Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.

Philippians 4:5

Let’s continue to look at the fruit that we bear when we abide in Jesus. Jesus assures us (in John 15) that he is the vine and we are the branches. And when we stay attached to Jesus, we will naturally bear his fruit. What is that fruit? Paul identifies this fruit in Galatians 5, in a list that he calls “the fruit of the Spirit.” They are: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” These are qualities of a spiritual life that naturally occur when we abide in Jesus. I have looked at seven of these so far: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and faithfulness. Now let’s look at the eighth: gentleness. 

“Gentleness” is translated in the King James Version and others as “meekness.” Both are good translations, but whichever you choose, it won’t be popular in our world today. Neither gentleness nor meekness are celebrated in our world, or rewarded. Which raises the obvious question: Why is this considered so important to Paul? Why is it a fruit of the Spirit? And the answer is surprisingly simple: It is important to Paul because it is important to Jesus. Jesus names it as one of his eight beatitudes in Matthew: “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5). And Jesus describes himself as meek later in the same gospel: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle (meek) and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29). 

My favorite image for the meekness that Jesus teaches and demonstrates is from a poem by Mary Karr, “Who the Meek Are Not.” (From her collection of poetry, “Sinners Welcome.”) To understand this meekness, Karr writes, “picture a great stallion at full gallop in a meadow, who—at his master’s voice— seizes up to a stunned but instant halt. So with the strain of holding that great power in check, the muscles along the arched neck keep eddying, and only the velvet ears prick forward, awaiting the next order.” That is the meekness that Jesus teaches and demonstrates! There is nothing gentle about it, in the eyes of the world. It is as powerful as a great stallion. And as powerful as the Son of God, who blesses the meek, and who invites us to show others the same gentleness and meekness that he shows us. 

So, how do we become this meek? By trusting in God. As Paul reminds us in Philippians (4:5), we can “let our gentleness be known to everyone” because we trust that “the Lord is near.” When we truly believe this, and trust that God is in control of this world, we can be gentle and meek. We don’t have to always get our way. We don’t have to always be in control. We simply trust God, and await the next order from on high. We remain gentle and humble in heart, just like Jesus, and discover the hidden strength that is found in this approach to life. No wonder Jesus blesses the meek! And no wonder Paul invites us to let our gentleness be known to everyone! Doing this is simply one more way to show the world that the Lord is near. Thanks be to God!

2 thoughts on “Bearing the Fruit of the Spirit: Gentleness

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