the weak and little.
Think about the prophecy about Jesus, “a bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not snuff out”. (Matthew 12:20; Isaiah 42:3) This is the gentleness of God. He could have poured out wrath, and was entitled to. Where our lives were damaged and filled with sin, He could have simply judged us. Where our spiritual life was almost gone and all we had was a faint memory of God giving some sort of promise, He could have turned away. But instead Jesus brought healing; and instead He brought the promises of God’s love and friendship back to us. And Jesus did this through setting aside His infinite power and bringing the gentleness of God to the cross. Even the soldiers in their arrogance and might swinging the hammer and driving the nails – they were in the hands of the almighty God who did an act of unimaginable gentleness, receiving their violence and praying for their salvation. The gentleness of God.
Or think about the picture of the Shepherd, strong to defend his flock. Back to back the two parts of the image form as Isaiah prophesies, “Behold, the Lord God comes with might, and His arm rules for Him, behold His reward is with Him, and His recompense before Him. / 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 40:10-11)
Jesus said “Come to Me all who are weary and burdened …. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle … and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29) His might, coming to us in His gentleness breaks down our walls of unbelief and brings us into the kingdom of God. That is exactly the mystery Paul was talking about when he said “the weakness of God is stronger than men.” (1 Corinthians 1:25)
And now God sends His people out into the world. The disciples knew they had the power of God backing them up. But they were not sent out to demonstrate power, or stride through the world doing one miracle after another. ((“These are not the doings you are searching for.”)) They and we are sent out into a world filled with one after another massive shows of power. The world has enough demonstrations of power. They are easy to find. We are sent to bring something different;. It is a different kingdom, a different message from God, and a different kind of power. We are sent with words from God that have “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes”. (Romans 1:16)
It is a part of the work of the Spirit to form the “fruit of the Spirit” within us, and so form us into the image of God. Since it is part of the image of God, do not mistake gentleness for weakness or timidity. It is quite the opposite. It is strength that is focused; power that is held back; and might that is put to the purpose of saving, helping, caring for, and defending those that are weak. Think of the tough policeman rushing to the aid of a little baby, protecting and holding him close until he can give him back to his mother. Think of a fireman carrying a frail grandmother out of a burning building, using all of his strength to guard and protect her. These are examples of how the character of gentleness is exhibited in the world. There are many more.
There are a lot of stories we have seen and heard, and we know there is an amazing goodness in them. Every one of them is an image of the almighty, gentle God and Savior we know. God Himself and every part of His character is what the world so desperately needs.
So this day, think on gentleness. And look for the chance to be gentle. In being gentle you show something of the image and character of God.
Lord Jesus, form me as Your disciple, remaking and fashioning who I am. By Your Holy Spirit work deeply in my heart and soul, that more and more I may show the love of God in my attitude and the power of God in acts of kindness and gentleness. I pray and I ask that my life, my words, and my acts may bring praise to You. Forgive me where I have failed. Restore me and lead me, my Savior and Friend. Amen.
Rev. Mark Willig
Pastor Willig is pastor emeritus of Friends in Christ Lutheran Church.