The Courage to Be Gentle
Devotions on the fruit of the Spirit
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23, NIV).

If you have a conversation about what makes somebody cool, the word "gentle" probably won't come up. Gentleness? It's anything but cool, right? In fact, it's often seen as a sign of weakness, like wearing a sign on your back that says "kick me." But that's not how the Bible presents it. The Bible is really very big on gentleness. God's Word even commands us to "clothe" ourselves with gentleness-to wear it as closely as we would a shirt (Colossians 3:12). This means being considerate in the way we treat others. It means looking beyond people's tough exteriors to the hurt or insecurities that may be hidden deep inside. Does that sound like weakness to you? It can actually take a lot of strength and courage to be truly gentle.

The Gentleness of Jesus

Then Jesus said, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls" (Matthew 11:28-29).

When it comes to Jesus, we get a lot of wrong impressions. He was gentle, right? So he kind of smiled a lot, and constantly turned the other cheek and let people push him around? OK, we're pretty sure he was a man with a gentle smile. We definitely know he encouraged turning the other cheek (Matthew 5:39). And at the end of his life, he was willing to let people smack him around and make fun of him (Luke 22:63-65). But he also walked into the temple one day, got seriously mad at a bunch of crooked salesmen, knocked over their tables and chased them out of God's house. He was not weak. He stood up for what was right and he boldly told off religious leaders who made a mockery of God's truth (Matthew 23:1-36).

So what made him gentle? Watch him hold a little child (Mark 10:13-16). See him touch and heal hurting lepers (Mark 1:40-42). Hear his caring words to a needy, hurting woman (John 4). Check out his willingness to go to the cross and die for our sins (Romans 5:8). That's gentleness with a capital "G."

What does all this mean to you and me? It means we can come to Jesus and know he will touch our hurts, hold us caringly, speak gentle words to our needy hearts. Most importantly, it means he will forgive our sins and "give us rest for our souls."

The gentleness of Jesus is always there for you. So don't let the painful struggles of life keep you down. Commit yourself to living for him, study his life and learn from his lessons. Let him be your gentle and humble teacher.

What About You?

  1. What makes you feel weary and burdened?

  2. Is there anything keeping you from coming to Jesus? What is it?

  3. Pray that God would help you to understand and accept his gentleness.

Gentleness Changes Us
But Peter said, "Man, I don't know what you are talking about." And as soon as he said these words, the rooster crowed. At that moment the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered that the Lord had said, "Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny me three times." And Peter left the courtyard, crying bitterly (Luke 22:60-62).

Before Jesus was arrested and sentenced to death, he predicted Judas would betray him and Peter would deny him. "Never," Peter replied. "Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you." That was Peter's promise. But when the pressure was on, he crumbled.

When Jesus was taken to the high priest and questioned by the religious leaders, Peter followed at a distance. Waiting outside to hear the outcome of the trial, he stood among the guards, warming himself by the fire. That's when a servant girl recognized him. "You're one of his disciples, aren't you?" she said. "Oh no, not me," Peter replied. "You must be mistaken." But this girl wasn't easily put off. She kept questioning Peter, until he swore, "I don't know the man!" That's when the rooster crowed, and Peter realized he had done just what he promised he would never do. He'd turned his back on Jesus. Just weeks before, he had said he knew for sure that Jesus was the Son of God, the promised Messiah. Yet in a matter of minutes, he buckled under fear and denied ever having known Jesus.

Peter felt horrible. Scripture says he "wept bitterly" over his sin. "How could I have done that?" Surely he must have asked himself that question a thousand times. But unlike Judas, Peter didn't let his regret and guilt keep him from seeking forgiveness. Jesus, of course, knew what Peter had done. And when Jesus appeared to the disciples after he had risen from the dead, he would have had every reason to be cold and harsh toward Peter. But Jesus was gentle. That didn't mean he acted like everything was OK. But rather than attacking Peter, he calmly asked, "Do you love me?"

"Yes, Lord," Peter replied, "you know that I love you." Two more times Jesus asked the same question, giving Peter the opportunity to make up for how he had failed him. Then he told Peter to follow him.

This encounter with Jesus was a defining moment for Peter. From that point on he was completely devoted to the work Jesus had given him to do-telling others that Jesus is the Son of God and true life is in him. He would never again waiver out of fear for his life. In fact, he would eventually die defending the name of Jesus.

Sometimes when we fail, we may think God is angry with us and that he couldn't possibly have any use for us. But if we come to Jesus, admitting that we've done wrong and need forgiveness, he promises not to treat us as our sins deserve. With gentleness he will restore us and make us "strong, firm and steadfast" (1 Peter 5:10, NIV).

What About You?

  1. When you mess up, how do you treat yourself?

  2. How did Jesus respond to Peter when he messed up? What does that tell you about how he will respond to you?

  3. Ask God to help you go to him for forgiveness when you fail rather than allowing your guilt to drive you away from him.

Treating Others Gently

He will not crush those who are weak, or quench the smallest hope, until he brings full justice with his final victory (Matthew 12:20).

"I'm so sick of Laura," Ashley groaned. "She's always so depressed."

"Oh, I know," Beth agreed. "She sat with me at lunch today, and all she talked about was how ugly she is and how she doesn't have any friends. It's no wonder! She's no fun to be around."

Have you ever been part of a conversation like that one? Sometimes it's easy to criticize someone when we don't stop to consider what could be causing them to talk or act a certain way. But being quick to criticize shows little care or concern for a struggling friend.

The verse above is a much better example to follow. It's talking about Jesus and his treatment of those who are hurting. It's basically saying that Jesus doesn't kick them when they're down. If they're on the edge, he won't push them over.

It may not always be obvious when someone is hurting. Everything could look fine on the surface, while inside they're falling apart. So we should strive to treat everyone with gentleness. In Beth and Ashley's case, this would've meant trying to figure out how to help Laura instead of gossiping about her. In other situations it could mean being kind to someone who's being difficult-remaining calm and in control of your emotions when you'd rather return their harsh words. These aren't normal responses, of course. Our human nature wants to treat people the way they treat us instead of treating them the way we want to be treated. That's why we have to look to a strength that's found outside of ourselves. It comes from God, and he wants to give it to us when we ask. As we trust God to provide and make the decision to be gentle, we'll help others to understand the true nature of God-that he is full of care and concern for all those in need.

What About You?

  1. When is it most difficult for you to be considerate of others? Why?

  2. Think about someone who's hard to get along with. Why do you think they act the way they do? How can you show that person gentleness? Plan ahead.

  3. Ask God to give you the patience to accept the weaknesses of others and the self-control to treat them gently.