In this article, we will continue our study of Galatians 5:22 and look at the fruit of the Spirit: gentleness. So, grab your Bible, and let’s dive in…
What do you think of when you think of gentleness?
Gentleness is often confused with weakness. Gentleness as a fruit of the Spirit is a far cry from showing weakness. Rather it takes strength of character and a knowledge of who you are in Christ to turn the other cheek or pray for an adversary.
You must have heard someone being called a gentle giant at some point. The expression usually refers to a big tough guy who could easily show his muscle but is kind and soft-spoken instead.
I think this happens because those who know just how strong they are, do not need to prove their strength to anyone. They take care not to scare or hurt anyone accidentally.
In contrast, if you corner a scared kitten, it will puff itself up and fight fiercely. It will bear its claws and teeth. It will hiss and scratch. I remember walking into an old barn wear some wild cats had kittens. Those guys were tiny and vicious.
I take from this that power and inner strength allow us to exhibit gentleness and kindness. Unlike how it may appear on the surface, gentleness is not the same as weakness.
Gentleness is a product of strength that is expressed in kindness.
The Greek Meaning Of The Fruit Of The Spirit: Gentleness
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. – Galatians 5:22-23 NKJV
When trying better to understand gentleness as an attribute to the fruit of the Spirit, we find as many as nine Greek words to describe this characteristic.
Gentleness is described as moral goodness and integrity, being fit for use and virtuous, fairness, equitable, meekness, being gentle of spirit, and having a mild disposition.
ἐπιείκειαepieíkeia, ep-ee-i’-ki-ah; from G1933; suitableness, i.e. (by implication) equity, mildness:—clemency, gentleness.
In our fast-paced society, these do not seem like very common attributes nor attributes to be desired as they look weak in many people’s eyes.
In the business world, you would think that a tough approach is needed to succeed or get ahead, yet the Bible tells us that we are only in this world and not of this world.
As such, we should do things differently from the way others do. The Bible teaches that even when it seems foolish, God uses weak things to confound that which is mighty.
But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, 29 that no flesh should glory in His presence. – 1 Corinthians 1:27-29 NKJV
Gentleness is one of those attributes that may seem like a weakness, but gentleness is, in fact, a powerful characteristic.
Fear and insecurity often present as anger, selfishness, and self-righteousness. Regardless of these strong emotions, God tells us that a quiet answer turns away wrath.
Examples of Gentleness In The Bible
Examples of gentleness in the Bible is a little tricky to find as love, kindness, and goodness all share similarities and seem to work together. Usually when you are kind you are also gentle… So, I did my best to give you some examples below. We will expand on other examples as we go through this article.
- Jesus’ interaction with the woman caught in adultery:
When a group of men brought a woman caught in the act of adultery to Jesus and asked what they should do with her, Jesus responded with gentleness and compassion. Instead of condemning her, he said, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:1-11) Jesus showed gentleness by not shaming or humiliating the woman, but instead offering her forgiveness and a chance to start anew.
- David’s treatment of Mephibosheth:
After becoming king of Israel, David sought out any surviving relatives of his friend Jonathan to show them kindness. When he found Mephibosheth, the crippled son of Jonathan, David took him into his palace and treated him like his own son. (2 Samuel 9:1-13) David showed gentleness by extending mercy and kindness to someone who was in a vulnerable position and couldn’t reciprocate his kindness.
- Paul’s letters to the Corinthians:
In his letters to the Corinthian church, Paul showed gentleness by balancing correction and rebuke with love and encouragement. Even though he had to address some serious issues in the church, he wrote with gentleness and compassion, urging them to repent and reconcile with one another. (2 Corinthians 2:1-11; 7:8-16) Paul showed gentleness by recognizing the humanity of the Corinthians and approaching them with empathy and understanding.
- Jesus’ healing of the leper:
When a man with leprosy approached Jesus and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean,” Jesus responded with gentleness and touched the man, saying, “I am willing. Be clean!” (Matthew 8:2-3) Jesus showed gentleness by not recoiling from the man’s illness or ostracizing him, but instead healing him and restoring him to health and community.
- Abraham’s plea for Sodom:
When God revealed to Abraham that he planned to destroy the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham interceded on behalf of the people, pleading with God to spare them if there were even a few righteous people among them. (Genesis 18:16-33) Abraham showed compassion and gentleness by caring about the lives and well-being of people who were not even related to him, and by appealing to God’s mercy and justice.
- Jesus’ welcoming of children:
When people brought their children to Jesus to be blessed, the disciples rebuked them and tried to send them away. But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:13-15) Jesus showed gentleness by valuing and affirming the dignity of children, who were often overlooked and dismissed in his culture.
How Did Jesus Exhibit Gentleness?
On a number of occasions, Jesus showed gentle compassion in mighty and miraculous actions. We read in Luke 7:11-17 how Jesus is compassionate because a widow has lost her only son.
He knows the impact this has on her financially. The widow would be forced to live on alms in addition to the agony and heartbreak caused by her son’s death.
Jesus did not make a big commotion and draw attention to Himself. His tone is gentle when he tells the widow not to weep. Jesus had all authority over life and sickness on earth. Jesus could have commanded death and sickness to leave the young man’s body, but the Bible tells us He simply told the young man to arise. This tender and compassionate action left those who witnessed the miracle in awe.
Jesus shows us that gentleness considers other people. Jesus saw pain and brokenness in the widow, and He employed His power to gently restore her life and her son’s health.
