Our nation watched with sad hearts this past weekend as peaceful protests turned to violent riots.
While many this morning are trying to sort out the peaceful from the riotous, writing about possible motives behind the violence, my aim is to focus on the spiritual fruit of gentleness.
The timing for this post works well in light of the troubled times we’re living in. If violence and injustice were replaced with meekness and gentleness, think of the progress we’d make in safety as a country! And while I am grateful to live in a country where the ability to gather and peacefully protest is still possible, I know the problems in our country won’t be healed by protest alone. We need leadership that is meek and gentle. We need the Lord Jesus.
 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (ESV)
Matthew 11 begins the record of opposition against Jesus. The beginning of the chapter is the mild opposition that comes from the troubled questions of John the Baptist. Then comes the rebuke to the unrepentant Capernaum cities of Chorazin and Bethsaida which had rejected Jesus as the Messiah.
How does Jesus respond to the doubts of His followers and the outright rejection by whole towns? He explains who He is and extends a gracious invitation.
Jesus is gentle and lowly in heart. That’s our Fruit of the Spirit word: gentle. It is synonymous with humility, and it’s specifically self-forgetfulness, prioritizing others and responding calmly even when they are aggressive. This describes Jesus. He invites all to come to Him who labor and are heavy laden. This describes us.
This is the pastor who’s burdened by the needs of God’s people.
This is the dad or mom in the daily grind of shepherding their kids.
This is the protester that seeks to right some wrong.
This is all of us weighed down by our sin in this broken world.
I so wish this whole world would look up to see Jesus and turn to Him in repentance and faith! When we wrestle with our failures and sins and are weary and weighed down, oh that we would always see Christ. Isaiah prophesied that “He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young” (40:11).
What’s ironic is that we don’t expect gentleness to get us far in this world. We feel keenly the message that tough skin is required and outspoken boldness is necessary for others to hear us. Tough skin is helpful, but, if we’re truly going to be changed by Jesus, the skin underneath must be soft.
King David was a powerful leader. The Israelites sang he killed tens of thousands of Israel’s enemies. He wrangled with lions and bears and cut off the head of a giant. So how did he review his kingship towards the end of his life? Twice the Bible records David’s words as he praised God. Here are the words that apply:
Psalm 18:35 – You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your right hand supported me, and your gentleness made me great. (see also 2 Samuel 22:36).
I was amazed by David’s meditation on his rule as Israel’s mighty king. He said to God, “Your gentleness made me great.” Can you imagine that? It seems counter-intuitive to our way of thinking. How can gentleness, humility and meekness lead to greatness? Yet that is the way of God, it’s the character of our Lord Jesus, and it is the way of sanctification for us (see Matthew 20:25-28).
Friends, seek the Lord for this quality of gentleness. I’m convicted by the need for this fruit, and I am led to ask some assessment questions:
- Am I marked by humility and a gentle spirit toward others?
- What would those closest to me say? Do they feel safe to share their opinions and concerns with me? Or do my words and attitudes shut them down?
- Do I often cut people off while they try to speak, roll my eyes with frustration or raise my voice slightly to indicate they need to be quiet? These are signs of self-absorption.
The Lord knows your need of gentleness. Accept His invitation today. Learn from Him. See Him as gentle and lowly in heart, and you will continually find rest for your souls. And you will extend that rest to others.
Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, Self-Control