The Fruit of Gentleness

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Galatians 5:22-23

“I will grow in gentleness as I allow the Spirit to soften my manner.”

INTRODUCTION: We are nearing the end of our series on the Fruit of the Spirit for the summer. We have looked at seven of the fruit so far, and we only have two to go. Last week we looked at faithfulness, next week we look at self-control, but our fruit for today is gentleness. (Read Galatians 5:22-23 and pray.)


When was the last time you thought about your car’s shock absorbers? Probably the last time they stopped working, right? As long as they’re doing their job, we don’t really think about them, but as soon as they stop working, it becomes very noticeable. Gentleness is like that. Gentleness is a quiet, unassuming fruit of the Spirit that we often don’t notice or appreciate, but take it away, and you notice it right away.

All of us know people with loud, brash, abrasive, abrupt, harsh, threatening or intimidating personalities, and oh the harm a lack of gentleness causes in the world. When you lack gentleness, you stiffen up inside, and when someone hurts you, instead of absorbing the shock, you just bounce that hurt back at them and everyone else, and before you know it, we are all living in a world of hurt.

Instead, God wants you and me to be shock absorbers. Chuck Swindoll writes, “Gentleness includes … being calm and peaceful when surrounded by a heated atmosphere, emitting a soothing effect on those who may be angry or otherwise beside themselves, and possessing tact and gracious courtesy that causes others to retain their self-esteem and dignity.” (Charles Swindoll, Improving Your Serve, pp. 99-100) The fruit of gentleness helps us smooth off our rough edges and enables us to absorb the hurts of the world instead of bouncing them back out where they continue to cause untold harm.

Gentleness may be defined as meekness and mildness. It is having power, strength, and authority under control. It is the taming of the wild and the spirited. The gentle person has an unassuming disposition. As we will see later in the message, the gentle person is not weak, but in fact has great strength.

The gentle person does not need to explain themselves in the face of opposition. They handle criticism with restraint, and they refuse to brag. Gentleness is the opposite of self-assertion and self-promotion. The gentle person has nothing to prove and nobody to impress. Their gentleness makes them approachable, as people are drawn to their unusual strength through their mildness of character.

And so, the fruit of gentleness has to do with your manner and how you relate to people. “I will grow in gentleness as I allow the Spirit to soften my manner.” Gentleness is an important fruit of the Spirit because in this sinful world people are often treated harshly or unfairly. When we allow the Spirit to soften our manner, we minister to people’s needs and bring healing to the wounds they may experience from others. So, let’s look at this important fruit of gentleness together.

I. Gentleness and God

First, we want to see what the Bible tells us about gentleness and God. Some people have a wrong view of God. They view God as either harsh, cruel or indifferent, but the Bible tells us that God is a God of gentleness. He holds all power, strength and authority. Yet he holds his strength under perfect control. Gentleness is part of his character.

   A. God is gentle like a father with us
      – Psalm 103:13-14

The Bible tells us that God is gentle like a father with us. We read in Psalm 103: “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; 14 for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:13-14) God understands our limitations and deals gently with us. He does not deal with us as our sins deserve (Psalm 103:10). Instead, God chooses to provide mercy, grace and forgiveness through salvation.

   B. God is gentle like a shepherd with us
      – Psalm 23:1-3; Isaiah 40:11

God is gentle like a father with us, and God is gentle like a shepherd with us. We read in Psalm 23: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3 he restores my soul.” (Psalm 23:1-3) Isaiah 40:11 says: “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” (Isaiah 40:11) God has the heart of a shepherd, gently guiding, leading, and tending his flock.

We see so many examples of God’s gentleness in the Bible. God was gentle in making garments of skin for Adam and Eve when they sinned in the garden. He was gentle in reaching out to Hagar and her son in the wilderness. He was gentle in ministering to Elijah through a still, small voice when Elijah was discouraged. He was gentle in redirecting Jonah when he was angry at God’s mercy.

   C. Jesus displayed the fruit of gentleness in his life
      – Matthew 11:28-30; John 10:11

God is gentle with us, and Jesus displayed the fruit of gentleness in his life as well. Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-30: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 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. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30) Jesus said in John 10:11: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11) Jesus shared the same shepherd’s heart as his heavenly Father.

