Harwich Soundings – September 28, 2017
There’s not much ‘gentleness’ in our public discourse these days. Despite the fact that Paul names ‘gentleness’ as one of the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5, the quality seems in short supply…with some notable exceptions. Each of us knows someone to whom we’d attach this attractive characteristic.
Maybe we carry some misconceptions about ‘gentleness.’ I was stuck by a piece that came around in my early morning devotions this week. Marilyn Chandler McEntyre writes: “But gentleness has more to do with vigor, conviction, and even, sometimes, with knowing how to make trouble, than we commonly think. It is as related to clarity as it is to caring, and has more to do with discernment than with deference. I think of Jesus and the rich young man—how gentle must have been the knowing look with which Jesus greeted him (see Mark 10:17-22). ‘And Jesus looked at him and loved him.’ Yet Jesus’ next step was a radical challenge to all the young man held dear. No sermon. No blame. Not even an admonition. Just an invitation, but one so demanding it turned him away. I like to think it did not turn him away forever. As I read the story, it leaves a door wide open to reconsider and return. The young man had a lot to think over. And Jesus could afford to give him the freedom and the time to do that.
Real gentleness, in fact, comes from a place of spiritual abundance—because we who are poor are rich in Christ. We can only afford to be gentle when we are secure enough to lay aside our instincts for self-protection, defensiveness, or aggression—when we know that we have what we need.” (“A Gentle Word”, Weavings, July –August 2004)
Gentleness leaves a door open wide enough to allow for the other to reconsider and grow. It can be one of the most powerful postures we take with one another. Without coercion or insistence on ‘the right way’, true gentleness bears fruit in transformed relationships. Let us consider being ‘gentle’ in our going out and coming in as this troubled world God so loves turns.