[Dec 14]--Gentleness

Matt. 11:28-30; Isaiah 40:10-11

Once again, I couldn’t come up with a better title. So how much are you paying to read these things, anyway? Sometimes you get what you paid for!

This is the eighth aspect of the Fruit of the Spirit. I hate to mix metaphors, but you can consider the visible work of the Spirit in our lives as a multifaceted diamond. It’s all one diamond, but you can view it from multiple angles.

One source of confusion is the fact that we’ve got a little translation issue. When we examined the virtue of kindness, you might have noticed that some of that definition overlaps with what we think of when we hear the word “gentleness.” Of course we can expect some overlap among them; for example, self-control and patience have a lot in common.

But quite frankly, a better word for the eighth virtue listed would be “meekness” instead of “gentleness.” Once again, let’s turn to MacArthur: “It is a humble and gentle attitude that is patiently submissive in every offense, while having no desire for revenge or retribution. In the NT, it is used to describe 3 attitudes: submission to the will of God, teachability, and consideration of others." One of the best definitions I ever heard of meekness is “strength under control.” The classic illustration I heard was that of a horse controlled by a bit. The horse is much stronger and faster than the person riding him, but he’s under control and goes where the rider leads him, running full tilt and then stopping or changing direction when instructed.

That’s why I picked the passages I did. In the first one, Jesus is inviting everyone who's “weary and burdened” to come to him. Why? Because he is “gentle” (same word as in the Galatians “Fruit” verse) and “humble in heart.” When someone is down, he picks them up. When someone feels like they can’t take another step under the heavy load they bear, he either takes the burden from them or carries them as long as needed. When someone is wounded and hurting, he binds up the wound and brings healing. Think of a bull in a China shop, and envision the exact opposite, and you get our Savior.

This extends to the issue of “standing up” for one’s “rights.” Jesus had every right in the world, and he forsook them all. When it came to the honor of his Father’s Name or to the issue of injustice towards the weak (like in the instance of the Temple cleansings), he was a raging lion. When it came to his own rights, he gave them up in a heartbeat when necessary.

The second passage, found in Isaiah, is one of the most beautiful descriptions I’ve ever seen of our Lord. Notice the quality “tension” found here. The “Sovereign Lord” (the Boss of Everything) “comes with power,” and “he rules with a mighty arm.” He is coming to give everyone exactly what they deserve. At the Last Judgment John tells us that “The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them.” Boy, talk about your “Angry Face”!!!

But towards us, especially the least among us, he is the gentlest of Shepherds. If someone needs some TLC, he’s right there. He picks up his wounded lambs and “carries them close to his heart.” Any sheep “with young” would be especially vulnerable and weak and unable to keep up the pace with others. These he “gently leads.”

That’s the type of Savior we have. And guess what! That’s the type of people we need to be, especially to the least among us. Yes, we should recognize that there are dangers in overemphasizing this virtue to the exclusion of things like truth and justice. As I mentioned a few days ago, sometimes the kind thing to do is not the loving thing to do.

But as the Spirit leads us, we must imitate our Savior in gently handling wounded people. When it comes to peoples’ needs, our “rights” mean nothing. That’s who our Savior is, and that’s what we should be.

Lord Jesus, I hear you, and some changes need to be made. More specifically, I need you to change me. Change my heart to more resemble yours, please.

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