No one lived with greater power and authority than Jesus Christ. Neither has anyone lived with greater opposition and criticism. And yet no one lived with greater gentleness. Jesus came to earth with all gentleness as a baby born of a virgin (Matthew 1:23; Luke 2:7). He lived his days on earth in quietness and strength (Isaiah 42:2-3). In meekness he rode a young donkey into Jerusalem as the Rightful King (Zechariah 9:9; Matthew 21:5). He is both the Great Shepherd and the gentle lamb led to the slaughter. At his trial he remained silent before his accusers as a sheep before her shearers is silent (Isaiah 53:7) He made no reply to the charges against him (Matthew 27:13). He hurled no insults for the insults he received (1 Peter 2:23).

Jesus was gentle with Martha when she complained about her sister Mary. Jesus was gentle with the woman who touched him in the crowd for healing. Jesus was gentle with James and John when they tried to get the best seats in heaven. Jesus was gentle with Peter when Peter denied him three times. Later Jesus took him aside and gently restored him. “Peter the failure became Peter the forgiven – through the gentleness of Jesus.” (Christopher Wright, Cultivating the Fruit of the Spirit, p. 148)

So, that’s what the Bible tells us about gentleness and God. God is gentle like a father with us. He is gentle like a shepherd with us. Jesus as the Son of God displayed the fruit of gentleness in his life here on earth.

II. Gentleness and strength

Next, we want to see what the Bible tells us about gentleness and strength.

   A. Gentleness is not the same as weakness
      – Isaiah 40:10; Micah 5:4; Matthew 21:12

First, we need to understand that gentleness is not the same as weakness. We tend to confuse the gentle and meek with the timid and weak. But gentleness has nothing to do with weakness. Gentleness is not opposed to strength but to harshness. It’s the weak person who can’t handle their own frustrations in life and so they take it out on someone else.

We looked at Isaiah 40:11 earlier which spoke about God gently tending his flock like a shepherd, gathering the lambs in his arms and carrying them close to his heart. But none of that has to do with weakness. In fact, Isaiah 40:10, the verse which comes directly before it, speaks of God’s great strength instead: “See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and his arm rules for him.” (Isaiah 40:10) Micah 5:4 says much the same thing: “He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.” (Micah 5:4) Shepherding a flock takes strength, not weakness.

Jesus was gentle, but he was certainly not weak. He was gentle with those who needed help and encouragement, but he was not afraid to stand up to injustice or rebuke those who were wrong. Matthew 21:12 tells us: “Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves.” (Matthew 21:12) Gentleness is not the same as weakness.

   B. Only the strong can truly be gentle
      – 2 Timothy 1:7; Hebrews 4:15

In fact, only the strong can truly be gentle. Everyone else is either fragile or weak. Let me share with you something I wrote earlier when I was working on this message:

As I am writing out this part of the message, it is early morning. I am at home, and a strong thunderstorm is passing through. Our little dog, Coco, is desperately frightened of thunder, and he comes running to me for comfort. I hold him in my lap and feel his little chest trembling in fear. I gently stroke his back and speak quietly to him. I am gentle with him, but I can only be gentle because I am strong. If I was afraid of the thunder too, we would both just huddle in the corner together. Neither of us could be gentle with the other, because only the strong can be gentle.

Only the strong can truly be gentle. Paul writes in 2 Timothy 1:7: “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7) When God makes us gentle, he does not make us weak but makes us strong.

It’s the same way with Jesus who is gentle with us. We read in Hebrews 4:15: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15) Jesus is gentle with us not simply because he also was tempted but because he was without sin. If he was a fellow sinner, he could only commiserate with us, but because he was strong in the face of temptation, he can be gentle with us as sinners. Only the strong can truly be gentle.

   C. Gentleness is strength under control
      – Proverbs 15:1, 25:15; 1 Corinthians 4:20-21

Which leads us to our definition of gentleness. Gentleness is strength under control. Billy Graham writes: “A river under control can be used to generate power. A fire under control can heat a home. [Gentleness] is power, strength, spirit, and wildness under control.” (Billy Graham, The Holy Spirit, pp. 273-274)

Think about it – which is stronger to stop an argument – gentleness or harshness? Proverbs 15:1 says: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1) Gentleness is stronger. Which is stronger to win an argument – gentleness or harshness? Proverbs 25:15 says: “Through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a gentle tongue can break a bone.” (Proverbs 25:15) Gentleness is stronger.

