As we near the end of our series on the Fruit of the Spirit, I have started to take note of the ways in which each of the spiritual fruit depend upon one another, working together harmoniously to bring about the behavior, perspective, and action for which God designed us in time immemorial. Love produces joy, which produces peace, which is crucial for forbearance, and so on and so forth. Gentleness, however, I find especially unique. Gentleness brings about thoughts of solitude, silence, softness and grace. Gentleness is a quality that not many people possess in the hectic world that we live in, driven as it is by production, materialism, and personal success. When people sin against us, whether in reality or merely perception, the Christian response is to turn the other cheek–a gentle response to be sure. Today, however, we see Christians in pictures gathered together not in gentleness and love but screaming and red in the face. That isn’t to say that there is nothing to be upset about, but there is a general lack of gentleness in the conduct of the self-proclaimed Christian of the modern age, and that is disappointing.
Let’s take a look at Scripture. One of the passages I used when I taught on gentleness last Wednesday was James 1:19-20, which reads, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires,” (NIV). Herein lies the secret to being a gentle Christian! The process of gentleness starts with knowing that we should be quick to listen, and that is very important. Our first reaction to anyone in any situation should always be to listen intently, hear that person out, take the time to really understand where they are coming from, what they believe and why they believe it. This is important because we cannot hope to be bearers of truth and love if all we are interested in doing is shouting our ideas louder than everyone else’s. The next step is being slow to speak. When we are face to face with someone who is testing our ability to be gentle, we need to slow down enough not to just hear and listen to what they are saying, but we also need to slow down enough to think about the best words to use to express the truth with love. We can hardly hope to bear gentleness if we are constantly spitting out the first thing that comes to mind, especially in situations where we are very possibly getting angry and worked up.
The most important part of this to understand is that, if you’re a believer, this is a command, a choice between the sin of selfishness and submitting to the Holy Spirit. As Christians, we don’t get to say that we just got caught up in the moment, that we lost our cool but hey they deserved it because they were being really nasty. No. When a Christian fails to be gentle, their job is to repent. It is that simple. Why? That’s where James 1:20 comes in. According to that verse, the reason is because “human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” It doesn’t get much more straightforward than that! Our anger cannot produce righteousness! Our anger cannot give God what He desires! We are called to be passionate, and we are called to be outspoken, but we are also called to be gentle, and we can’t afford to forget that.