What is the meaning of biblical gentleness? The more I dive into our study of 2 Corinthians, the more excited I become to meet the Apostle Paul someday. My preconceived imagery of a strong, warrior-type leader is being transformed to see a softer side. Instead, I see a man who puts the interests of others before his own. A parent. A servant. One who meets real needs, in God’s way.
Read 2 Corinthians 10:1-2, 7-11. Paul kicks off his appeal to the Corinthians with meekness and gentleness, the complete opposite of how our flesh would respond. The Corinthians dissenters were looking for a strong, formidable, and somewhat intimidating leader that would waltz in and win crowds. Wealth. Power. Prestige. All the things the world says are important to have.
But instead, we see Paul speak in a tone of humility, full of grace, led by the Spirit, and kind. The Greek word for gentleness is prautes. It describes a condition of heart and mind – an internal attitude – that will endure injury with patience and peace of mind. Prautes, according to Aristotle, is the middle standing between two extremes: getting angry without reason and not getting angry at all. Therefore, prautes is getting angry at the right time, in the right measure, and for the right reason. It is a condition of mind and heart that demonstrates gentleness, not in weakness, but power. It is a balance born in the strength of character.
Is Gentleness Weak?
It is hard to grasp a Biblical perspective of gentleness since the English language has commonly associated it with weakness. However, to be gentle doesn’t mean to be spineless and cowardly. To be gentle doesn’t mean to be spiritless and timid. To be gentle doesn’t mean to be docile or apathetic! The Hebrew word for gentle means to be sculpted, like soft clay, in God’s hands. Submission of your life entails laying down your wants and your desires to be used in any way, shape or form that God desires.
To boil it all down, gentleness means a complete surrender to the will of God, with a spirit of humility. It means to stop fighting and rebelling towards God and surrender your all to Him. It is by God’s power that we receive and activate the fruit of gentleness, not on our own doing.
Gentleness is a spiritual quality of humility that reflects outwardly in our attitudes and dealings with people. Instead of being cruel, critical, and challenging, we choose to be considerate and caring. Instead of reacting when we’re annoyed or critiqued, we choose to be quiet. Gentleness takes time to stop, pause and focus on the cross at the forefront. Since it “loves others as yourself,” gentleness lives in complete submission to the will of God and humbly approaches others with the intent of redirecting their attention to Christ. I don’t know about you, but that’s the kind of person I want to be. Those are the kind of people I enjoy hanging around.
The meek are those who go to the Lord rather than to self-determination. They recognize their need for a Savior and are completely yielded to Him. Also, they depend on Him, they trust in Him; they commit their lives to Him, and as a result, they can rest in Him. It takes the pressure off of your back to have everything in life figured out. You can hand it over to the Lord and just rest in Him! You don’t have to have all the answers — just rest assured in the One that does! A meek and quiet spirit is so very precious to God that He says, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” Matthew 5:5 (ESV).
God Won’t Change His Mind
According to British theologian J.I. Packer, “Nobody can produce new evidence of your depravity that will make God change his mind. For God justified you with (so to speak) His eyes open. He knew the worst about you at the time when he accepted you for Jesus’ sake; and the verdict which he passed then was, and is, final.” The work has already been done. The blood of Jesus Christ covers our sins committed yesterday…and the sins we commit today and tomorrow are covered as well. Therefore, the pressure is off of us and we can rest assured in our eternal inheritance. Liberty has been granted for us to react to others with gentleness in the toughest situations.
Gentleness is a challenge to think distinctively from the world, to act in a different way than the world acts, and to turn the other cheek when the world counters. In other words, gentleness dares us to lay our lives down. Furthermore, gentleness confronts us not to grip, but to give. Gentleness is allowing the One who is meek and lowly to rule in our hearts and lives.
What does it look like to live out gentleness? Look around…who could use some right now?