When Paul wrote to the Corinthians, he had to rebuke them for their many sins. He was coming to visit them, and he urged them to repent before he arrived. Why? Not because he was weak, but because he was strong. He writes in 1 Corinthians 4:20-21: “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power. 21 What do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a whip, or in love and with a gentle spirit?” (1 Corinthians 4:20-21) Paul was strong, but he had his strength under control. Yes, he would come in judgment if necessary, but he preferred to come in love and a gentle spirit.

And so, gentleness is not the same as weakness. Only the strong can truly be gentle. Gentleness is strength under control.

III. Growing in gentleness

So, we have looked at what the Bible tells us about gentleness and God. We have looked at what the Bible tells us about gentleness and strength. Finally, we want to see what the Bible tells us about growing in gentleness. Of course, we should be gentle in all our relationships – Philippians 4:4 says, “Let your gentleness be evident to all” – but let’s look at six specific areas where we can grow in gentleness.

   A. You should be gentle in teaching
      – 2 Timothy 2:24-25

First, you should be gentle in teaching. 2 Timothy 2 says: “And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 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.” (2 Timothy 2:24-25)

Do you want to become a pastor or teacher? Did you know that one of the biblical qualifications to be a pastor or teacher is gentleness? Arguments and quarrels only bring about resentment and leave a hardened heart. By dealing with people in a gentle manner, we can win hearts over for Christ. Paul said he appealed to others “by the meekness and gentleness of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:1).

   B. You should be gentle in restoring
      – Romans 15:1; Galatians 6:1

Secondly, you should be gentle in restoring. Romans 15:1 says: “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak.” (Romans 15:1) Galatians 6:1 says: “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.” (Galatians 6:1)

When someone stumbles into sin, you don’t treat them harshly; rather, you restore them gently. You come alongside them humbly as a brother or sister, recognizing your own weaknesses and helping them get back on the right track.

   C. You should be gentle in marriage
      – Colossians 3:18-19; 1 Peter 3:7

Thirdly, you should be gentle in marriage. Sometimes the hardest place to apply God’s word is in the home. Colossians 3 says: “Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.” (Colossians 3:18-19) 1 Peter 3:7 says: “Husbands … be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect.” (1 Peter 3:7)

This is such a beautiful picture of marriage – wives submitting to their husbands as is fitting in the Lord, and husbands loving our wives and not being harsh with them. Selfish quarrels, power struggles, shouting matches or name-calling should all give way to gentleness. Our behavior in marriage should reflect the “crucifixion attitude” of Christ. Just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, so we should be gentle with each other in marriage.

   D. You should be gentle in authority
      – Ephesians 6:4,9

Fourthly, you should be gentle in authority. Ephesians 6 gives the examples of parents and bosses: “Fathers, do not exasperate your children…. And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven.” (Ephesians 6:4,9)

Yes, children should obey their parents, but parents must also be gentle with their children. Yelling at your children will not necessarily bring obedience. It will more likely lead to resentment and frustration for both of you. Gentleness of heart will open their young hearts to the discipline, training and instruction of the Lord.

It’s the same with bosses and workers. Workers are instructed to obey and respect their bosses, but bosses, you also must also be gentle with your workers. Don’t threaten or intimidate them, since you both share the same Master in heaven.

   E. You should be gentle in witnessing
      – 1 Thessalonians 2:7; 1 Peter 3:15

Fifthly, you should be gentle in witnessing. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians: “We were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children.” (1 Thessalonians 2:7) Paul faced many trials and much opposition. However, he remained gentle in sharing the gospel.

1 Peter 3:15: tells us: “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.” (1 Peter 3:15)
Sharing your faith will often be met with opposition. But winning people to Christ cannot be done by arguing or intimidation. Rather, the word of God must be received humbly by those who believe (James 1:21).

   F. Ask God to develop the fruit of gentleness in your life

And then finally, ask God to develop the fruit of gentleness in your life. God is the one who ultimately makes the fruit grow in your life, so make it a matter of prayer. Make it a regular habit to pray through all the fruit of the Spirit in your life.

CONCLUSION: If you want to grow more like Jesus, then you need to grow in gentleness. “I will grow in gentleness as I allow the Spirit to soften my manner.” We need a lot less harshness and abrasiveness in this world and a lot more gentleness. If you lack the fruit of gentleness in your life, ask God to start growing this fruit in your life today. Ask God to make you a shock absorber. Ask God to make you gentle like Jesus, so we can be healers and encouragers of others rather than contributors to the hurts and discouragements in this rough and tumble world.

© Ray Fowler

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