The Fruit of the Spirit (Part 8)

The Fruit of the Spirit (Part 8) John Guzzetta

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit (Galatians 5:23-25).

The KJV translates this word as “meekness.” Even the term “gentleness” tends to give us the impression of timidity. A quiet person who is too shy to speak up in large groups. A little woman too timid to say ‘no’ to the vacuum cleaner salesman. In the modern English dictionary on my shelf, the term “meek” is defined as “lacking backbone.”

But this is not the idea. Meekness does not equal weakness! It is not cowardice. In fact, there is far greater strength in meekness than there is in aggressive machoism!

The Greek word is prautes, which is used in different forms just 16 times in the New Testament. The Greeks of Paul’s day used the term to describe things which have a certain soothing quality. In people, it describes a gentleness of conduct, especially on the part of people who have the power to act aggressively.

It is often used to describe a prince who has the power to punish his subjects, but rather chooses to show forgiveness. It is used to describe a politician who absorbs unkind remarks without losing his temper. Aristotle in his famous Nicomachean Ethics says: “Being gentle means to be unruffled and not to be driven by emotion, but to be angry only under such circumstances and for as long a time as reason may bid.”

It is used of a powerful draft horse being led by the reigns. Let’s imagine the horse was pulling a two-ton load up a slope, and probably could have kicked the handler into next week. But the horse’s power was controlled by the handler. Gentleness is power under control!

Moses is one example of a Bible character who exemplifies gentleness. When Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses and challenged his leadership of the people, Numbers 12:3 reminds us that, “Moses was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth.” Moses did not lash out at them, but let God handle the situation. And when God punished them, Moses prayed for their restoration. But Moses wasn’t a pushover. In Exodus 32, he came down from the mountain and saw the people worshiping the golden calf. “Moses anger burned, and he threw the tablets from his hands and shattered them.” And he ordered the execution of those who continued to worship the golden calf, some 3,000 men.

Jesus perfectly exemplifies this virtue. Jesus says He is meek (Matthew 11:28-30; 21:5; 2 Corinthians 10:1). At His trial He was like a silent sheep (Matthew 27:12-14). But it was not due to lack of strength. His powerful strength had been displayed when He rebuked the Pharisees (Matthew 23:13) and chased away the moneychangers (John 2:14-17). What made Jesus mad was not an insult against Himself, but an insult against His God.

Jesus showed the greatest strength of character of any man alive upon the cross: before the mob (Luke 22:49-51); before Herod (Luke 23:8-11); before the Jews (Matt. 26:63); and before the Romans (Matt. 27:27-31; Luke 23:34).

It is ironic that Mel Gibson produced and directed a movie about the crucifixion of Christ. Mel Gibson has made a living playing the role of aggressive, violent, powerful men. Mad Max in the road warrior movies, Martin Riggs in the Lethal Weapon movies, William Wallace in Braveheart. In each movie, through violence and grit, Mel’s character refuses to be insulted and wronged and defeated. He shoots and kicks and slashes and punches his way through his enemies to victory. But in Mel’s Passion of the Christ, he portrays a gentle Man whose enemies successfully tried Him on false evidence, beat him, mocked him, and killed him. Yet, of all the characters Mel Gibson has done, Jesus Christ is undoubtedly the strongest. For Jesus had the power to call legions of angels and destroy the world and set Him free (Matthew 26:51-53). Again, gentleness is power under control.

We have much to learn here. Gentleness is not an automatic virtue. It must be “pursued” (1 Timothy 6:11), cultivated through practice. Gentleness is the ability to endure injury with patience and humility. We must show gentleness in daily conduct. “Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom” (James 3:13). This is even true when wronged by a brother. “Walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:2).

When we are must approach brethren who are in error, it must be with gentleness. “You who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted” (Galatians 6:1; cf. 2 Timothy 2:24– 25). We must answer skeptics with gentleness. “Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence” (1 Peter 3:15). These can happen only after we ourselves have received the word of God with gentleness (James 1:21).

Being meek isn’t going to get you anywhere in this world. But there is a God in heaven who sees. And He will reward and exalt gentle behavior (1 Peter 3:4; Matthew 5:5).