The eighth of the nine fruits of the Spirit is gentleness. The KJV uses the term “meekness..” The Greek lexicons include ideas such as meekness, mildness, even-temperedness, even friendliness and humility.
The Greek word is relatively rare in the New Testament—it appears just 11 times—but those few uses give us a fairly robust picture of it by their context—
- It’s used in parallel with compassion (Co 3.12), humility (Ep 4.2; Co 3.12), kindness (Co 3.12), patience (Ep 4.2; Co 3.12), peaceableness (Titus 3.2), reverence (1P 3.16), tolerance (Ep 4.2), and love (1Co 4.21; Ep 4.2).
- It’s used to describe the attitude of a believer who is
- correcting those who have fallen into error, in hopes that they may be restored (2Ti 2.25);
- restoring a fellow believer who has fallen into sin (Ga 6.1)—and that word “restoring” is used in secular Greek literature of a doctor setting a broken bone;
- “receiving” the Scripture (Jam 1.21);
- doing good deeds (Jam 3.13).
- It’s contrasted with “boldness” (2Co 10.1) and with the attitude of a person intent on maligning someone (Titus 3.2) or disciplining someone for bad behavior (1Co 4.21).
- It’s said to be a characteristic of Christ (2Co 10.1).
I’ve been going to dentists since I was a boy. My first dentist practiced in an age when the profession didn’t give a lot of thought to the pain involved; pain was just kind of understood to be a part of the experience. He didn’t use a topical anesthetic before he came at me with that 9-foot-long needle that had the real stuff in it. It never occurred to him during a filling that the patient might like a little break 20 minutes in. I learned to just tough it out or focus my thoughts on my happy place (which was most certainly not the dentist’s chair).
As an adult, in another part of the country, I had to establish a relationship with a new dentist. The one I ended up with was, shall we say, enlightened. His training had included some simple techniques that would significantly lower the pain inflicted. A decade or two later, when he retired and sold his practice to a young guy right out of dental school, I realized that by then the training was focusing even more on techniques to lower or even eliminate the pain.
Just had a crown done last week. Piece of cake.
Good for dentistry.
Dentists are dealing with tiny fragments of bone in our heads, and their motivation derives from the simple desire to have their patients come back, so the practice can be profitable and therefore stable. (And yes, I’m sure that many dentists, and others in health care, have an altruistic motive as well.)
Most of us, though, are not dealing with tiny bone fragments. We’re dealing with the souls of men and women in the image of God, who are going to live somewhere forever, and in the case of fellow members of the body of Christ, are going to live with us forever—and who, as members of Christ, are deeply treasured by him.
We ought to think seriously, then, about the pain we inflict. Some pain is necessary, no doubt; but much of the pain we inflict with our words and actions, even when confrontation is called for, is unnecessary. Some of the pain we inflict comes from our own impatience, or frustration, or self-focus. I’ve done that, many more times than I’d like to admit. And recently.
That’s not a result of the Spirit’s work in us.
We all—all who follow Christ—have within us an omnipotent person who is influencing us to be gentle. We can do this.
And we ought to.