In what way is gentleness a fruit of the Holy Spirit?
The fruit of the Spirit, listed in Galatians 5:22–23, is the result of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We often think of gentleness as tenderness or even softness. But biblical gentleness is more than that. It involves having a humble heart and being kind toward others. Some dictionaries define gentleness in part as being "mild-mannered;" we are polite and restrained in our behavior toward others. Those who are gentle are humble and thankful toward God, having a peaceful mind and submitting wholly to His plan.
Prautes, the Greek word translated "gentleness" in Galatians 5:23, means "to submit one's strength in a posture of meekness." Prautes is translated as "gentleness," "consideration," "humility," and "meekness." One part of gentleness is to calmly accept God's judgment regarding a situation, even if that judgment results in personal hardship. It is humility toward God. When we submit to God we will also be gentle with others.
The gentleness in the New Testament is closely related to wisdom and spiritual growth. Galatians 6:1, 2 Timothy 2:25, and 1 Peter 3:15 all use gentleness to describe the way we are to correct or teach others. We are to submit our strength, including the strength of our convictions, to God's wisdom. We are to teach God's point of view, not our own. And we are to accept that God's actions toward ourselves and others are the right actions, even when human wisdom thinks otherwise. In our teaching approach, we should be respectful toward others. We don't forcefully share truth or correction, browbeating others into accepting it. Instead, we share truth in a spirit of love (Ephesians 4:13–16). This does not mean that we aren't strong in our convictions or that we don't stand up for what we believe in. Gentleness is not weakness or lack of conviction. Rather, it means that we value the person we are sharing truth with and thus treat them as a person made in God's image. If anything about us is offensive, it should be the message of the gospel itself, not the manner in which we deliver it.
James 1:21 expounds on the gentle nature we are to have toward God: "Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls." Sadly, our natural human nature is tainted by sin, it is filthy and wicked. Only God is good. We need to accept His word "in humility" or "with meekness" (prautes) in order to be saved. We must be "like a little child" to enter the Kingdom (Mark 10:15). In addition, to be gentle is to accept the hardships He allows in our lives, considering them helpful for our spiritual development. Gentleness is an inward grace that easily submits our own strength of will to God's Lordship.
Gentleness is the spirit and attitude behind repentance. To "repent" in a biblical sense is to change one's mind and believe that God is right. Repentance is necessary for salvation, and we need to carry an attitude of repentance in a gentle spirit our entire lives. A gentle heart will accept God's wisdom and yield to His discernment. As a result, we will also be gentle with others, recognizing that they are created in God's image (Genesis 1:27) and loved by Him (2 Peter 3:9). We can only be gentle as the Holy Spirit develops spiritual fruit in our lives.
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