We are taking a look at the seven practices of peace. Today we are finishing our examination of practice #2, the practice of gentleness.

Gentleness is strength under control. Gentleness is restrained power. You have the power to intentionally hurt someone with what you say, but gentleness restrains those harsh words. You have the capacity to damage someone by the way you look at them or treat them, but gentleness contains those harmful expressions and allows you to demonstrate kindness, compassion, and understanding.

The devil would love for you to be unkind to the people in your life. The devil wants you to be unkind to your spouse, unreasonable with your children, hard to get along with at work, discontent and controlling about things around the house, and intolerant with views and values that oppose your own. The devil wants you to be rude, impatient, sharp, and harsh. Not only does God understand the power of a gentle spirit, but the devil understands the power of ungentle spirit especially when it comes from one of God’s children. The devil does not want you to be a gentle person. He wants you to be easily offended, easily upset, and to become irritable and disrespectful to the people in your life. The devil does not want you to learn how to be gentle and to manage your anxiety. He wants your anxieties to manage and control you.

Is it possible the reason why you are so anxious, irritable, nervous, frustrated, fearful or angry is because of the lack of a gentle spirit in your life? If you are going to get serious about the anxieties in your life, you are going to need to let God develop and grow a gentle spirit within you.

We started looking at a gentle spirit last week, let’s finish it today.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all people. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and pleading with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, think about these things. As for the things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:4-9, NASB)

Last time we unpacked what a gentle spirit is. We took a look at the six ingredients of a gentle spirit. We learned that a gentle spirit is reasonable, yielding, kind, content, selfless and tolerant. When those are mixed together you have a gentle spirit. We also learned that you already have a gentle spirit in you. As a follower of Jesus, you have the Holy Spirit working in you. According to Galatians 5, He is working in you to produce and bring out gentleness in your life (Galatians 5:23-24). We also learned that while the Holy Spirit is working in you to produce gentleness you are also to pursue being a gentle person (1 Tim. 6:11).

Today, I want us to focus on displaying gentleness to certain groups or people in your life.

The Display of Gentleness

Let’s talk about the display of your gentle spirit. Your gentle spirit is not to be hidden, buried, or chained down. Let it loose. Free it up. Paul says let your gentle, reasonable, yielding, tolerant, contented, and kind spirit be known. The phrase be known (ginosko) speaks of knowledge that goes beyond simply hearing the facts about someone. Paul is saying that others are to understand your gentle spirit experientially. They experience your gentleness in how you respond to them, in what you say and how you say it.

People should be able to see your gentleness, hear your gentleness, and experience gentleness coming from your life. Show it off. Display it. You should have a reputation for gentleness. Make your gentle spirit as clear as you can to others. When people encounter you, they encounter a gentle and calm person, not a harsh and irritable person. When you are with them you are aware, calm, and present to listen to them, to talk to them, and to focus on them.

I live in Missouri, and I am a Kansas City Chiefs fan. One of the ways you know that I’m a fan is by the clothes I wear. I have a Chiefs shirt and jersey that I wear throughout the football season. My clothes display my loyalty. What I wear tells you what is important to me. In a similar way, God wants you to wear gentleness. Listen carefully to Colossians 3:12, God’s Word says, “Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” (Col. 3:12, NLT). Every morning put on your spiritual clothes. One item should be gentleness. You are going to wear this when you greet your spouse, respond to your children, interact with those at work, and when you encounter that grumpy person at the grocery store. Wear it loud and wear it proud. Let your gentleness be on display!

You may need to get up in the morning and say, “Lord, help me to be a gentle person today. I want to be a kind, loving, caring, and gentle person for my husband, for my wife, for my children, for my parents.” On your way to work or school pray, “Lord, where I’m headed there are people who annoy me and irritate me. They are rude and selfish. Help me to be aware, calm, and present so I can be a kind person, a forgiving person, and a gentle person. Let your light shine through the gentleness you are producing in my life.”

One more thing from Colossians 3:12 is that gentleness is a mark of holiness. God’s Word says, “Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves withgentleness….” God’s holy people are identified by gentleness. The word “holy” means to be set apart for something special and sacred. When you clothe yourself in gentleness you are setting yourself apart from the rest of the world. You are choosing to be gentle rather than harsh. You are deciding to be gentle instead of cruel. You decide to be gentle instead of insensitive and to show gentleness rather than be inconsiderate. Having a gentle spirit and displaying that gentle spirit sets you apart. It marks you as a holy person.

