Gentleness can also be translated as meekness and is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:23). Gentle is a word that is more commonly used today to describe this characteristic. I will always remember the wise words of a pastor who once told me, ‘Meekness is power under control’. Meekness should not be mistaken for weakness.
When I was growing up, I remember seeing this strong boy taking his anger out on a girl in our class. Calmly, the teacher restrained the boy and said, ‘Strong men protect woman, weak men beat them’. It occurred to me that while the boy could physically exert power over this girl, he showed an inward weakness of character. Self-control is paramount in order to exercise meekness and is a strength all on its own. It’s admirable and a trait that we ought to grow in as we journey with Jesus.
Jesus expressed that there is a particularly special blessing for the meek. ‘Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth’, Matthew 5:5.
It’s a characteristic that is admired by the multitudes because we love the idea of ‘the gentle giant’. Perhaps you remember seeing a film of an action hero who pulverised the bad guy, only to moments later be delicately holding a butterfly in his big hands. The contrast of using his strength to overcome evil, then only to show such gentleness towards a creature much smaller than he, is very compelling to us. A famous picture of this is the elephant’s great show of gentleness to animals smaller than itself.
How about God? There is none so powerful or could even compare to His strength, yet Jesus showed such meekness towards the sinner. He 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. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light’ (Matthew 11:29-30). How could the Creator of Heaven and Earth, in all His majesty, take such a lowly and gentle position?
This characteristic, although admired by many, is seldom seen in real life. The cost in taking this position demands too much, and we are just not willing. The Bible describes that in the end days, people will become brutal and without self-control. ‘For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God' (2 Timothy 3:1-4).
As a disciple of Christ, gentleness should flow through every corner of our lives. No doubt, our character will be tested and as we go through the winepress of life, others will become recipients of the smooth and mature produce of gentleness.
Many believe that strength is found in numbers. Certainly, the mob who arrested Jesus must have felt this was true, but while physical strength may prove useful in overcoming another man, true strength of character can only be found in the Lord and has the power to bring down an entire army. Even though the persecuters of Jesus thought they had overcome Him with their man-power, He had the true victory. Evil did not prosper.
Today, you can also rest in the fact that no matter what you face, the Lord is strong and mighty - mighty in battle! He is with you. You can respond to evil in gentleness and know that you have won the battle already. If you are feeling weak, remember that His ‘strength is made perfect in weakness’ (2 Corinthians 2:12).
There is simply no force on Earth that could have held back our Lord that night, but His display of meekness in remaining silent, even when falsely accused, showed a strength of character like no other. He is the one worth imitating.
This article was written to form part of the series, 'Imitate'. Containing 45 sessions, this thorough series intends to reveal the characteristics found in a disciple of Jesus. The original article, 'Imitate', would be the best place to begin your journey in discovering the qualities of a follower of the Messiah of Israel.