He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young.
(Isaiah 40:11 NKJV)
One of the fruits of the Spirit, listed in the epistle to the Galatians (5:22), is gentleness, also rendered in Italian as sweetness or goodness, and which the prophet Isaiah attributes to God in guiding the people, revealing to us a fundamental aspect of care. Yet I understand that when we try to live according to the directions of God's Word, we ask for more humility, much patience, more self-control, but we almost never pray to become gentle. I thought I would reflect on this as an essential part of the Christian life. Whenever we show kindness, we have the opportunity to leave a positive mark on those around us and show His love to a suffering world. To cultivate kindness, we can be inspired by Jesus, who showed kindness to everyone He met, even (and especially) to those rejected and despised. Embodying the fruit of kindness in our interactions will make a difference in the lives of those around us and bring glory to God. Kindness is a force to be used. Mistakenly, some consider it a sign of weakness; better to be rigid and unyielding. Instead, we all know, changing a wrong opinion requires persuasion and gentleness instead of authority or intimidation.
In the New Testament, two Greek words denote gentleness. The first is epieikeia; it refers to a type of caring mentality, precisely that of the shepherd tending the flock. It denotes the characteristic of seeking peace in a calm manner. The second is praotēs, the one the apostle Paul uses in listing the fruit of the Spirit. This would be a word taken from the world of medicine to make the idea of a light, easily digested remedy for the stomach. We usually resemble gentleness to meekness because of translations: some even render it as "longsuffering" or "slowness to wrath"; but there are substantial differences. Kindness describes how we treat others; while meekness indicates how we respond when others treat us badly. Mildness is meekness, controlled strength, which includes the ability to endure rebuke and rudeness without resentment. Kindness is an activity that demonstrates goodness and courtesy to others by treating people in a gentle manner that indicates thoughtfulness and interest in them. In fact, the apostle Paul writes, "Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted" (Galatians 6:1). The CEI version says "correct him with gentleness." A "gentle" leader cares for others, actively seeking to make them feel comfortable or relaxed in our presence, treating them as we would like to be treated, with love, respect and gentleness.
We always remember that words can hurt others, humiliate or discourage them or help, encourage and influence them for good. It depends on the use. It manifests itself mainly through words and sensitive ways, never abrupt and instinctive. Well did the Knower know: "A soft answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger" (Proverbs 15:1); "By long forbearance a ruler is persuaded, and a gentle tongue breaks a bone" (Proverbs 25:15). Even when correction or discipline is needed, it can be done in a loving and encouraging way. Kindness is respectful, courteous, considerate, and makes people feel loved and cared for, because it shows respect for the personal dignity of others without ever overstepping or imposing anything. Paul reminded the young disciple, "And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth" (2 Timothy 2:24-25). Even when threatened, gentleness seeks to instruct with gentleness, asking God to dissolve opposition. It does not dishonor or humiliate others or gossip. If someone needs guidance or correction, he will seek to do so in a gentle way. How much we need this fruit..., and the Spirit gives it. Let us ask for it!
Weekly Bible Reading Plan #48
November 20, Ezekiel 14-15; James 2
November 21, Ezekiel 16-17; James 3
November 22, Ezekiel 18-19; James 4
November 23, Ezekiel 20-21; James 5
November 24, Ezekiel 22-23; 1 Peter 1
November 25, Ezekiel 24-26; 1 Peter 2
November 26 Ezekiel 27-29; 1 Peter 3