Archive for Bible Studies on Gentleness

Sep
21

Kindness Instead of Quarrels

Posted by: | Comments (0)

A couple of weeks ago, Michelle was asking me when I’d weigh in about the pastor who wanted to burn Qurans. Although we’re not talking about the pastor in particular anymore, I’ve found a place where I think the Bible weighs in on the controversy – and as always, right down to our hearts, too.

I am reading my way through 2 Timothy, a book I’d have to say I don’t know too much about other than the “famous” verses that pop out. It surprised me to find some thoughts about kindness and gentleness that sound all too a propos for these days.

I have a fondness for those fruits of the Spirit that seem to get lumped together and not discussed – goodness, kindness, gentleness. This started years ago when I was asked to speak on all three for 10 minutes in a presentation on the fruits. Someone put them all together, thinking they were basically the same thing. They are not! I tried to show that in my allotted ten minutes. Then it started me on the lookout to find these qualities in the Bible for the last 25 years.

These are instructions for anyone who wants to be “the Lord’s servant.”

And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 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, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will. – 2 Timothy 2:23-26

There are two ways to get into a quarrel: you are drawn into one when another person becomes combative, or you pick a quarrel, saying inflammatory things that you know will lead to quarreling. If we’re told to be careful not to get pulled in to a quarrel, we certainly shouldn’t be starting one.

Now, putting “Quran Burning” in huge letters outside a church is an extreme example. (An aside: many bemoaned the attention the media gave the story. I don’t know exactly how they found the pastor, but think about it: he wanted to be found. He was picking this quarrel and hoping to amplify it.) But at home, on the smaller scale, how many times have you heard someone say the “clever” snide remark that is going to humiliate and raise ire? The one that comes to my mind is the “joke” about Adam and Steve, by which some people feel they’ve handily put down their opposition. But then there are the people who say, “Those people who believe in eternal security, they….” or, “those people who speak in tongues, they….” I’ve worshiped with both of “them” over the years. It’s a disgrace to talk about other believers like that. Because

Instead, {the Lord’s servant} must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. – 2 Timothy 2:24b

To be kind to another, we have to be respectful of him as a human being, even if we cannot respect his viewpoint. To be able to teach, we have to know Scripture, not hearsay or smart remarks. To not resent the other person’s religion and what hurtful things that religion may have done, we have to put away our pride. We are not better than the other person or his ideas. We have found Someone better than both of us. Someone who ended quarrels. Someone who was not only kind, but even gentle and humble of heart (Matthew 11:29). Someone whose very name is above any other name – most certainly our names (Philippians 2:9). The very thought of my name compared to His makes me wither. We are supposed to introduce others to that Someone – Jesus – holy and true, not someone combative and prejudiced.

Those who oppose him he must gently instruct – 2 Timothy 2:25a

If you confront a person on any subject, you need to know what your objective is. Are you bringing up your points to bring harmony, or a greater understanding? If your objective is to show the other person “what’s what”, or to make sure they know you are right and they are wrong, then pride is leading the way, not reconciliation.

Here, the gentle instruction is going to lead to evangelism, the opportunity to share who Jesus really is with the person. Posturing and put downs are never going to do it. I doubt that anyone has ever said, “Now that you’ve shredded all my beliefs and made me look like a fool, I want to accept your Jesus.” You realize that’s ridiculous once I’ve said it; do we always realize it when we’re talking to someone?

That they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will. – 2 Timothy 2:26

Paul says the unbeliever is trapped. They have been taken captive, and often have been taught to take more people captive into the same false religion or cult. There’s been an outcry about human trafficking in part because we can see, and hopefully stop, the horrible kidnappers and abusers. Even when people are being belligerent about an ungodly viewpoint, Paul is saying that beneath it all, they are trapped by the real enemy that we do not see. If we could see their captivity, would we argue with them? Wouldn’t we rather work with them gently and try to get them out of there?

Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. – Philippians 4:5

Lord, it’s a human failing to want to fight and put down others. Please help us all to be kinder and gentler the next time there is a conflict of opinion and remember it’s an opportunity to show Jesus’ kindness, gentleness and love. Amen.

Jun
29

Gentleness Evident to All

Posted by: | Comments (0)

Lately I’ve been looking at Philippians to learn about joy.  Today I want to examine another fruit of the Spirit that Paul mentions in Philippians that we don’t often talk about.

Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near. – Philippians 4:5

All of us who have felt the Holy Spirit was impressing something upon us, especially with words of correction, know that He is incredibly gentle.  He doesn’t deal with us harshly.

“Come now, let us reason together,” says the Lord. – Isaiah 1:18a

The God of the universe is under no obligation to reason with us!  He could simply proclaim His will and order us to do it.  But God is love (1John 4:16b) and He lovingly chooses the way of gentleness.

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.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. – Matthew 11:29 & 30

This is Jesus describing Himself – gentle and humble – as He makes this offer of fellowship with Him.  In contrast, some people have been taught that God is completely unknowable, or distant, or harshly judgmental.  The gentleness and non-manipulative nature of Jesus is a distinctive of Christianity.  It should, then, be a distinctive trait of His believers.

I used to think of the phrase “the Lord is near” as if it were saying, “Uh-oh, He’s watching us.”  I’m changing my mind about that in this way:  as we interact with others, the Lord is near us, as He always is.  Our gentle words and actions should remind the believer, and show the unbeliever, that God is here with us.

Now the apostle Peter certainly did not cushion his evangelism by hiding any difficult truths.  In the first sermon on the day of Pentecost, people were “cut to the heart” by his message and asked what they needed to do.

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.” – Acts 2:38a

There was no dancing around the sin issue here.  But in his epistle Peter counsels us to remember gentleness when sharing the gospel:

Always be prepared to give and answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. – 1Peter 3:15 & 16

“But do this with gentleness and respect.”  That should end the sharp reply, the clever put-down, the criticism of something we have barely heard out.  Sometimes as we “set someone straight” we deliver a harsh and embarrassing rebuke to the other person.  Moreover, the self righteous or “cute” answer is not limited to religious one-liners.  If we are joining in making degrading “jokes” about someone’s clothes, demeanor, or activities, our gentleness is not evident to all – at all.  If we have a family member or a co-worker that everyone seems to feel free to insult, the persecution (for that is what it is) needs to stop with us.  God is calling us to gentleness, to see beyond the group mentality.

For those of us who are parents, sometimes we struggle to be gentle to an errant son or daughter.  We become so concerned with the firmness they need that we forget to express our love and gentleness toward them.  I have learned, and am still learning, that the firmness is necessary for his protection but the gentleness draws him home.  He needs to see in me that I am disciplining one I love:

My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,

and do not lose heart when He rebukes you,

because the Lord disciplines those He loves,

and He punishes everyone He accepts as a son.

–         Hebrews 5b & 6

Gentleness, like every gift of the Spirit, makes me more aware of Jesus and of the way others need my gentleness in their lives.  Now the Scripture I started with means so much more to me:

Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near.