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May 19, 2011

14

Gentleness: a forgotten virtue?

by quaesitor
gentle wordle

While I think they are useful things, there is such a thing as too heavy a reliance on concordances. Too often people are far too quick to draw all kinds of conclusions about something on the flimsy basis of a few apparently parallel references. However, within certain parameters, they can really be helpful. As, I think, is the case here.

Of course it depends on what circles you move in… some are far better than others. But it strikes me that in some of the orbits I frequent, gentleness is definitely a forgotten virtue. These verses are not entirely random nor unrelated. I’ve grouped them roughly into 3:

A Gentle King

  • Matt 11:29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
  • Matt 21:5 “Say to the Daughter of Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’ ”

A Gentle People

  • Gal 5:23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
  • Gal 6:1 Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.
  • Eph 4:2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
  • Phil 4:5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.
  • Col 3:12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
  • 1 Pet 3:15 But in your hearts set apart 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 and respect

A Gentle Ministry

  • 1 Thess 2:7 but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children.
  • 1 Tim 3:3 not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.
  • 1 Tim 6:11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.
  • 2 Tim 2:25 Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth,
  • Heb 5:2 He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness.
Now when you look at it like this, it’s quite an extensive list – and a challenge.
Of course, gentleness is not spinelessness; it’s not lacking convictions; it’s not being feeble or conflict avoidance; it’s certainly not the antithesis of strong leadership. For none of those characteristics could have been used to charge the gentle donkey-riding Lord. So why on earth is it so absent in many of our leaders?
Well, the answer is presumably because our models of strength, power, leadership and conviction are drawn from human history and experience, rather than the Lord who gets on his knees to wash his disciples’ feet. And that of course is a serious concern…
14 Comments Post a comment
  1. May 19 2011

    Amen. I couldn’t agree more. When did you last hear a sermon on God’s gentleness and kindness?

    Maybe it is no surprise that one of the objections that is often levelled at evangelicals (but much less often at liberals) is that we aren’t much known for our gentleness and kindness.

    A serious concern indeed. Why are our leaders not renowned for being kind, wise, loving, repentant and forgiving? Any ideas about how to address it? For example in our leadership training courses? Why do the colleges not centre their training on Col 3:12? It seems to me that a lot of what we teach young leaders is concerned with “getting knowledge formed in you” rather than “seeing Christ formed in you.” It is one of the reasons why leadership and forgiveness is a core part of the Living Leadership Formation training for junior leaders

    Reply
  2. May 19 2011

    Our culture promotes self-assertion and pits gentleness against it as weakness. It is looked at as a feminine quality that feminists abhor. Thank you for this reminder. It leads me to my Bible for further study and meditation. I will say that my brother has always been a stellar model of manliness and gentleness. We need more of those.

    Reply
    • May 19 2011

      thanks for this Aimee – couldn’t agree more (though I’ve not, of course, met your brother!)

      Reply
  3. Carey
    May 19 2011

    Oh, I really needed to read that today! Thank you so much for the gentle reminder. I am going to be meditating on these verses as much as I can for many days now.
    Thanks!

    Reply
  4. Adam
    May 19 2011

    I gave a talk on gentleness a couple months ago to a student group after being alarmed at the contemporary church’s lack of emphasis that you note here. In the States right now (or at least the West Coast), the Christian ‘virtue’ du jour is passion. Enthusiasm, charisma, and even volume seem to be the marks of a committed Christian, while gentleness seems weak, ineffective, unemotional, waffling, effeminate (as another commenter notes), and not very passionate at all. I share your hesitation to make points by concordance, but I did caution the students that every single instance of the word “passion” in our English New Testaments (up to 27 in the ESV) is pejorative, and that Christ’s “pascho” is translated very differently…

    Great topic, first for its importance and second for its neglect.

    Reply
  5. Lenora Clarke
    Jan 28 2016

    This is all so very much true, it seems like its always about your tithes rather than the true word of God. When is the shepherd of god really going to open up with gods words, to his people us which are the sheep, that are to listen to the teaching of the shepherd. No wonder there’s so much confusion and conflict among the churches, and man has to be accountable for what is and what isn’t taught to the sheep, .

    Reply
  6. Lenora
    Jan 28 2016

    This is all so very much true, it seems like its always about your tithes rather than the true word of God. When is the shepherd of god really going to open up with gods words, to his people us which are the sheep, that are to listen to the teaching of the shepherd. No wonder there’s so much confusion and conflict among the churches, and man has to be accountable for what is and what isn’t taught to the sheep, .

    Reply

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Gentleness: A forgotten virtue? « One for the road
  2. A missing virtue: gentleness « Strengthened by Grace
  3. Laudable Linkage « Stray Thoughts
  4. Passion Points « Three Passions
  5. Gentle-Humble-Meek-Housewife Theologian Housewife Theologian

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