The Character of the Christian: Gentle

Does your life reflect the meekness and humility of gentleness?

The elder, then, must be gentle, able to control his temper and his response to others when he is attacked, maligned, and finds himself in tense or difficult situations. He is marked at all times by patience, tenderness, and a sweet spirit. Negatively, he must not lose control either physically or verbally. He must not respond to others with physical force or threats of violence. When it comes to his words, he must not quarrel or bicker or be one who loves to argue. Even when pushed and exasperated he will not lash out with his words, he will not crush a bruised reed or snuff out a faintly burning wick.

 

Today we continue our series on the character of the Christian. We are exploring how the various character qualifications of elders are actually God’s calling on all Christians. While elders are meant to exemplify these traits, all Christians are to exhibit them. I want us to consider whether we are displaying these traits and to learn together how we can pray to have them in greater measure. Today we will look at what it means for an elder—and every Christian—to be gentle.

Paul writes to Timothy, “Therefore an overseer must [be] not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome” (1 Timothy 3:2–3). Similarly, he tells Titus that an overseer “must not be arrogant or quick-tempered … or violent” (Titus 1:7). The positive characteristic here is gentleness and it is opposed by the two negative characteristics of violence and quarreling. The elder (and, therefore, every mature Christian) pursues gentleness and flees from violence and bickering.

To be gentle is to be tender, humble, and fair, to know what posture and response is fitting for any occasion. It indicates a graciousness, a desire to extend mercy to others, and a desire to yield to both the will of God and the preferences of other people. Such gentleness will be expressed first in the home and only subsequently in the church. It is a rare trait, but one we know and love when we see and experience it.

Alexander Strauch notes that to pursue gentleness is to imitate Jesus. He writes, “Jesus tells us who He is as a person: He is gentle and humble. Too many religious leaders, however, are not gentle nor are they humble. They are controlling and proud. They use people to satisfy their fat egos. But Jesus is refreshingly different. He truly loves people, selflessly serving and giving His life for them. He expects His followers—especially the elders who lead His people—to be humble and gentle like Himself.” Similarly, John Piper writes, “This [gentleness] is the opposite of pugnacious or belligerent. He should not be harsh or mean-spirited. He should be inclined to tenderness and resort to toughness only when the circumstances commend this form of love. His words should not be acid or divisive but helpful and encouraging.”

The elder, then, must be gentle, able to control his temper and his response to others when he is attacked, maligned, and finds himself in tense or difficult situations.

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