“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Gal. 5:22–23).
“But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy” (James 3:17).
These two quotations are not surprising; gentleness is something we should expect from a loving God. However, the fruit and wisdom of gentleness are given to us, and God expects us to be gentle. Here are two examples:
“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” (2 Tim. 2:25).
“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Pet. 3:15).
We are gentle with fragile things such as china figurines and with helpless things like newborn babies. We are not accustomed to being gentle towards enemies of the gospel and people who are belligerently anti-Christian. The fragile and the helpless engender a gentle response. We are afraid they will break if we are not gentle. This response is not a fruit of the Spirit. It is something the majority of people in this world have naturally. The antagonist does not evoke a gentle response, so we are not gentle with him. We do not care whether he is breakable.
When the servant of the Lord has the gentleness that is from above, he corrects his opponents gently. Like the other fruits of the Spirit, this gentleness is not something we can fabricate. It is given to us, and it is commanded.
God requires us to refute the opposition and yet not be quarrelsome. 2 Timothy 2:24–25 confirms this teaching: “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.”
There is increasing opposition today to Christians and to sound doctrine. Elders must be able to refute those in opposition (Titus 1:9), but they must do it gently, kindly, and without quarreling. We can chooseto be gentle because we already have gentleness through the presence of the Holy Spirit.
*Excerpted from Weapons & Tactics. To purchase, visit ccmbooks.org/bookstore.
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