HH, Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div
Gentleness πρᾳΰτης (prautes) was translated “meekness” in the King James Version, but because being meek seemed weak, modern translations of the Bible use gentleness to mean mildness of disposition.
Baker’s Evangelical Bible Dictionary explains, “Meekness does not identify the weak but more precisely the strong who have been placed in a position of weakness where they persevere without giving up. The use of the Greek word when applied to animals makes this clear, for it means ‘tame’ when applied to wild animals. In other words, such animals have not lost their strength but have learned to control the destructive instincts that prevent them from living in harmony with others.”
Jesus describes himself as gentle in Matthew 11:29 “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.”
The Strength in Gentleness
It turns out that the Spirit does not produce in us an ability to look awesome in bonnets or tuxedos.
The word Paul uses for “gentleness” in Galatians 5:22-23 is prautes, which has the same root as the word Jesus uses to describe those who will inherit the earth in Matthew 5. It’s usually translated as “meek,” “mild,” or “gentle.” But Strong’s Greek Concordance says that the word “refers to exercising God’s strength under His control . . . demonstrating power without undue harshness. . . . The English term ‘meek’ often lacks this blend . . . of gentleness (reserve) and strength.”
Reserve and strength. Power and control. These are not words that come to mind when we think of gentleness.
But consider Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem. In Matthew’s account of the incident, the author refers to Christ as a fulfilment of Zechariah’s prophecy: “See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
The king of all kings appears—the most powerful figure Jerusalem has ever known—and the thunderclap entrance that he chooses is . . . gentleness. He could have come in accompanied by ten thousand trumpeting angels. He shows up on a donkey.
Just after this entrance, he overturns the tables of cheaters in the temple. (Gentle?) Then he heals all of those who come to him. (Gentle.) Then he curses a fig tree. (Gentle????)
Yes, Jesus is gentle at all times. He is “gentle and humble in heart” (Matthew 11). Jesus has prautes, both in his cute baby face and later in his anger in the temple.
Gentleness, then, is not a relinquishing of strength. On the contrary, the Spirit is powerful, and we are given access to that power. Gentleness, meekness—prautes—is recognizing that we are not the source of power, but the instrument of it. And as that instrument, we are under God’s control. We are not to wield that power harshly or without purpose.
Growing in Gentleness
As I led the study on the fruit of the Spirit, I was convicted by the idea of gentleness more than by any other trait that Paul mentions in this Galatians passage.
This is partly because I am not a naturally gentle person. I tend to wield the gifts God has given me harshly, particularly when it comes to language. The desire to use language to gain social power had led me to do so at the expense of my friends too often.
So I did a sarcasm fast. I intentionally put that power back under God’s control, asking him to give me gentleness. And where I expected to feel awkward and humourless, I was instead able to see opportunities for sincerity and encouragement more clearly.
For me, prautes meant being unsarcastic. It might mean something different for you. Just don’t confuse it for bonnet-wearing dandelions. At its essence, it means recognizing that the Spirit is not only our power but also the guide of our power.
In what areas of your life is he asking you to let him be that guide? This is how Paul addressed the issue with the church and I want to do a similar thing today with my readers and this Mystical Order.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
There are several different words translated as gentle or gentleness throughout the Word of God. The Greek word gentleness in this passage means usefulness in the sense of having moral excellence in character or demeanor. Words for gentleness are also translated as goodness, kindness or clemency. In other passages, the Greek word translated gentle means to be affable, mild or kind. It is sometimes translated as moderate or patient. Affable means to be friendly, good-natured, amiable, agreeable, easy-going, courteous, pleasant, cordial, and sociable,
A gentle person is not a weak person, but a person of strong moral character who is humble and who esteems others above themselves. A gentle person is someone who is kind, considerate and merciful and who gets along well with others. A gentle person would make a great friend. You might say to yourself, “Being good-natured and easy-going is not who I am and so I will leave that to others who are naturally that way. It is easy for those other people, but that is just not my character or personality!” I have news for you – God can do something about your personality! You can change – you must just be willing! If we do not have these attributes, we need to allow the Lord to help us to develop the fruit of gentleness in our lives.
But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. James 3:14-18
- Gentleness is not pushy or demanding – it does not insist on its own rights or its own way. It is not envious, boastful, proud or self-seeking. It is not hypocritical nor is it a respecter of persons.
- Gentleness is not easily angered.
- Gentleness is patient and kind. Gentleness is truthful and yet merciful and willing to yield –
- Gentleness will allow you to disagree without being disagreeable. Although gentleness makes peace a priority – it never compromises the Word of God.
But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will. 2 Timothy 2:23-26
As ministers of reconciliation, ambassadors of the Kingdom of God, and representatives of the truth of the Word of God, we are not to argue, strive or try to shove what we believe down anyone’s throat. We can share the Gospel with people, but we cannot force them to make a choice. Even God does not force anyone and we certainly do not have that right. According to the Word of God, we are not to bring ourselves down to the level of those who just want to argue for the sake of arguing. They are not interested in the truth – only their version of it. Do not even enter into a conversation with these individuals. Politely decline to argue with them.
If you argue and strive, you will be opening the door to the devil in your life and that is something you cannot afford at any cost. You work so hard to stay in the will of God and under His protection – don’t blow it by getting into stupid, unproductive, strife-filled arguments! We can really only minister effectively to those who are prepared to hear what we have to say or who actually want to hear what we have to say. You can even have a civil discussion concerning a difference of opinions, but do not fight and argue, not ever!
Sometimes we get defensive when we are attacked or criticized by others and react in the flesh and begin to attack them back. If you are doing the will of God, you have nothing to defend and no reason to be defensive. God will defend you since He is the One who called you, anointed you, and gave you your assignment. The fruit of gentleness helps you to keep a good attitude even under very trying circumstances. Always remember, if you are in the will of God, then He is with you and for you and if God is for you – who can be against you!
You have also given me the shield of Your salvation; your right hand has held me up, your gentleness has made me great. Psalms 18:35