Gentleness: the Eighth Fruit of the Spirit

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The law is not against such things.

GALATIANS 5:22-23

Hello again, everyone! Thank you for joining me as we look at the eighth fruit of the Spirit: gentleness. 

Here are the links to the previous seven in case you missed them:

Love | Joy | Peace | Patience | Kindness | Goodness | Faithfulness

Word Study

According to Strong’s Concordance and the Blue Letter Bible, the word for gentleness  as we find it in Galatians 5:22-23–transliterated as chrēstotēs–is actually often translated as goodness or kindness. Here is the definition they give:

χρηστότης chrēstótēs, khray-stot’-ace; from G5543; usefulness, i.e. morally, excellence (in character or demeanor):—gentleness, good(-ness), kindness.”

I find that to be an interesting definition. I will admit that I am not all that familiar with Strong’s Concordance, although I wish I were, so if you would like to look into this further, here is the link to the page where this came from. I did, however, look up another word with a similar meaning that we find used in the Bible. 

Philippians 4:5 in the King James Version of the Bible reads this way: “Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.” (emphasis mine).

According to Strong’s Concordance and the Blue Letter Bible, the word for moderation is transliterated as epieikēs. This word is also used to mean “patient” in the KJV (1 Timothy 3:3) but is used three times as the word “gentle.” Here are two of those three verses in the HCSB (since that and the CSB are what I typically read) as well as some surrounding verses for context:

 “Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to slander no one, to avoid fighting and to be kind, always showing gentleness to all people.” (Titus 3:1-2).

“For where envy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every kind of evil. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without favoritism and hypocrisy.” (James 3:16-17).

When I imagine the quality of gentleness, I imagine a lion and a lamb lying down in the grass beside one another. It’s peaceful… and calm… and as the wind slowly blows through their mane and wool, they are content to simply sit and be still. Maybe there’s wildflowers around them, and it’s such a calm day that there isn’t any fear or worry in their hearts or minds. There isn’t any arguing, or name-calling, or attempts to fight as predator and prey. They simply rest in their trust of one another and enjoy each other’s presence. 

Sounds nice, doesn’t it? Why can’t we live in a world like that? Why do we as humans have to constantly bicker and prove who is right instead of embracing the fact that we are all made in the image of God?

Gentleness is a fruit of the Spirit, which means we need to learn–with the Spirit’s help, of course–how to bear this fruit. But first, let’s look at some examples that show us the gentleness of God. We are, after all, called to imitate Him.

God’s Gentleness in Creation

God is all-powerful, almighty, and capable of absolutely anything. And, yet, how did He choose to create the world? 

“Then God said, ‘Let there be light, and there was light.’” (Genesis 1:3).

He simply spoke. There isn’t any mention of rumblings or big bangs or cosmic clashes in outer space. God the Creator spoke the world into being. And when it came to creating man:

“Then the Lord God formed the man out of the dust from the ground and breathed the breath of life into his nostrils, and the man became a living being.” (Genesis 2:7).

I imagine God breathing ever so gently, filling Adam’s lungs with His tender, compassionate breath and pouring love out upon him as he came to life. That, to me, is an example of the thoughtfulness and gentleness of God. 

God’s Gentle Writing 

“When He finished speaking with Moses on Mount Sinai, He gave him the two tablets of the testimony, stone tablets inscribed by the finger of God.” (Exodus 31:18, see also Deuteronomy 9:10). 

What a scene to imagine! The finger of God writing the commandments on the stone tablets… I don’t know for sure exactly what Moses saw, but just to think about God doing that! That detail again shows God’s thoughtfulness and gentleness. 

It reminds me of the scene in John 8 when the scribes and Pharisees bring the woman caught in adultery to Jesus, and He calmly stoops and writes in the sand. As the righteous Judge of the world, Jesus had every right to point His finger at the woman, and even stone her to death. But He didn’t. He extended forgiveness, showed compassion and mercy, and let her go free with nothing more than an exhortation to “go and sin no more.” If that’s not gentleness, I don’t know what is.

God’s Gentle Whispers

One of my favorite Old Testament stories is about Elijah on Mount Horeb:

“Then He said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain in the Lord’s presence.’ At that moment, the Lord passed by. A great and mighty wind was tearing at the mountains and was shattering the cliffs before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. After the fire there was a voice, a soft whisper. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Suddenly, a voice came to him and said, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’” (1 Kings 19:11-13, emphasis mine)

I love this passage so much because it shows the intimacy that the Lord desires to have with His children. He can show His power and might at any time He wants, and sometimes He does. But here, He chose to speak to Elijah in a still, small voice. He spoke in a whisper because whispers coax others to lean in and get close enough to hear. The Lord met Elijah where he was at, and asked him a simple question: “What are you doing here?” It also reminds me of God in the Garden of Eden when He asked Adam and Eve where they were: “Where are you?”

God wants there to be communication between us and Him. He already knows, but He wants us to tell Him anyway. He is such a good, gentle Father beckoning us closer and imploring us to pour out our hurts and questions and confusion and doubt. He takes it all upon Himself and gently pours out His love and peace to those who ask. 

I love to just sit and imagine this story, pondering how soft and gentle and reassuring that voice would have sounded in Elijah’s ears. How peaceul the presence, voice, and touch of God can be!

Let Us Reflect His Gentleness

A characteristic I find truly respectable about Jesus was that He always knew what to say and the tone to say it in. He could discern when stern reprimanding was needed (like with the scribes and Pharisees or the flipping of tables in the temple) but He could also stand in front of His accusers and not say a word. 

Solomon reminds his son of the benefits of a gentle answer in the book of Proverbs:

“A gentle answer turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath.” (Proverbs 15:1, HCSB).

I also like how this verse is written in The Passion Translation:

“Respond gently when you are confronted and you’ll defuse the rage of another. Responding with sharp, cutting words will only make it worse. Don’t you know that being angry can ruin the testimony of even the wisest of men?”

We are responsible for the words we choose to speak, and the temperament with which we speak them. It takes real self-control (the next fruit of the Spirit) to not lash out at someone who gets on our nerves, but as Spirit-led followers of Christ, we should listen and allow the Spirit to guide our words and actions. Gentleness is a fruit of the Spirit, so let us learn to be gentle when it is appropriate–in other words, when Jesus would be gentle. 

This does not mean that we should be 100% docile push-overs and stand on the sideline when He has called us to take action, but let us remember that there is a time and a place for everything. He will help us discern when to be gentle, as well as when some reinforcement is needed. 

If you are familiar with the King James Version of the Bible, you would know that the word used for gentleness in the case of the fruits of the Spirit is meekness. Meekness is often defined as “strength under control.” Just because we have the ability or even the authority to do something, that does not mean it would be right for us to do so. Jesus is kind, gentle, and forgiving toward us, so let us be kind, gentle, and forgiving toward others.

I hope you will take some time this week to be still and reflect on the gentleness of God!

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Thank you so much for reading this post, and I hope you will join me next week as we discuss the last fruit of the Spirit! May the Lord bless you and keep you as you pursue Him and think upon His gentleness this week.

Always His,