These exhortations were given by me between 1999 and 2005. That was a long time ago, and I have grown a lot since then. They may not reflect my current beliefs.
There are many qualities that we, as followers of Christ, are called upon to have, such as honesty, and forgiveness. One of the easiest to overlook is gentleness. As followers of Christ, we are supposed to be gentle and harmless. Being gentle is part of being meek, and like all of the requirements God makes of us gentleness is for our own good.
Open your Bible at Titus 3 verse 1 and 2.
“Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility towards everyone.”
As usual, I was reading from the NIV, and if you were following that in the AV you will have noticed that where the NIV says “peaceable and considerate” the AV says “gentle”.
All of the qualities that Paul writes about are different aspects of meekness, and by adopting these qualities we make our own lives more comfortable, and more importantly we show the world around us what it means to be a follower of Christ. You are someone who is ready to do good, will speak evil of no-one, and is not argumentative and aggressive.
Gentleness is also an important quality in preaching as well. As followers of Christ we have the most precious thing in the world, and we have the responsibility to show those around us that our faith is precious. Not everybody can write, or speak from the platform, or act as a steward at the Bible Exhibition, but that is not the same as saying that not everybody can preach.
First Peter 3 verse 15:
“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone that asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”
There are three important points in that verse.
The first important point is if somebody asks us why we go out every Sunday morning, we should happily tell them that we are going out to meet with our brothers and sisters to remember the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and to look forward to his return. We can learn about these things from the Bible, a book that we know is true because of, for example, the wonderful fulfilled prophecy it contains. That is preaching as surely as standing on this platform giving a lecture, or running a website, is preaching.
As an aside, there is an excellent booklet produced by the Birmingham office Bible Prophecy: Convincing Proof that God Exists on this very subject. There are a couple of copies on the leaflet rack in the hall, on the bottom left, and there are more on order which should be here next week. We also have plenty of copies of The Miracle of the Bible which is a similar booklet. I have found that both of these are good to give to people who ask about our hope.
The second important point from First Peter 3:15 is that we should preach with gentleness and respect. That makes sense if you thing about it. The vast majority of people we preach to won’t value the hope of Israel as much as we do. If were aggressive or rude and disrespectful of other belief systems then were only going to alienate most people. I imagine that most of us, myself included, would do our best to avoid someone who shouted at us and said we were stupid because we dont believe in the Trinity. Similarly the best way to preach to our friends and neighbours is not to aggressively condemn their immoral behaviour, but to gently but firmly explain why we believe as we do.
The third point concerns those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ. If we are gentle towards others, and respectful of their beliefs that makes it more difficult for people to slander us.
Paul also instructs us to be gentle in 2nd Timothy 2 verses 24 and 25:
And the Lords servants must not quarrel; instead they must be kind to everyone [gentle unto all men in the AV] , able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed , in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth.
This gentleness at the end of chapter two contrasts very strongly with the people described in chapter 3:
But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God– having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them. They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth.
The gentle man, and the gentle woman, are able to instruct people of the things pertaining to the Kingdom of God, and to bring others into the truth. The man and the woman who are not gentle – who are boastful, proud and abusive – arent even able to absorb the gospel themselves, let alone teach others about it.
James encourages us to be gentle in chapter three of his letter. He focuses on a gentle tongue, speaking to each other with respect.
James 3, verse 5
The tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig-tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.
You cant be gentle with your tongue sometimes, and aggressive at others. You should be gentle with your tongue at all times.
James goes on to contrast the wisdom of the world with wisdom from heaven.
James 3 verse13:
Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbour bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.
Gentleness is part of Gods wisdom, and by accepting Gods instructions to be gentle we are accepting part of his wisdom, just as if we accept any of his instructions we are accepting part of his wisdom.
Throughout his life Christ was gentle. There were so many opportunities that he had to lash out, but he did not. Consider the woman taken in adultery in John 8
But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered round him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no-one condemned you?” “No-one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
Christ didnt immediately pounce on the woman, telling her about Gods views on adultery, although he made those very clear on other occasions. He didnt turn to the teachers of the law and the Pharisees and list their sins. He didnt get into an argument with any of them. He gave a gentle answer that taught people more about the gospel; If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her. At the same time he told the woman to Go now and leave your life of sin.
The message is all the more powerful because of the gentleness. He didnt accuse the teachers of the law and the Pharisees of sinning, which would have seemed hypocritical to many of the bystanders. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees had something to think about, rather than something to get annoyed about. He spoke gently to the woman, encouraging her to leave her life of sin rather than condemning her, which would only have alienated her anyway.
This reminds me of one of the prophecies concerning Christ in Isaiah
Isaiah 11 verses 1 to 4
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him–the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD– and he will delight in the fear of the LORD. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears
Thats really quite remarkable, and there isn’t much I can add. Not being judgmental is part of being gentle. Christ doesnt and wont judge by what he sees and hears. He will judge with righteousness, which is judging by what he knows, but what he sees and hears do not form part of his basis of judgement.
In being Christ-like and gentle to one another we shouldn’t judge by what we hear, but we shouldnt judge by what we see either.
Ive talked about what it means to be gentle, but aside from saying that we are expected to be gentle I haven’t said anything about why gentleness is a good thing.
I believe any time we are told to do something there is a good reason behind it. Usually, by following the instruction, we are protected in some way, or we learn something about the gospel, or both. In this case its both.
Arguing with someone rarely gets you anything, except a headache and a new enemy. On the other hand as Proverbs 15 verse 1 says “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” As well as being good for preaching, as I mentioned earlier, gentleness is good for us. It makes life that little bit smoother and we can get out of many day to day problems before they even start.
What does gentleness teach us about the gospel?
First of all every time we have to bite our tongues and remember to give a gentle answer we can remember all the occasions on which Christ gave the gentle answer, particularly to the women taken in adultery. We can be reminded that Christ doesnt judge by what he sees and hears, so we shouldnt either.
By being gentle we also remind ourselves that God is gentle. He didnt destroy the whole of creation after Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he doesnt obliterate us when we sin, but he has established a method whereby we can be saved.
We are Gods children, and in his gentleness he protects us.
Psalm 18, verses 30 to 36:
As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him. For who is God besides the LORD? And who is the Rock except our God? It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to stand on the heights. He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You give me your shield of victory, and your right hand sustains me; you stoop down to make me great. You broaden the path beneath me, so that my ankles do not turn over.
In the AV that passage is translated as:
As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the LORD is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him. For who is God save the LORD? or who is a rock save our God? It is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect. He maketh my feet like hinds’ feet, and setteth me upon my high places. He teacheth my hands to war, so that a bow of steel is broken by mine arms. Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy right hand hath holden me up, and thy gentleness hath made me great. Thou hast enlarged my steps under me, that my feet did not slip.
God stoops down to make us great, Gods gentleness makes us great.
Thats a beautiful thing, isnt it brothers and sisters? God is gentle, and through that we are made great.