Your adornment must not be merely external–braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. 1 Peter 3:3-4
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Colossians 3:12
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The man was obsessed with blessing. For his whole life, all he could think about was being the blessed one. He became so fixated on this one thought that he lied for it, cheated for it, and eventually wrestled God for it. In Genesis 32, Jacob comes face-to-face with the Giver of blessing and holds on for dear life as Yahweh shows him what it really means to be blessed.
We are all like Jacob. Every person has that one thing – the constant obsession that permeates life. For me, it has always been gentleness.
My journey to gentleness has not been as easy one, particularly because the term has felt elusive and vague to me. By way of reason, I knew gentleness was not a synonym for weakness or timidity. If God is gentle – and he is – then the word cannot convey any sense of lacking. So what is gentleness?
This word gentleness is littered all throughout the Bible. Our English translation did the best it could to encapsulate such a rich concept, but sometimes we need a language lesson to squeeze out the extra goodness. In 2 Samuel 22:36, gentleness is mentioned by using the original word `anah, which translates “to bend low” or “to condescend.” From this new perspective, we can conclude that gentleness contains an aspect of humility. This understanding makes a lot of sense when we look at our God, who bent low and took on the form of man to complete the story of redemption.
Next, in verses like 2 Corinthians 10:1, we see gentleness used in a different aspect. The Greek word used in this verse is epieikeia, which translates to “fairness.” This leads us to view gentleness in terms of justice or rightness. We know from passages like Isaiah 61 that God loves justice, so this aspect of gentleness would fit with the overall character of God.
Lastly, in the famous passage that lists the fruits of the Spirit – one of which is gentleness – we see an entirely different word used: chrestotes. This word is most commonly translated as “kindness” but has also been used to depict “goodness.” If we put all three of these translated concepts together – humility, fairness or justice, and kindness – I believe we’d reach a better understanding of what it means to be gentle.
I used to think I was far from gentle, because I have strong opinions and a lioness-hearted mentality. But I’m starting to believe that having a lioness heart doesn’t mean I’m void of things like humility, fairness, or kindness. In fact, it takes strength to exhibit these characteristics on a consistent basis.
This has been my prayer: that God will build up my lioness heart so that I can more readily take on a posture of gentleness.
Gentleness isn’t a characteristic for the faint of heart. It’s for the ones who will hold on tight and stand firm in the face of all the hard things. To be gentle is to be strong.