Gentleness: the unwanted fruit of the Spirit

Gentleness: the unwanted fruit of the Spirit

In his longest quote from the Old Testament in his gospel, Matthew describes Jesus in Matthew 12 as one who is gentle. In poetic form, he quotes:

19 He will not quarrel or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets; 20 a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory; 21 and in his name the Gentiles will hope.” (Matt. 12:19-21 ESV)

This quotation comes immediately after Jesus spent significant time with those who were needy, healing all who came to him. Throughout his ministry, we see Jesus engaging with the kinds of people who were not valued in society, accepting the poor and the needy and the young and the old. People who could be described as a “bruised reed” or a “smouldering wick” he would care for instead of crushing.

This is something all of us should be grateful for. We are all sinners, people with problems. This means that we need a gentle Saviour, not just one who comes in judgement. It is a wonderful blessing for us that Jesus is gentle.

A scan of the New Testament reveals that gentleness is not something restricted to Jesus. Christians are told that gentleness is a fruit of the Spirit, that we should evangelise with gentleness and respect, and that gentleness towards others should characterise the church family. This is one attribute of Jesus we are called to emulate.

Gentleness might be something we should aspire to, but it is not something valued highly by our culture. We are told to be assertive and to stand for our rights; if we are gentle with others, we fear they will take advantage of our kindness and meekness. Here is one more area that we need to value God’s direction more the values of our culture. Being gentle with people is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of empathy and kindness, and what should be a natural outworking of the Spirit in our lives.

If you are gentle with people, especially in the middle of a culture that is often harsh to those on the outside, you will stand out in a positive way. Yes, it might mean that you spend time on those who cannot help you back. Perhaps it will mean that you are patient with the trainee at work with all their incessant questions. Perhaps it will mean that you take the time to talk with the visitor at church with obvious mental health issues. Perhaps it will mean that you work hard at being patient with the elderly driver who is slowing you down on the freeway. Gentleness shows that you care for people made in the image of God, whoever they are, and not only because they can be of some advantage to you.

Work on your gentleness. It may give you opportunities for the gospel. And even if it doesn’t, you will be treating people the way Jesus did. Surely that is something to aspire to.