The fifth fruit of the Spirit is Gentleness which is often confused with meekness. Gentleness in the Bible is a bit different than meekness or kindness. You see, in some translations the word gentleness is used instead of meekness and Kindness is used interchangeably with gentleness.
The Fruit of the Spirit Overview
The exact meanings can get confused when translating these words from the original Greek. This is because the Greek language has more precise words to describe these virtues.
First, let me expand on the fruit of the Spirit- their relationship with each other and their focus.
According to McClaren’s Expositions of Holy Scripture, each fruit of the Holy Spirit builds on the previous one.
To clarify, this means that one naturally flows from the other.
Gentleness is only possible when you already have the love, joy, and peace of God.
You see, the first three fruits of the spirit are focused on the believer’s relationship with God.
The next three fruit of the Spirit- patience, gentleness, and goodness reflect how our spiritual lives manifest themselves to others. In other words, in our actions.
And, the last three fruit of the spirit- faithfulness, meekness, and self-control – point to how we live our lives. This is in relation to the opposition and difficulties we face in the world.
Gentleness in the Bible Defined
In defining gentleness, it is also known as kindness and refers more to actions. It is not quite the same as meekness which refers more to attitude and the whole state of mind as well as actions. Meekness produces gentleness. Both words stem from the Greek word “prautes”. It can also be equated with humility.
I’ll talk more about meekness in a later video. Right now I want to focus on gentleness.
Google defines gentleness as
“the quality of being kind, tender or mild-mannered.”
However, Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology expands on that definition.
It defines gentleness as:
“Sensitivity of disposition and kindness of behavior founded on strength and prompted by love.”Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology
Gentleness in Action
Gentleness is more about how we act towards others. But, how we act comes from our attitudes (in this case meekness).
“The servant of the Lord must not quarrel, but must be gentle toward all people, able to teach, patient, in gentleness instructing those in opposition. ”2 Timothy 2:24-25a
When Paul was speaking to the Thessalonians he said,
“But we were gentle among you, like a nurse caring for her own children. So having great love toward you, we were willing to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you were dear to us.”1 Thessalonians 2:7, MEV
What a great picture “like a nurse caring for her own children”. I envision a mother feeding her children. Tucking them in at night. Gently cleaning a child’s scratched-up knee after falling down. A mother loving her child.
Jesus’ heart was breaking from love as he denounced the Scribes and Pharisees
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those who are sent to you, how often I would have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you would not!”Matthew 23:37 MEV
Gentleness Does Not Mean Weakness
The love of God is deeper than we can ever really imagine. God loved us so much that he sent Jesus to die for us. While he was here on earth, Jesus wasn’t stand-offish. He didn’t have a superior attitude. Instead, he was gentle, humble, and meek but he wasn’t weak.
We often mistake gentleness (and meekness) for being weak. On the contrary, they require much inner strength as well as love which comes from the Holy Spirit.
God is all-powerful but never misuses his power. He never overreacts but is always patient and gentle with his children no matter how badly they behave. Strength with a gentle touch is a great way to describe gentleness (and meekness as well).
It is these qualities that are precious to God. Check out 1 Peter 3:4, MEV below:
“But let it be the hidden nature of the heart, that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.”1 Peter 3:4, MEV
If you want to see a Jesus who is overflowing with love and joy for you, then check out the Matthew – The Visual Bible and the book In the Footsteps of Jesus by Bruce Marchiano who portrayed Jesus in the film. It is the word-for-word account of the book of Matthew and the first film that ever portrayed Jesus as being filled with loved and joy as opposed to being solemn and angry. This is a great example of gentleness in action- gentleness combined with great strength.
Check out my detailed post The Gospel According to Matthew to find out more about both.
Gentleness in the Bible, the fifth fruit of the spirit, is something we should all strive to show others in our daily lives.
It does not mean you are weak as mentioned above, but often comes from great inner strength like Jesus had. Let’s look to the Holy Spirit to help us grow in the fruit of the Spirit and to become all that He created us to be.
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