In a couple previous posts (here and here), I’ve touched on aspects of the fruit of the Holy Spirit. While writing, I kind of hit a speed bump though with this particular one: gentleness (meekness, humility). As from the Amplified version of Paul’s letter to the Galatians:
Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the [Holy] Spirit [the work which His presence within accomplishes] is love, joy (gladness), peace, patience (an even temper, forbearance), kindness, goodness (benevolence), faithfulness, 23 gentleness (meekness, humility), self-control (self-restraint, continence). Against such things there is no law [that can bring a charge].
Let’s first deal with some definitions:
Gentleness: the quality or state of being gentle; especially: mildness of manners or disposition.
Meekness: enduring injury with patience and without resentment: deficient in spirit and courage: submissive: not violent or strong.
Humility: the quality or state of being humble: not proud or haughty : not arrogant or assertive: reflecting, expressing, or offered in a spirit of deference or submission.
“[Mild] of manners or disposition”, “deficient in spirit and courage”, “. . . offered in a spirit of deference or submission”? Total honesty here, but that’s not exactly how I would want myself described. How about you? I mean, I’m a guy after all, I have this certain, macho, roguish image to uphold.
(Somewhere, my wife is snorting coffee through her nose in hysterics . . . but I digress.)
Could that really be who God intends for his followers to be? Is this what we, as being like Christ, are to show to the world? Are these attributes in any way appealing to anyone to want to give their lives over and pursue?
In this day and age?
Do you equate “gentleness, meekness and humility” with “weakness, softness and frailty”? In being humble, are we also being . . . wimpy?
Something’s got to be missing here. The fruits of the Spirit are supposed to be advantageous to us; desirable; things we can rest in; finding comfort and assurance.
How does weakness play into our commission to “go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teaching [them] to obey all the commands I have given you.”? If God’s desire is to have us in relationship with Himself, and with others, why would we want to come across as wimpy, or frail? What does that even look like?
Or could I be wrong?
Could there be more: A sideways way of looking at gentleness, meekness and being humble without appearing weak, soft or wimpy?
Being gentle, mild of manners or disposition . . . wouldn’t that be helpful in dealing with those that are far from God? How about with your own family? Or someone who has been tripped up in sin, or has become lost in their walk, or confused, or questioning?
Enduring injury with patience and without resentment . . . could that be beneficial? Especially in enduring “injury” to your own self-esteem; possibly when God rebukes you for pride or arrogance (a lack of humility)?
A spirit of deference or submission . . . could that be an advantage? Especially in admitting when you’re wrong, or when someone believes differently than you, but has very valid and rational reasons for believing so?
In actuality, the Greek word that Paul uses here is prautes, which he also uses in his letters of instruction to Timothy:
But you, Timothy, are a man of God; so run from all these evil things. Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness . . .
He must correct his opponents with courtesy and gentleness, in the hope that God may grant that they will repent and come to know the Truth (1Tim 6:11, 2Tim 2:25).
Although translated as “meekness”, I’ve seen this word best described, “a disposition that is even-tempered, tranquil, balanced in spirit, unpretentious, and that has the passions under control. . . . not as an indication of weakness, but of power and strength under control. The person who possesses this quality pardons injuries, corrects faults, and rules his own spirit well.” (New Spirit-Filled Life Bible)
Paul also puts forth the idea of prautes in this warning to the Galatians, “Brethren, if any person is overtaken in misconduct or sin of any sort, you who are spiritual [who are responsive to and controlled by the Spirit] should set him right and restore and reinstate him, without any sense of superiority and with all gentleness, keeping an attentive eye on yourself, lest you should be tempted also.” (Gal 6:1 AMP)
“Even-tempered.” “Tranquil.” “Balanced.” “Strength under Control.” To set right, restore, reinstate . . . without any sense of superiority, and most importantly, keeping an eye on yourself so you won’t be tempted as well.
Now that’s a definition (and use) of the word “gentleness” that I can abide by.
Hmmm . . . “abide” . . . . now there’s an interesting word . . .