The following conversation is built upon The Meeting House’s series The Look of Love. Have a watch of Bruxy’s talk in the video below and read the conversation starter before jumping into a conversation in your own house church.
The Look of Love – Counter-Cultural Fruit
The fruit of the Spirit is something that we are to pursue and something that God does within us at the same time. For those of us who claim to follow Jesus, such fruit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control) should be the result of a spirit-filled life, a life dedicated to living the way of Jesus. So as much as some may claim to be a Christian, the way to be sure isn’t some correct doctrinal statement but rather it is the various expressions of love that we ultimately see embodied in Jesus. And this week it’s time to look at the counter-cultural fruit of ‘gentleness’.
Bruxy begins by pointing out that gentleness and meekness is the same Greek word in the New Testament text. The word is ‘prautes’ which means power that is restrained, tamed, trained, disciplined, made friendly, useful in service. Such gentleness has a kind of soothing quality which calms another’s anger. So a gentle person responds to another individual with a powerful calm. According to Aristotle (On Virtues and Vices), the famous ancient Greek philosopher, prautes is…
the ability to bear reproaches and slights with moderation, and not to embark on revenge quickly, and not to be easily provoked to anger, but to be free from bitterness and contentiousness, having tranquillity and stability in the spirit.
It’s important to note that there are a few things that gentleness is not. Gentleness is not for women only. The list in Galatians is for all believers, not just women. It’s important that we don’t buy into the feminisation of godliness, by assuming gentleness is a feminine quality and there is a macho-masculine version of spirituality. Gentleness is not passivity. Any expression of love cannot be passive, love always initiates. , Gentleness doesn’t mean not engaging, not being mean, sitting off into the corner, ignoring other people. You can’t embody gentleness until you offer your strength and power to others in the hope of them being better. Lastly, gentleness is not weakness.Meekness is not weakness, but strength that serves. Gentleness always builds trust. It is power under control. It is a fortitude that asks ‘how can I meet your needs?’
Gentleness as an Expression of Love
It’s really important to remember that gentleness is an expression of love. The love that fulfills the law is the same love that is the fruit of the spirit and against such things there is no law. You don’t need the law if you’re living love. Bruxy’s suggests that the entire focus of New Testament spirituality is this kind of love that seeks to restore and heal someone else’s brokenness. When you follow laws, you can abstain from doing bad things, but it doesn’t mean you’re doing good or loving, and you need laws about laws about laws. The one law of love becomes the anti-law way. We are guided by the Spirit as we look to Jesus to discern the question: what does love look like in every situation? Gentleness is then taking our strength into the avalanche, destruction and brokenness of another’s life and adding your strength to their restoration and healing. This is what spiritual maturity means. Don’t wait for these people to find you, seek them out. They push themselves to the margins and shame takes a grip of them. Those who are spiritually mature will lend their strength to the broken – this is gentleness in action.
Gentleness Towards Opponents
Gentleness should be something we practice to everyone, especially our opponents. People may want to attack you, shame you, bite you, but to follow Jesus and enact the fruit of the Spirit is to act gently in return. It’s not just the content of your answer or your beliefs, it is how you respond that is speaking truth. The truth of the character of Christ is seen in every action. This is what God wants to do in us, he wants us to partner with him in creating us to be a person that is gentle even towards our enemies. Bruxy goes on to point out that preachers of the way of Jesus should do with gentleness. We have all seen angry and mad preaching, but this doesn’t represent the character of Jesus. Every Christian teacher is teaching in two ways at once: 1) with their words and 2) with their actions – how they are talking about what they are talking about. To be angry doesn’t mean that you’re holy. A zeal and passion for a topic can communicate anger and judgmentalism, but kindness should be our way of operating whenever we are interacting with others.
Counter Cultural Gentleness
To embrace gentleness we need to be committed to being counter-cultural. Our heroes in the West are not gentle. They are heroes because they’ve accomplished something else. Gentleness is not celebrated. If you flick through a range of faces on top magazines, what is it that those faces are being celebrated for? Do any of them represent gentleness? Are any of them famous or known for their gentleness? As a Jesus-following community we need to be a counter-culture that celebrates gentleness, celebrates the offering of our strength to serve others.
Gentleness and Jesus
And ultimately the humility and gentleness of Jesus is to be our prime example. Humility is to set oneself at a lower station. To serve from below, rather than look down from above. it is the perfect complement to gentleness. A humble gentleness says I take my strength to serve others from below. This kind of gentleness gives us rest from the guilt and avalanche of our shame. This is the embodiment of the way of Jesus, a way with a light burden and an easy yoke.
When I look at the clues that indicate the nature of Jesus – born in a barn, questionable parents, spotty ancestry, common name, owning nothing, and dying a shameful death – I find his whole approach unable to fit into the methods that automatically come to mind when I think about “winning the world.” His whole approach could easily be described as non-threatening or non-manipulative. He seemed to lead with weakness in each step of life. He had nothing in the world and everything in God and the Spirit. ― Gayle D. Erwin, The Jesus Style
Conversation Starter Questions
Take time to review and talk about Sunday’s sermon. Any “ah hah” moments? Any lingering questions? 2. Who in your life has mentored or inspired you in the area of gentleness?
Read Galatians 5:22-6:2.
What verse or idea stands out to you? Why?
Paul may refer to us being “caught” by other people who find out about our sin or to the sin itself catching and overpowering us. Have you ever felt like some sin itself had overtaken you? Have you ever been caught by others doing something you knew you shouldn’t do? What do you think you needed most from others in those times?
Why do you think a “spirit of gentleness” is so important in the restoration process when someone is caught in sin?
What is “the Law of Christ”? (Also see 5:24; John 13:34-35, 15:12-13; James 2:8.)
How are you doing at living according to the Law of Christ?
What has the Holy Spirit been saying to you about gentleness, being caught in sin, and/or restoration?
Is there any sin currently overtaking you that you need help and accountability and gentle restoration with?
Since God has first loved us, love is now no longer a mere “command”; it is our response to his gift of love. — Pope Benedict XVI, God is Love
The gentle person has a sweet spirit toward God, others, and the daily frustrations of life. He or she is not prone to anger, but humble, sweet, and mild. — Philip Graham Ryken, Reformed expository Commentary
The biblical word for gentleness means the opposite of angry harshness. A gentle person won’t move through life like a bull in a china shop. — Randy Frazee, Think Act Believe Like Jesus
Oh! that gentleness! how far more potent is it than force! — Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre
In our age of guided missiles and misguided men there is a desperate need for us to learn how to share gentleness. — Charles R. Hembree, The Fruits of the Spirit
It’s the hard things that break; soft things don’t break. You can waste so many years of your life trying to become something hard in order not to break; but it’s the soft things that can’t break! The hard things are the ones that shatter into a million pieces! — C. Joybell C., Poet
Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the gentleness that comes from wisdom. — James the Brother of Jesus, James 3:13
Let your gentleness be evident to all. — The Apostle Paul, Philippians 4:5
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. — Jesus, Matthew 5:5
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your soul – Jesus