Gentleness may not be the coolest of qualities among young men — and this is a travesty. Gentleness is a mark of a gospel soaked man. A man that is gentle, is one that has been smashed by the gospel. A prickly dude appreciates the gospel, but hasn’t been devastated by it. Especially among young pastors, we need to be reminded that gentleness is a fruit of the Spirit, not hardcore-ness (Galatians 5:23). Brashness, flexing, my-way-or-the-highway-ism, and a kind of bulldozer-ocity are not marks of a godly man but a fool. A bully, not a pastor. Sure, there may be tons of passion in that man, but that kind of man needs to be saddled. A wild colt is of no benefit. Though — they do make for great glue. Lately, I’ve been troubled by the attitudes of many church planters. They parade themselves as steamrollers, but not shepherds. I’m all for telling a wolf “the way it is” but even that is to be done in gentleness (2 Timothy 2:25). And sadly, I’ve been there too.
WHAT IS GENTLENESS?
The Tyndale Bible Dictionary provides some great words to describe gentleness: humility, courteous, unpretentious, tender, unharsh, mildness, kindness, and an unassuming attitude. How many men fit that bill?
JESUS DOES. HE IS OUR MODEL AND MEANS
Jesus does. And in the gospel, Jesus invites us to learn from Him — to learn this way of life.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart… (Matthew 11:29).
The good news is that gentleness is not naturally ours, it comes supernaturally from Jesus. James instructs us that gentleness comes down from above (James 3:17), and that the inverse, harshness, pride, assuming attitudes etc., these are demonic (James 3:16). Gentleness will not come from our hearts, but by the life of Jesus being lived out in us (Galatians 2:20).
PAUL WAS A GENTLE GIANT
We tend to think of the Apostle Paul as an “in your face” kind of guy. Because he rebuked Peter face to face? Ok — he did that. But I’m sure he still helped Peter with a spirit of gentleness, as he instructs to do in the same letter (Galatians 6:1). But what is often forgotten about Paul is his incredible gentleness. Paul was wrecked by his own sin. Wreckage is the soil of gentleness (the end of Romans 7, the “chief of sinners”, “unworthy to be an apostle”, etc., all show Paul’s personal devastation over the gospel). Look at how he describes his ministry to the Thessalonians:
1 Thess. 2:6-8…we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. 7 But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. 8 So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.
He was gentle among them like a nursing mother. If you have children, you have seen this first hand. The young mother doesn’t berate her children, she doesn’t chastise them, nor does she get fed up. She is patient, kind, tender, helpful, loving, nurturing, and attentive. She sacrifices sleep, time, and her schedule — to serve. There is much for us to learn here.
WHAT MARKS OUR LIFE & MINISTRY?
Paul’s words here were a milestone for my ministry and life. God doesn’t request that we be gentle — He kindly demands it.
- The Bible calls not for quarrelsome men, but gentle ones (1 Timothy 3:3).
- God wants us, especially youngsters, to chase after gentleness more than coolness (1 Timothy 6:11).
- The Spirit wants us to speak evil of no one, not pick fights, and be courteous to all (Titus 3:2).
- The Bible demands a lifestyle of gentleness, even to the biggest jerks (1 Peter 2:18).
THE GOSPEL LEADS US INTO GENTLENESS
We ought to be the most gentle of all, because we see how gentle God has been with us. While we were yet sinners, Jesus died for us rebels. God has been kind to us, when all we earned was His wrath. To this day, in the midst of our struggles, Jesus is still gentle with us. He leads us besides still waters. He makes us lie down in green pastures. His shepherding staff is our guide. He doesn’t snipe us, He shepherds us. The gospel reminds us just how weak we are, and the second we are tempted to think of others as lesser-thans, we must remember that we are sinners too. God wants us to realize our weaknesses, so we can be gentle with the wayward and ignorant — who we deem to warrant our silly wrath (Hebrews 5:2). The wayward and ignorant don’t need cold body language, angry tones etc., they need to see the heart of God — from us. We need to show them the kindness of God, because that is what leads to repentance (Romans 2:4). We don’t wink at unrepentant Christians, but we also don’t napalm them. We rebuke with gentleness. I’m praying for a generation of gentle pastors. A generation of men who are so struck by the holiness of God, that they are brought low, face to the ground, humbly devastated to serve God’s church. I’m hopeful for a generation of pastors and churches, that not only take other peoples sin seriously, but also our own.