7/14/2014

Gentleness


Philippians 4:5: "Let your gentleness be evident to all" (Phil 4:5, NIV). "Let your reasonableness be known to everyone" (Phil 4:5, ESV). "Let your gentle spirit be known to all men" (Phil 4:5, NASB). "Let your graciousness be known to everyone" (Phil 4:5, HCSB). "Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do" (Phil 4:5, NLT).

Are Christians gentle? Gentleness, humility, meekness, mildness, kindness, consideration are attributes of Christ and the attributes that are attractive to all people. Yet when we think of Christians these attributes may not stand out prominently as being descriptive of some of us. Might we not sometimes think of Christians as being rude, judgmental, critical, sanctimonious, condescending, arrogant, ungracious, etc.? It is evident that gentleness is not common in the world, and sometimes does not even seem common in the church either.



Christians should be gentle. The word "ἐπιεικής" (epieikēs) means gentle, mild, forbearing, fair, reasonable, moderate, equitable, yielding. In various English Bibles it is translated as "gentleness" (NIV), "reasonableness" (ESV), "gentle spirit" (NASB), "graciousness" (HCSB) and "considerate" (NLT). This word is used five times in five verses in the NT (1 Tim 3:3; Tit 3:2; Jas 3:17; 1 Pet 2:18). In context:

  • An overseer or elder or pastor should not be violent but gentle (1 Tim 3:3).
  • The people of God should slander no one, be peaceable and considerate (Tit 3:2).
  • The wisdom that comes from heaven is pure, peace-loving, considerate (Jas 3:17).

Jesus is gentle. Jesus says about himself, "I am gentle and humble (lowly) in heart" (Mt 11:29), or "I am humble and gentle at heart" (Mt 11:29, NLT).

Gentleness is not weakness, but a great strength. A closely related word "πραότης" (praotēs) means mildness, gentleness, meekness, kindness. It also means properly, temperate, displaying the right blend of force and reserve (gentleness). It is "strength in gentleness." It avoids unnecessary harshness, yet without compromising or being too slow to use necessary force. This word is used nine times in the NT. Some verses are:
  • Paul appealing to the Corinthians by the meekness and gentleness of Christ (2 Cor 10:1).
  • The fruit of the Spirit includes meekness (Gal 5:23).
  • Paul encourages Christians in Galatia who are spiritual to restore those caught in a sin gently (Gal 6:1).
  • Paul encourages the Christians in Ephesus to be completely humble and gentle (Eph 4:2).
  • Paul states that God's chosen people are to clothe themselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness (Col 3:12).
  • Paul encourages Timothy to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness (1 Tim 6:11).
  • Paul says that to those who oppose him, Timothy must gently instruct (2 Tim 2:25).
  • Paul instructs Titus to encourage Christians "to show perfect courtesy toward all people" (Tit 3:2, ESV), "to be gentle toward everyone" (Tit 3:2, NIV), to show "every consideration for all men" (Tit 3:2, NASB), and to "show true humility to everyone" (Tit 3:2, NLT).

Honor Christ as Lord with gentleness. 1 Pet 3:15 says, "But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness (πραΰτης) and respect."