The Scope of Gentleness

When God’s Word says, Let your gentle spirit be known to all people, God is implying that you already have this gentleness inside of you. It’ already there, it just has to be brought out. It must be mined like gold. The reason God knows you already have it is because you have the Holy Spirit inside of you and the fruit of the Spirit contains gentleness. Growing as a follower of Jesus is learning how to work this gentleness out into the practical aspects of your life.

The practical aspects of your life include the people in your life. You will need gentleness everywhere you go. Notice carefully that God’s Word says your gentleness should be evident to all people. What people? Who do you need to be gentle towards? The Bible identifies eight distinct people you need to display gentleness towards.

People with faults

You need to be gentle toward people with faults. God’s Word clearly teaches, “Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love” (Eph. 4:2, NLT). The phrase “making allowance for each other’s faults” can also be translated as bearing with one another, putting up with one another, accepting one another, or forbearing one another. It has the idea of being able to notice differences and being quick to mend the fences between each other.

Let me be clear. A fault or difference is not a sin. The Bible is not talking about someone sinning against you here. It is an inadequacy, deficiency, weakness, or shortcoming in that person. It would be those things that annoy you about the person. They are not ready on time, always late, don’t pick up after themselves, forget important dates, chews loudly, sings and sings out of key, interrupts people when they are talking, doesn’t seem to finish things they started, talks to much, doesn’t talk enough and a host of other things. When you encounter these faults, that is when your gentle spirit needs to be on display.

In some cases, it’s not really a fault, but a difference. They like a different style of music than you, a different way to experience a vacation (you want to sit on a beach, they want to go do stuff), a different style of clothing, a different way of organizing, or a different way of cleaning to name a few. You are introverted, they are extraverted. You are a leader, they are a servant. You are passionate about prayer, they are passionate about teaching God’s Word. You speak proper English, they speak hillbilly (like me). God says make allowance and room for people to have faults and to be different.

When people annoy you because of their faults you are to respond with gentleness. You are to be tolerant, kind, considerate, and understanding. Having a gentle spirit toward the faults of others allows you to be aware, calm, and present for whatever God would have you to do in that person’s life or in that situation.

People who sin

Another person you will need to be gentle toward are the people who sin. There are going to be people in your life who are trapped in sin. A sin has its claws deeply in them. For whatever reason they have been overtaken by a sin. This sin can manifest itself as an addiction (alcoholism, drugs, pornography, etc.) or a sin like laziness, gluttony, lying, and the like. This sin has become a habit and a lifestyle. If this person is close to you like a spouse, parent, or son or daughter it can be very destressing, worrisome and you could become overly anxious for this person.

God’s Word addresses this when it says, “Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself” (Galatians 6:1, NLT). When another believer is overcome by some sin your response is to help restore them and get them back on the right path. Part of your response is to be gentle in your help toward them. You are to be gentle in what you say and how you say it.

Notice there is a warning that accompanies helping them. The Bible says, “Be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself.” It doesn’t say “same sin,” but “same temptation.” You don’t want to be “overcome by some sin” of your own while trying to help this person. Some believers are overcome with worry for the person, overcome with bitterness toward the person, or overcome with a lack of faith that God can deliver this person. If you approach this with gentleness and humility, like the Bible says, it will provide a layer of protection against unnecessary anxiety that would lead you into the “same temptation” as the one you are trying to help.

People who oppose the truth

Another type of person who can create anxiety in your life are those who oppose God’s truth. Responding to them with a gentle spirit will not only help deescalate their aggressiveness, but also help keep you aware, calm, and present to confront them in a healthy manner.

The apostle Paul was giving advice to a young pastor named Timonthy when he wrote, “Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth” (2 Timothy 2:25, NLT). You will be tempted to get angry, upset, frustrated, and annoyed at their opposition. Their reasoning and logic will be flawed. They will not see it, nor understand your perspective. This will cause some stress and anxiety in your life, especially if it’s someone close to you and you really care about them. When you do confront them, you are to address them by gently instructing them with God’s truth on the matter and how they are incorrect in their view. This means you are going to be courteous, kind, and humble. You are not going to be arrogant, demeaning, and rude. When you combine careful instruction and gentleness in teaching God’s Word you have a powerful combination. It creates an environment that gives the listener an opportunity to think through what you are saying while allowing them to honestly share their opinion. This provides a healthy environment where God can work on their heart and help them receive God’s truth and repent. Being gentle in this situation will help manage your anxiety and help you to be aware, calm, and present as you discuss these matters with the person.

