God’s Word explores many characteristics that the Lord both displays and looks for in His People. One of the most profound of these is gentleness.
In our modern culture that places so much emphasis on personal achievement and success, gentleness is often dismissed. In fact, many see this other-focused trait as a weakness. But for believers, having a gentle spirit actually shows great strength of character.
The Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the young church leader Timothy that gentleness was a qualification of anyone who wants to disciple others and help their fellow Christians to grow stronger in their faith.
“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth…” (2 Timothy 2:24-25).
As believers today, we are still called to grow in this area.
What Is Gentleness?
The quality of gentleness is so much richer than most people think, partly because it can be expressed in so many ways.
According to Merriam-Webster gentle means, “free from harshness, sternness or violence; honorable, distinguished” or even, “chivalrous.” Interestingly, using it as a verb (to gentle) is to “tame, or to raise from commonality.” That implies giving others respect and consideration – helping them become better.
Synonyms include compassion, consideration, softness, tenderness, mercy, peace, sympathy, politeness, and gentility. All of these describe a heart that longs to minister to others. But for it to have the full effect, we need to remember that serving and pleasing God is our motivation.
In Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary, gentleness is “sensitivity of disposition and kindness of behavior, founded on strength and prompted by love.” This beautifully describes how God uses His power on behalf of those who obey Him. And Jesus modeled the same for us during His Earthly ministry.
Names of God That Imply His Gentleness
Looking at how our Heavenly Father is described throughout both the Old and New Testaments starts to give us a sense that this attribute is active, passionate and impactful to those who receive it.
Jehovah Rapha (The Lord who Heals)
“Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits — who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases…” (Psalm 103:2-3).
Jehovah-Raah (The Lord my Shepherd)
“Hear the word of the Lord, you nations; proclaim it in distant coastlands: ‘He who scattered Israel will gather them and will watch over his flock like a shepherd’” (Jeremiah 31:10).
Jehovah Shammah (The Lord is There)
“The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17).
“’I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters,’ says the Lord Almighty” (2 Corinthians 6:18).
“Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father’” (Galatians 4:6).
“‘Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?’” (Matthew 6:26).
Each one of these names reminds us of how deep and wide God’s love is, and the power of His gentle spirit.
What the Scriptures Say about Gentleness
In the Old Testament books, there are many passages that talk about the gentleness of God.
“He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young” (Isaiah 40:11).
“Are God’s consolations not enough for you, words spoken gently to you?” (Job 15:11).
“After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper” (1 Kings 19:12).
God reached down to rescue, to comfort, to provide and to guide mankind to become part of His family. And in the New Testament Gospels, Jesus walked the Earth and showed us what this gentleness looked like.
“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” (Matthew 11:29).
“Say to Daughter Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey’” (Matthew 21:5).
“But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked” (Luke 6:35).
Jesus was filled with compassion for people who needed all kinds of healing. And He reached out to those who were unbelievers with an invitation for them to walk with Him.
In their teachings and letters, the Apostles tried to express gentleness and to train the early Christians how to walk in it.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).
“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:1-2).
“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” (1 Peter 3:3-4).
Paul, Peter, James and the other Apostles made an effort to instruct their readers about the power of grace to grow Christ’s church.
How to Grow in Gentleness
To appreciate the importance of gentleness, we must develop it in ourselves and then show it to others. Doing an honest personal inventory will help us see which aspects of gentleness we already think about, and where there is room for growth. God’s Word is our guide, and His touch will begin to change us:
– We can examine how the early church cared for others
– We can study the “one another” verses
– We can pray for God to soften our hearts toward others
– We can explore ways to actively reach out to others
Soon, showing gentleness in our daily lives will become a natural thing. And the most basic of interactions can have a big impact when motivated by Godly love.
– Offering a listening ear to someone who’s struggling.
– Giving a smile to someone we pass by when we’re out and about.
– Using words that show respect to someone we’re talking to.
– Being a calming presence when someone is angry or upset.
– Seeking the best for someone else first.
When we look at gentleness the way God does, we’ll see its value. His Son Jesus walked through the world with this wonderful trait, and we need to follow in His footsteps.
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Sasiistock
Heather Adams is an author, speaker, and singer living in Connecticut. Heather’s passion is to equip and encourage believers to seek more of God’s truth and to experience more of His joy each day. Her book, Bow Down: The Heart of a True Worshipper is a practical, 30-day devotional about worship based on the writings of King David. Heather’s blog, Worship Walk Ministries, offers weekly Scripture passages and insights to ponder. A native New Englander, Heather is settling into her home in the South, trying out local foods and watching for the alligators that live nearby!