Study 44: Gal.5:22-26
The fruit of the Spirit (5)
Gentleness His care The two Simons Conclusion
Gentleness is the next part of the fruit that is for our consideration. This word is also translated as goodness and kindness in the NT.
There can be no doubt that kindness/ gentleness is a characteristic of Jesus that all, whether believer or not, recognise. Whilst Jesus is all holy and righteous, and has a perfect hatred of sin, He is kind and gentle. This word can be seen as opposite to being harsh and short in temper. This means that even under the most grievous provocation one remains calm and gentle with people. No one cannot argue with the fact that we, as humans, have provoked God by our sin, yet in His love and kindness He never lost His temper and destroyed us. Instead He went out of His way to reach us in our need.
In one one of the OT prophecies concerning Christ, we read that He will feed like a shepherd, and gently lead those that have their young. The idea of feeding in this context is more than just providing food, rather it means the total care that a shepherd gives to his flock. This would include making provision for pasture, but also protection from danger, tending to all their needs and, as Jesus mentioned in Lk.15:3-7, when seeing those that go astray, to go after them and to bring them back safely to the fold.
Gathering the lambs shows the care of the Shepherd for the weakest and feeblest of the flock. The picture is of a young tender lamb, who can not keep up with the rest of the flock. So even when weary the shepherd would pick it up and carry it.
An example of a shepherd's care can be found in the story of Jacob and Esau.
Without going into the details of the story, we note that on the suggestion of taking their journey, it was stated that there was a request to lead gently so that the flocks would not be overdriven. Instead they would be led according to the pace of the children. In other words there would be no expectation of the flocks of going beyond what they can manage. Or in NT terms, not beyond their measure.
Let us summarise this by relating it to our theme. Jesus the Good Shepherd makes provision for His flock, He takes care for the feeble and doesn't overdrive anyone. This is the gentleness of the Saviour. This is not to give anyone an excuse for not going on when the Lord calls, but rather it shows to us that He knows our measure and treats us accordingly.
We shall look at two incidences in the Gospel of Luke that illustrate the gentleness of Jesus. One is that of Simon Peter and his recognition of what he is himself; the other of Simon the Pharisee who is critical and shows great discourtesy. On both occasions Jesus shows gentleness when He deals with these two men.
In Luke's Gospel we read that Simon encountered Jesus before the incident recorded above. ( cf. Lk. 4:38-39) and John's account would imply an even earlier meeting with Jesus ( cf. Jn.1:40-41). So Simon knew Jesus prior to this incident, and indeed was told by his brother Andrew that Jesus was the Messiah. So already in Simon's life there was a work of God going on drawing this man to Jesus.
After speaking to the crowd from a boat on the lake, not far off land, Jesus tells Peter, a fisherman of much experience, to cast the net down. Although this seasoned professional had been up all night with no success he obeyed, and the results were phenomenal. The boat almost sank!
Then Peter fell before Jesus begging him to depart, for he saw himself as he was: a sinful man. Anyone who encounters Jesus will, at some stage, come to a realisation of themselves. Jesus never told Peter that he was sinner. In fact it is a discovery, worthy of note, that it is never recorded in the Gospel accounts that Jesus ever called anyone a sinner. His life, manner and living was sufficient to bring people to an understanding of their own condition.
Instead Jesus encouraged Peter, by saying that he would be a fisherman of people. Jesus didn't overdrive Simon beyond his measure. What would have happened if Jesus acted as some believers do, namely keep on at him about his sin, who knows? But Jesus didn't do that. Jesus is gentle He does not lambast people about their sin. This is not to play down the seriousness of sin, nor the severity of God's judgement on it, but rather when dealing with people, who are in the grip of sin and realise it, they need to be dealt with in a Christ-like way if they are to be freed from it. It is also to be noted that even when He did severely reprimand the religious hypocrites of the day, it was only then with a broken heart ( cf Mtt.Ch. 23).
Maybe we can learn from Jesus when dealing with people; it is not our job to convince of sin, it is that of the Holy Spirit. If a brother or sister in Christ has erred, or offends us let us learn to be gentle and not harsh with them. Similarly with unbelievers, who know nothing of the gospel, and do not seem to respond to the message, let us show them gentleness, and not be harsh or short tempered with them. A person under conviction does not need anyone else to go on at them, what they need is the remedy, which is in Christ alone, let us where we can help them and not hinder by an un-Christ-like attitude.
The previous incident dealt with Jesus' response when a man comes under conviction of sin; we now turn our attention to when Jesus comes across man, who is critical in spirit and shows great discourtesy to His guests. Jesus visits the house of this Pharisee and there a woman, who was a
sinner, came and showed forth her love to Jesus by anointing Him with oil.
Simon in his heart was critical of Jesus. Now he didn't verbalise his thoughts, but just spoke it within himself, but that is of little importance, since what comes out of the mouth is from the heart to begin with. ( Lk.6:45) At least on this occasion he didn't speak it openly, but Jesus heard him! And then Jesus spoke to Simon by a parable. Now what we are considering is Jesus' handling of the Pharisee.
It is a truth that when reading dialogue, unless the narrative indicates otherwise, it is not possible to say how the words were spoken: whether they were said quietly, harshly or whatever. So from just a plain reading we can not tell what tone of voice Jesus spoke with. But in keeping with what we know of Jesus let us consider what was said.
Firstly, Jesus didn't say anything until he gained Simon's permission, after all He was a guest in this man's house. Jesus didn't presume to force Himself on any. Simon showed great discourtesy, Jesus showed the very opposite.
Jesus then told a parable that made Simon think, and he judged correctly: that those who are forgiven much love much. This woman was a sinner, yes, but she had been forgiven, and consequently she loved much, as the pouring of the oil showed. Jesus didn't return Simon's criticism in the same way. He wasn't harsh with him, but rather rebuked him gently so as not to crush him, but pointed out the important truths. Now we are not told of Simon's reaction, nor whether he eventually became a disciple, speculation is of no value. Instead consider that the Pharisee was wrong in attitude and behaviour towards Jesus, but Jesus dealt gently with him. Simon's inhospitality and critical spirit did not provoke Jesus to deal with him other than in gentleness. Again we are challenged as whether we react similarly when placed in such situations.
With the things we have considered, we may well ask: how do we measure up? Jesus never allowed the rudeness or wrong attitudes of others to ruffle Him, nor did it force Him to deal roughly or harshly with them. He was gentle, uncompromising in truth, but still gentle when dealing with others.
One of the saddest traits, with some believers, is that this characteristic is not manifested: whenever believers, or unbelievers don't see things as they do, some lose their patience and show anything but kindness/ gentleness towards them. This obviously is a result of walking in the flesh. Let us learn from Jesus and walk as He walked. do we show gentleness, make provision for those we have care for, care for the feeble, not over driving people; and to those who show us rudeness and criticism do we show forth the fruit of the Sprit to to those too?