Nature of Gentleness, meekness, humility
Gentleness (πραΰτης/prautēs) is a characteristic of God himself, which takes root in the Christian life and work.
As Christians living in Christian community, we should expect that we live among a gentle people. God has chosen us to live as and live among people who bear that image. As Paul noted, “Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness (πραΰτης/prautēs), and patience” (Col 3:12).
So even when Paul needed to address trouble in a church, he would say, “Now I, Paul, appeal to you with the gentleness and kindness of Christ.” He would make that appeal even when he knew the situation required tough talk (2 Cor 10:1). Or the preference for a gentle approach would lead him to ask, “Which do you choose? Should I come with a rod to punish you, or should I come with love and a gentle spirit?” (1 Cor 4:21).
Gentleness vis-a-vis the Charismata
James tells his readers, “If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility (πραΰτης/prautēs) that comes from wisdom” (Jas 3:13). This bears very directly on the helping works, but the same mentality should accompany how we exercise any of the charismata.
Gentle Apologetic and Evangelism
Paul say, “Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth” (2 Tim 2:25). For similar reasons, he describes a gentle lifestyle in civic relations: “Remind the believers to submit to the government and its officers. They should be obedient, always ready to do what is good. They must not slander anyone and must avoid quarreling. Instead, they should be gentle and show true humility (πραΰτης/prautēs) to everyone” (Titus 3:1–2). This is the same kind of attitude that Peter connected with apologetics:
Now, who will want to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats. Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle (πραΰτης/prautēs) and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ. Remember, it is better to suffer for doing good, if that is what God wants, than to suffer for doing wrong! (1 Pet 3:13–17)
So those who exercise speaking gifts should do so in a gentle (πραΰτης/prautēs) manner, whether evangelizing, preaching, delivering a word of wisdom or knowledge, or even prophesying. Pauls says, “Always be humble and gentle (πραΰτης/prautēs). Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love” (Eph 4:2).
Work of Restoration
This includes how we relate to the wandering believer. I’m afraid that the church too often responds to wandering sheep with either indifferent silence or aggressive rebuke. But just after listing the fruit of the Spirit, Paul says. “Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently (πραΰτης/prautēs) and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself” (Gal 6:1).
A prayer for gentleness…
Father, since you chose us to be the holy people he loves, help us embody gentleness, to be gentle with everyone, to exercise the serving gifts with the humility that comes from wisdom. When I argue theology, help me to stay humble and argue gently.
I ask this in Jesus’s name and for the sake of his glory. Amen.
- If you’re a pastor, do you think members of your congregation would say you’re gentle? Why?
- If you wore a wire in your casket, do you think it would pick up the words of many saying, “… such a gentle person”?