DEFINING GENTLENESS

Bible Reading: Ephesians 4:1-5

In the New Testament, the word gentleness is translated from the Greek word ‘praüs’. The same Greek word is also translated as meek [Matthew 5:5] or humility [Titus 3:2]. Synonyms of gentle are humble, considerate, courteous and meek.

In secular Greek literature the word ‘praüs’ is used of tame animals, soothing medicine, a gentle breeze, and of those who were polite, treating others with dignity, courtesy and tact. It is a mild and caressing word.

Wayde Goodall says of gentleness, “Gentleness is not to be misunderstood as weakness or a lack of internal strength. In fact, it means quite the opposite: strength under control. People, who are mature in this quality pardon and forgive those who have injured them, know when to speak words of correction and when to remain quiet, and rule their own spirits. They understand the strength of being tender”.

Apart from Galatians 5:23, Paul uses the word gentle or gentleness several times in his epistles. He speaks about a spirit of gentleness [1 Cor. 4:21]. Paul pleads with the Corinthians by the meekness and gentleness of Christ [2 Cor. 10:1]. He says that we are to restore someone overtaken by sin in a spirit of gentleness [Galatians 6:1]. He says that we should show gentleness to one another [Ephesians 4:2] and that it is one of the qualities that Timothy should pursue as a pastor [1 Timothy 6:11]. Paul says, “Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand” [Philippians 4:5]. This last verse is beautifully translated in the Message Bible as, “Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute!

It is clear from these verses that gentleness is vital if we are to enjoy good relationships with other people. It is the work of the Holy Spirit. Can you imagine an apostle, known as a “son of thunder”, later becoming the most gentle of men and being known as the apostle of love? The Holy Spirit had worked the fruit of gentleness in his life.

Questions:

As we have considered today the meaning of gentleness, would you say that this is a fruit that the Holy Spirit is growing in your life? How does this manifest itself in everyday relationships that you have?

Considering the meaning of the word gentleness, what would you say are the antonyms of this characteristic?

Why do you think it is that gentleness is not weakness but is a tremendous strength?