People who are angry

Another type of person who can create anxiety in your life is the angry person. There is nothing like an angry person to cause tension, stress, and anxiety in your life. How do you deal with an angry person? God’s advice is, “A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare” (Proverbs 15:1, NLT). If you deflect anger, you deflect anxiety. Gentleness has the power to turn away anger. It somehow soothes angry feelings. It can dissolve anger and calm a person down. I would also add it keeps you from becoming angry yourself. It protects you from letting their anger and anxiety spread from them to you.

People who need Jesus

Another group of people where you want to display a gentle spirit are those who need Jesus. Every believer has been tasked to be involved in the Great Commission of telling others about Jesus and making disciples (Matt. 28:18-20). Throughout your life you will have many opportunities to answer questions about why you believe what you believe and why you are a follower of Jesus. Peter addressing this subject said, “If someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it” (1 Pet. 3:15, NLT). The world is going to be confused about your hope, especially when you are going through a divorce, lost a loved one or a job, or been diagnosed with a terrible disease. They are going to be curious why you don’t get upset when people are mean, rude, or unkind to you. Peter says, “Be ready to explain” yourself and your hope in Jesus when they ask. He then adds this piece of nugget, “Do this in a gentle and respectful way” (1 Peter 3:16, NLT). Even if they are being confrontational in their questioning you will respond with gentle respect. You will not be arrogant or come across as a know-it-all. You will be aware, calm, and present to answer their question beginning with their understanding and guiding them lovingly through why you have the hope that you have.

People who are ignorant

One other type of person you will need gentleness toward is the person who is ignorant and doesn’t know the Bible or God like you do. There are people in your life who know very little of God’s truth. You will hear it in how they talk, what they value, and how they treat others. Jesus encountered these people every day of his life. There is an interesting statement in the Bible about Jesus that guides us in treating those who are ignorant. The writer of Hebrews in describing Jesus said, “He is able to deal gently with ignorant and wayward people because he himself is subject to the same weaknesses” (Hebrew 5:2, NLT). A weakness is not a sin. It is more like a limitation. Depending on the circumstance, a weakness can be needing sleep and getting hungry. Jesus understood weaknesses. He knows that people don’t know everything and understand everything they hear or see. People know they are physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, and spiritually weak. Jesus placed limitations on Himself when He became a human. He understands weaknesses.

He also understands how weaknesses can cause people to be spiritually ignorant and to become wayward in their lifestyle. Instead of becoming angry and upset and frustrated with them He is able to deal gently with them. Jesus is able to be aware, calm, and present for them when they need Him. So can you. 

People who are hurting

Another group of people who need your gentleness are the people who are hurting. Proverbs 15:4 says, “Gentle words are a tree of life; a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit” (NLT). Gentle words, even when correcting another, are a tree of life. They are soothing to someone who is hurting. They are medicine for a soul that is crushed. They are a tree of life. They bring light during darkness, hope when all seems lost, encouragement for the discouraged, direction for the lost, and clarity for the confused. A gentle spirit speaks life into relationships and situations.

Your spouse

Finally, there is a specific word of advice for wives when it comes to dealing with their husbands, especially if their husband is not a believer. God’s Word says, “You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God” (1 Peter 3:4, NLT). The context of that statement deals with how a Christian wife can influence her husband for the Lord. One of the tools she is told to use is her “gentle and quiet spirit.” God has connected power to a gentle spirit. Use it.

Conclusion

One of the weapons that God has given you to combat anxiety in your life is a gentle spirit. Develop it, use it, and let it impact not only the people around you but inside of you as well. You not only will bring calm into relationships but will experience calm within. Gentleness allows you to be aware, calm, and present to be used by God and to engage at a deeper level with others. When you have a gentle spirit, you are making it as clear as you can to the people you encounter that you are on their side, working for their good and not against them. It takes strength on the inside to be gentle on the outside. Gentleness does not imply weakness, rather it implies strength, maturity, self-control, and a desire to be productive in life. It requires a strong self-image rooted in Christ. Insecure people are easily offended and threatened. They react by overreacting. But as you mature in Christ, you exchange your low image of yourself with a high image of Christ. The Holy Spirit does His work inside us and unleashes the incredible power of a gentle spirit. A spirit that reduces anxiety, reflects Jesus, gets things done, and pleases the Lord. A spirit that is aware, calm, and present.