Yes indeed, it does count gentleness as among the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22 – but nowhere does it cite abrasiveness or boldness. Let’s face it, a lot of us come into all this bold and abrasive, those are easy and require no maturity at all. Yes, I said it – boldness and abrasiveness, and speaking whatever is on our minds in whatever way we want to say it is not associated with maturity – but gentleness is.
Don’t shoot the messenger guys, but maturity is marked by all of the things that many attribute wrongly to lukewarmness – patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control. They only look like weakness and lukewarmness to those people who do nothing to reign in their desire to beat on people who they don’t think are getting with the program quick enough.
But in the Sermon on the Mount, our Messiah praised those who are meek, mourning, merciful and peaceable – He said that the Kingdom of Heaven belonged to them, and not to the brash, uncompassionate, merciless and combative. We’ve been taught to read the prophets in a loud and angry voice and many have made the mistake that everyone is to be talked to in that tone of voice and indeed, that the prophets only used one tone of voice. That, I believe, is wishful thinking on the parts of those who enjoy using that tone of voice and are looking for an excuse. In fact, I’ve never met anyone who preferentially used that tone who really, and I mean really, knew their scriptures. The people who are quick to bark are generally knowledgeable about verses and sometimes sections, but not the Scriptures. It’s different. The Word changes us, it humbles us as we come to know it. The more I read, the less I see of the faults of others and the more I see my own growth potential – not how far I have come but how far I still have to go. Far from leaving me hopeless, I take a sort of pleasure in seeing how much more maturity is waiting for me if I just keep pressing in. I am heartened that I can be better than I am, because who I am right now is not nearly good enough. I am still not a safe enough person to be around all the time.
I want to be gentle, but cruelty and harshness is just so easy. It takes every ounce of my self-control sometimes to be gentle and patient – one cannot truly exist without the other. I want to create a whip and clear out the people who annoy me, but I remember all the times that people attacked Yeshua (Jesus) and the only two times he did such a thing was when the holiness of the actual Temple Mount was encroached on by Sadducees (who were robbing pilgrims looking to pay their Temple Tax) jacking up the exchange rates. Those were the only two times we see Him not being gentle – and yet we desire to whip everyone we disagree with. And sometimes, sometimes He said, “Woe..” but not normally, normally he sat and taught those who came to Him – not those who weren’t interested. And yet some judge everyone who doesn’t come and listen, and they go actively forcing themselves on people. That is not godly behavior, it is not good fruit – it’s just giving free reign to flesh and misrepresenting it as zeal. I, fact, I find that the word zeal is often used to camouflage immaturity.
Oh we can’t get around gentleness and it’s hard to fake – hard, but not impossible. There are those who are gentle in person and yet start railing about the situation behind closed doors – oh yes, I’ve done that! It’s not optimal, but better than doing it in person and a bit more mature. It’s part of the process.
We can be firm and gentle, but it’s difficult, whereas unyielding and brutal are easier and far more satisfying in the moment (often called “uncompromising”) – and more admired in certain circles. Firm and gentle is never about self, about the expression of flesh, and it doesn’t look zealous – but believe me it is generally far more passionate than doing what seems like zeal before the world. It takes passion to approach people in kindness instead of harshness, to care instead of discount, to be clear instead of cryptic, to teach instead of just preach, to serve instead of lording over each other. Gentleness is mentioned nine times in the KJV – it is an attribute of God, of His Messiah and of legitimate leadership. If someone is going around acting like a brawler – offensive, defensive and saying they are doing it because they are acting like Messiah – then they aren’t displaying leadership qualities. The episodes of wrath in scriptures are few and far between, generally years and years between incidents – what we mostly see is the patience and gentleness of a Father towards His children. If He treats us like that, saving wrath as a last resort, then shouldn’t we emulate that in our own behavior – if we truly want to be like Him? Wrath is coming, yes indeed, but we must strive to have mature fruit before we dare preach it. If someone enjoys preaching wrath, if it gives them a thrill – then probably they aren’t there yet and it isn’t their message to preach. Fruit takes time and maturity to grow into a useful form.
Fruit is about doing what doesn’t come naturally, about what doesn’t look strong, or zealous, or effective. Fruit looks like a burden to the tree, but truly – it’s the purpose of the tree.