I’ve spent the last few weeks being totally engrossed in the Rugby World Cup which is currently taking place in Japan and at the time of writing – England haven’t yet been smashed by New Zealand in their semi-final match; so as a nation we are still full of hope that we can repeat the incredible feat of 2003 and win the whole thing!
However, one thing that has really struck me about rugby players is how gentle they are. Now, that might be a bit of an odd sentence to read but actually when you think about it, rugby is sport in which you need to be gentle. At Kick we like to say that gentleness is being ‘quietly strong’ or in other words, it’s using your strength when you should, and knowing when to be gentle.
These rugby players are all incredible athletes and when you look at the size and strength of some of them – it really is jaw dropping. The tallest man at the World Cup this year is 6 “10 Rory Arnold, and the heaviest is Ben Tameifuna weighing in at 151kg (23.7 stone). These players are incredibly strong and if they played without gentleness then there would be a whole host of injuries in every single game.
A common misconception is that gentleness is a weakness but really gentleness is courage without violence, strength without harshness and love without anger. Gentleness is responding through respecting others; respecting their strengths and weaknesses and recognising strengths and weaknesses in ourselves. I remember when I was very little and I would be holding hands with my Dad, I remember trying to squeeze his hand as hard as I could to try and hurt him, I could squeeze with all of my strength and it wouldn’t make a difference. I didn’t need to be gentle because I lacked the power to actually cause any pain. However, if my dad playfully squeezed my hand back – he could hurt me in a second. It isn’t the weak that need to gentle – in fact it’s the opposite.
Gentleness doesn’t always come naturally. Gentleness is something Christians must learn. It is a trait that is godly, and as His children God expects us to become gentle, as He is. There are countless examples of gentleness in the bible and unsurprisingly, Jesus is a good place to look. One example I want to talk about is when Jesus talks about casting the first stone. This is a familiar story about Jesus that gives us a beautiful picture of gentleness, especially when contrasted with the behaviour of the Pharisees. One day while Jesus is teaching, the Pharisees brought in a woman who had been caught in adultery. The Pharisees wanted to stone the woman, but Jesus stepped in and said “let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” Jesus responded with gentleness toward the woman, and showing everyone there that they were guilty of sinning as well. He wasn’t harsh or mean about it, but rather he led with gentleness and compassion – setting an example for the Pharisees, and for us. We need to be gentle with our words just like Jesus was. It says in Proverbs 15:1 “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” It spells out exactly how we should speak to others, and if we look back to the story about Jesus in John 8, we can easily see how he used a soft answer when the Pharisees chose a harsh word.
Those of you who know me will know that ‘gentleness’ is not a word anyone would use to describe me. I have a naturally ‘outside voice’ and whenever I hear the line “the meek will inherit the earth” somewhere in my head says “well good for them, what do the loud people get?” Gentleness always seemed to me like a personality trait. You know the type: well-spoken, polite, excellent listeners, but this is not the gentleness Jesus speaks of in Galatians 5. How do I know this?
Because God is also described as gentle – “You have given me the shield of your salvation, and Your gentleness made me great.” (2 Samuel 22:36) With God’s help, you and I can be gentle in everything we say and do without being a quiet pushover. We can be gentle…
1. In our conversations
“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Ephesians 4:2) – If you’re like me, there’s always that banterful remark that I regret immediately when I realise I’ve gone too far. Or perhaps you’re the story-topper, getting lost in a conversational tennis match just firing ‘one-up’ anecdotes back and forth. Perhaps you need to be right or to have the last word. Whatever it is, let’s pray that we would never have reason to look back on a conversation with shame.
2. In our friendships
If our friend is caught in a snare of sin, we are commanded to “restore that person gently” (Galatians 6:1). That means, not acting self-righteous; not getting angry and telling them off; but gently pointing them back towards the only person who can help with anybody’s sin.
3. In our evangelism
I find it so difficult to stay calm and polite when someone is challenging my faith. So much so, that I tend to avoid evangelistic situations for fear of doing more harm than good. Because of this, one of my main targets for myself is 1 Peter 3:15 – “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.” Evangelism is not an argument we’re trying to win. Our words and behaviour is not appealing unless we are showing them Jesus. He draws people in, not us. So let’s model Jesus while we tell our friends about him!
This sounds like a lot, at least it does to me. But we have the greatest example possible to follow. Jesus Christ was the epitome of gentleness: “A bruised reed he will not break and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out.” (Isaiah 42:3)
When we are bruised from our suffering, Jesus will not hurt us further and he will not tell us to ‘man up’. He is gentle and comforting to our very souls. When your faith is waning and your flame is about to go out, Jesus will not let you go. John Piper writes: “the faintest spark of spiritual life will glow and grow when it comes into contact with Jesus.” The Jesus of the bible we know and love, was a gentle man. But he was not quiet and he certainly was not a push over. Why not start November by getting to know Jesus again, looking at the way he behaved and spoke to others and seeing for yourself the boldest example of gentleness.