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  • Writer's pictureJim Hays

A Spirit of Gentleness

“As for you, O man of God, pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, and gentleness” (1 Timothy 6:11).

On Sunday, I told Bob and Ellen Jewell that I was going to talk about them this week. When I think about gentleness, I picture Bob and Ellen. Wouldn’t you agree? Every birthday and every anniversary, Bob has painted Deb and me a watercolor card. Beautiful! No offense, but after so much time has passed, I put my old birthday cards in the big circular filing cabinet under the kitchen sink. But not Bob’s! I collect those and rotate them on the coffee table.

Ellen walked up to me Sunday, put a $20 bill in my hand, and said, “I want you to know how much I appreciate you and Deborah.” I took the twenty. (Ellen, our children’s ministry is thankful for your donation.)

Sweet, sweet people. I think of Lula Baker, Kevin Fraser, Campbell Key, and so many others—people who are easy to take. Reasonable. Considerate. Gentle.

In Philippians 4, Paul exhorts us, “Let your gentleness be known to all.”

Why, Paul?

“Because the Lord is near.”

The coming of Jesus is close—getting closer by the second. Tick. Tick. Tick. People need to see Jesus. And one of the best ways for them to see Him is to see a gentle spirit in you… especially in times like this.

We are fruit trees, according to Jesus. We are to bear good fruit! Love, joy, peace! And gentleness.

The most gentle person who ever lived was Jesus. And He knew He was gentle! In Matthew 11, He says, “Let me teach you who I am. My yoke is easy and my burden is light. All you anxious people, come to me! I am gentle and lowly in heart. And you will find rest for your weary soul.”

Where does spiritual fruit come from? It is cultivated by the indwelling Spirit of Christ. I think that’s one reason a lot of the people I mentioned earlier are a little bit up in years. It takes a while to cultivate gentleness.

Moses killed an Egyptian. Not very gentle. But after 40 years tending sheep in the land of Midian, he has been shaped by God to become the gentlest man on the face of the earth (Numbers 12:3). Gentleness takes a while.

I don’t think I’m very gentle. I know for a fact that some people find me abrasive because they’ve told me so. At times, I even irritate myself. I want to be gentler. I really do. But gentleness is hard. At least it is for me.

To become gentler I do not need to try harder, but try humbler. Gentleness is spiritual fruit. It makes Paul’s list in Galatians 5. Sure, it’s next-to-last on the list, but that doesn’t lessen its importance.

I must surrender myself to the work of the Spirit. I must yield as He shapes my heart to look more like Jesus’ heart. In time, my hope is that gentleness, goodness, peace, kindness, and all the rest will come as natural to me as drawing breath.

Until then, I beg your patience. In the words of Alan Jackson, “I’m a work in progress.”

“The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere” (James 3:17).

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