We also see how Jesus gently but powerfully rebukes a crowd when a woman caught in an adulterous act in John 8.
She is brought to Him for judgment. Jesus did not get self-righteous or point out all the different legal aspects of the situation. In fact, Jesus did not respond verbally for a while, and the crowd had to ask Him again what His verdict was.
Jesus simply called for self-evaluation before condemning another. Jesus showed gentleness and compassion in contrast to the crowd’s desire for revenge and self-righteousness. According to the law, they were correct in their assessment.
The woman was guilty. What Jesus pointed out was that no one could uphold the law. Jesus did not condone her sin but showed compassion and forgiveness for the sinner.
This gentle response to sin reflects God’s response to us through the ages. God cannot abide sin, yet He has not wiped us from the earth despite our sinfulness.
We deserve judgment and punishment, yet God sent Jesus to pay the ultimate price to set us free. God desires that we reflect His nature by being gentle toward others too.
I remember I once heard someone say I rather have be in the hands of God to be judged than the hand of man to be judged. Yes, God is fair, just and will honor truth, but He is also gentle, kind, merciful, and full of love.
Does King David Teach Us About Gentleness?
In 1 Samuel 16:1-13 we read one of my favorite parts in David’s life. It’s about the first time Samuel went to anoint David as the next king. Samuel saw David’s older brothers with impressive statures, and they seemed like obvious choices to be anointed as the next king of Israel. God tells Samuel that He looks at man’s heart rather than outward appearance.
7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” – 1 Samuel 16:7 AMP
David was brave and courageous in the face of danger, but that did not make him loud and boastful. He had many opportunities to kill Saul, yet he showed integrity by not acting hastily.
One definition of gentleness shows that it makes us fit for use and manageable. God was able to use David because he was not hot-headed.
David tenderly cared for and protected his family’s sheep even after being anointed king. Jesus refers to himself as the Good Shepherd who will leave no stone unturned to bring each sheep into the fold.
David built a relationship with God and spent many hours praising God, yet he was also a mighty warrior.
Psalm 18 talks about David in battle and describes the Lord’s assistance. Despite all the mighty works and feats mentioned in this psalm, David states in verse 35 that God’s gentleness has made him great. David recognized that gentleness was powerful.
He trains my hands for war,
So that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
You have also given me the shield of Your salvation,
And Your right hand upholds and sustains me;
Your gentleness [Your gracious response when I pray] makes me great. – Psa 18:34-35
The Fruit Of Gentleness At Work In Paul
Paul had every reason to be impatient and angry with his captors, yet most of his letters addressed to the new believers of the New Testament teach the importance of developing the gentleness in their lives. He also knew that gentleness was perfected through the Holy Spirit’s work within each person.
Very few images show tenderness like that of a mother with a young nursing child. This is the image Paul uses regarding his feelings toward the Thessalonian church. He did not only pay lip service when it came to the fruit of the Spirit. Paul applied all his teachings to his own life as well.
Paul knew that there were many misconceptions about God. To teach new believers about God, he needed to show them His nature lived out in his life. Many had only heard about God’s punishment of those nations who opposed God’s chosen people. Paul had to show them the side of God as described in Isaiah 40:11, a God who gently leads His flock and carries the lambs.
He will protect His flock like a shepherd,
He will gather the lambs in His arm,
He will carry them in His bosom;
He will gently and carefully lead those nursing their young. – Isaiah 40:11
Paul also instructs Timothy to teach everyone gently, even those who oppose him. We learn from his instructions to Timothy why growing the fruit of gentleness in our lives is so important. (2 Ti 2:25-26)
We may be the only example of God’s nature for people to see today. We are heavenly ambassadors on earth. Harsh words could prevent people from ever getting to know God.
In his letter to the Ephesians, we learn that being gentle-natured helps to keep unity among believers. Gentleness then aids other fruit like peace and patience to further the Kingdom’s message on earth. We are responsible for growing into mature, fruit-bearing believers to shine God’s nature through us.
The fruit of the Spirit of gentleness is a big lesson to learn. As children of God, we have His Spirit inside of us. In Isaiah 11:2, we read about the various aspects of God’s Spirit. As born-again believers, we can be led by God’s Spirit of wisdom, counsel, understanding, knowledge, might, and the fear of the LORD. Jesus exhibited all of God’s attributes in human form.
While Jesus had God’s might available, He showed His might in gentleness. That is what the fruit of the Spirit of gentleness requires from us.
We need the help of the Holy Spirit to develop fruit without spots or bad patches. We need each attribute described as fruit to take God’s message of love into the world with each interaction of our everyday lives. We must not underestimate the power of the fruit of gentleness. It is the true loving nature of our heavenly Father, and it draws those in need of Him when we walk in gentleness.
More On The Fruit Of The Spirit
Are you ready to start seeing the attributes of the fruit of the Spirit more clearly in your life and cultivate them in your heart? We looked at gentleness but peek below for other attributes of the fruit of the Spirit. Discover what it looks like to incorporate joy, peace, patience, goodness, faithfulness, and kindness into your day-to-day life.
Melissa is a passionate minister, speaker and an ongoing learner of the Bible. She has been involved in church and vocational ministry for over 18 years. And is the founder of Think About Such Things. She has the heart to equip the saints by helping them get into the Word of God and fall more in love with Jesus. She also enjoys family, cooking, and reading.
She has spoken in churches in California, Oregon, Texas, and Mexico and has been featured in Guidepost Magazine and All Recipes Magazine. Read More…