If you have been following my column over the last couple of months, you will know that I am in the middle of a series on the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit. Last year we looked at goodness, kindness, perseverance and faithfulness. That leaves self-control, peace, love, joy and gentleness.
Of these remaining five, it is gentleness that intrigues me the most. Self-control, peace, love and joy are virtues that I can visualise in the Christian life. Although often easier said than done, it makes perfect sense as to what these look like. However, what does gentleness look like? I imagine holding a new-born baby, I would be gentle – but what does a gentle character look like? And how will increased gentleness positively affect the world around me?
My parents have owned a series of Golden Retrievers over the past 20 years. Retrievers are relatively big dogs that were actually bred as duck hunting assistants. When a hunter shoots a bird, the Retriever then paddles out into the water where the bird landed and retrieves the bounty. The amazing thing about this dog, is how absolutely gentle they are, although they have big jaws with big teeth, they make sure not to puncture or damage the fowl in any way. Well, I have actually never been duck hunting – with or without a Golden Retriever – so I cannot attest to this. I do however remember one of our big lolloping golden pets stealing a box of one dozen freshly purchased eggs from the kitchen table. She went running out into the garden and happily played with the dozen eggs for quite a while until she was noticed and chased down. Retrievers are just that – excellent at retrieving but not very good at giving back – so a game ensued before the eggs were safely returned to the kitchen. And do you know what? Not one egg was broken.
We look to Christ, the source of our salvation, as a symbol of strength – an overcomer. Which He is in entirety, but He is also gentle. Consider this Old Testament prophesy concerning the Messiah:
“Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.” — Isaiah 42:1-3
When Jesus began his ministry, He was just a young carpenter, with a bunch of fishermen and such as companions. He did not step into a position with an eager flock in place – in fact beforeHe began His ministry, there was not even a church in place. He came to bring peace and hope to the world and to show us the way to eternal life. So how did He get the attention of so many? How did He establish the greatest movement that the world has ever seen – a Kingdom that still advances today?
I believe that the key to his power is in His gentleness. And the power of His gentleness is in the fact that He is powerful beyond measure but chooses to reach out to the world with gentleness and meekness. We too need to recognise that we are representatives of the King of Kings, sons and daughters belonging to a Kingdom powerful beyond measure, but just like Golden Retrievers, we need to be careful never to bear down so hard that we crush others. Let us be gentle and look to Christ as an example, loving the world with truth and sincerity, careful to not let one person break.
Let your gentleness be evident to all. — Phillipians 4:5