Among the fruits of the spirit listed in Galatians 5:23 is gentleness. As a fruit, it is something to be cultivated and brought about in maturity, and it is what the God who planted us desires that we produce. The New Testament shows that the word describes temperament or character and a way of behaving towards others.
The word translated gentleness or meekness is the Greek praiotes¸ and the lexicon tells us it means: Mild, soft, gentle
(Henry George Liddell. Robert Scott. A Greek-English Lexicon. Revised and augmented throughout by Sir Henry Stuart Jones with the assistance of Roderick McKenzie. Oxford. Clarendon Press. 1940.)
It describes a manner, an attitude, a person's character, a way of responding. Too often we are inclined to mistake "meek" for "weak!" Our Lord was certainly not weak! Gentleness or meekness describes a calm disposition, particularly under fire--which actually requires a great deal of strength.
The New Testament characterizes our Lord as gentle. In Matthew 11:29, Jesus said, "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." In the immediate context (Matthew 11:20), He had just "&ldots;rebuke[d] the cities in which most of His mighty works had been done, because they did not repent." This makes clear that meek is not weak, but rather that it describes the manner in which our Lord conducted Himself. Contrast the way Jesus described Himself with the way some men drive animals--gentle and lowly in heart isn't exactly it! We can trust that the hand of our Lord will be gentle upon us and care for our welfare. The proverb says, "He who is often rebuked and hardens his neck will suddenly be destroyed--and that without remedy" (Proverbs 29:1). The gentleness, tameness, meekness with which Jesus will treat His servants stands in stark contrast to the sudden calamity that befalls sinners at the hands of Satan.
This calling from Jesus demands a certain character within us: "I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace" (Ephesians 4:1-3). If we are to be found worthy of our high calling, we must also "&ldots;walk just as He walked" (1 John 2:6). God charges us to be gentle with others in sincere love, working hard at maintaining the bond of peace, which is His word. Jesus said, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God," and, "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth" (Matthew 5:9, 5). Every Christian should fulfill these blessings a love of fighting, a desire for division, and a haughty grin in battle are not fitting for saints.
Indeed, that which is fitting, appropriate, or worthy comes into play when we discuss gentleness. For the Scripture tells women, "Do not let your adornment be merely outward--arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine clothing--rather, let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God" (1 Peter 3:3-4). Paul says this is "&ldots;proper for women professing godliness" (1 Timothy 2:10). The apostles articulate a pattern or way of life that is appropriate for saints, and gentleness is a part of it. Gentleness makes good wives and mothers, good husbands and fathers, and it should be sought out by any looking for a mate. Marriage belongs to God, and gentleness is in the pattern!
The New Testament also shows gentleness is a way to treat your fellow Christian. In Colossians 3:12-13 (which is parallel to Ephesians 4:1-6 we considered earlier), the apostle writes, "As the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another. Even as Christ forgave you so you must also do." Once again, the Master has shown us kindness, and in gentleness we must do the same to others.
Gentleness governs our dealings with brethren caught in sin. Galatians 6:1 says, "Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness." The temptation to attack and point fingers must be avoided, and instead the spirit of gentleness requires that we address the issue at hand, not keeping a count of wrongs. By no means do the Scriptures advocate that we overlook sin or fail to specify sin in an individual's life (compare 1 Corinthians 4:21), but there is a gentle way in which to do so and a caustic way. Wisdom from the command of God demands gentleness.
Godly wisdom also demands humility. It is important for any evangelist to heed Paul's instructions, "A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth" (2 Timothy 2:24-25). We must not lose sight of the manner in which Jesus taught, and we must continually make earnest effort to do likewise. Consider the fate of those who die in sin, and teach in such a way that you help them avoid it. There is nothing more violent than a Christian who refuses to "&ldots;declare the whole counsel of God" (Acts 20:27).
Gentleness also governs our dealings with those outside of Christ. Titus was commanded as an evangelist to "&ldots;remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men" (Titus 3:1-2). You have an influence on those around you, whether you want to or not. What people should see in your Christian walk is gentleness, self-control, humility. The command of God stands: obey the governing authorities, and let your neighbors glorify God when they see it. Your calm demeanor and desire for peace will make you different from the world and will let the world see Jesus in you and that's good! We are also instructed in this vein, "Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear" (1 Peter 3:15). Compare the proverb, "A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger" (Proverbs 15:1). When people ask you about the Christian life, answer softly, gently, without a defensive attitude or tone. This gentle answer is the product of your faith in God and His word, your own life before Him, and an earnest concern for the souls of men. In so doing you can find favor in the sight of God and man.
"The Lord is my strength and my song, and He has become my salvation" (Psalm 118:14). "Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever!" (Psalm 118:1)