What do you think when you think “gentle”? Some kind of tiny animal? A stream or a meadow? A baby? Music?For me, I think of riding my horse. I’m pretty sure a horse isn’t what would come to mind for most of you, especially if you’ve heard the Ruach stories. But when you really think about it, directing a thousand-pound animal with a squeeze on his side or an incremental movement of the rein or shift of your weight in the saddle is the epitome of gentle. Let me explain.
Gentle is defined as “moderate.” Not weak, not overpowering. A gentle person is steadfast, someone who holds her course and stands her ground “without harshness, sternness, or violence.” Give up any preconceived notions of “gentle.” Don’t associate it with “weak.” Philippians 4:5 in the New American Standard Bible says, “Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.” Other versions replace “gentle spirit” with “moderation.” But don’t think that by asking us to be gentle, God is asking us to lie down and surrender at the first sign of trouble. No; in fact, Proverbs 25:15 says that “a gentle tongue can break a bone.” Gentleness can control a Thoroughbred. Gentleness can break a bone.
To paint a mental picture of “gentle,” think about the word “gentleman.” The connotation of “gentleman” is not a “weak man” but rather a chivalrous and sophisticated man, maybe a knight in the court or a wealthy shop owner in colonial England. You know, a guy with a fancy trench coat and a top hat. Merriam-Webster defines “gentleman” as 1) a man who treats other people in a proper and polite way, and 2) a man of high social status. A gentleman is a man who (as far as anyone knew) earned his place in society honorably, but not by letting people walk all over him. I mean, you can’t get your fancy English palace by being a pushover, right?
As for biblical gentleness, the kind that comes from knowing God and growing closer to him, the fruit of the Spirit and the characteristic of God himself, Biblestudytools.com defines it as “sensitivity of disposition and kindness of behavior, founded on strength and prompted by love.” I don’t want to overdo my analysis, because I think this definition is perfect. The foundation of gentleness is strength; the motivation of gentleness is love. It is where they meet. It is boldness and humility; it is might and meekness. Gentleness is an intersection not often seen in this world, but gentleness should be a defining characteristic of the Christian’s life, just as it is a defining characteristic of God.
I don’t have a fiery ending that gives you shivers or tells you what to do now. I don’t think a dramatic conclusion would be fitting of a blog on gentleness anyway. Rather, I want to leave you with King David’s words to God in Psalm 18:35 as he prepares for battle. And I want to let you create your own conclusion, and your own call to action:
You have also given me the shield of Your salvation;
Your right hand has held me up,
Your gentleness has made me great.