Notice that it uses the word “fruit” in a singular term. This means that each of these characteristics are not individual fruitS, but rather an entire package in ONE fruit.
There are two ways to say the same thing. A person may intend to say something one way, while another person may actually interpret this as something else based on the individuals tone, choice of words, demeanor, and the time and place in which they decided to speak those words.
Growing up, I always got in trouble for the things that I said. I can still hear my dad’s voice in my head so often telling me in Malayalam “that is not how a girl should talk.” My brother, who has a much calmer personality than I, would usually say the exact same things, but he never really got into trouble for it. It always felt unfair to me that I was the one being told this, especially when I perceived my “arguments” as valid and well thought out. Now looking back, I realize that was because I had an inappropriate mix of tone and attitude in my speech. I can almost guarantee that if I went back to those days and said the exact same things in a calm and gentle manner, I would have probably heard less about how girls should talk.
The fruit of the Spirit is gentleness.
Before going further into the specific characteristic of gentleness, I wanted to clarify what Scripture says about the Fruit of the Spirit. Galatians 5:22 describes the fruit as having the following characteristics – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Notice that it uses the word “fruit” in a singular term. This means that each of these characteristics are not individual fruitS, but rather an entire package in ONE fruit. The fruit of the Spirit is not like the gifts of the Spirit, where one person has this gift, another person has that gift (1 Cor 12). The fruit of the Spirit is a collection of virtues that manifests itself in each individual follower of Christ.
Let’s get back to gentleness.
James 1:19 says, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” (Might I add, this is a verse that my dad embedded into my mind at a young age). Slowing ones anger is a learned behavior that does not come naturally to some people. Often times the reason why an individual is quick to becoming angry is because they are self-centered in their thinking and not focused on others around them. Train yourself to be a quick listener who hears, listens, and processes information that another person is speaking. Learn to be slow in your own responses through speech. A quality of gentleness is selflessness. By teaching and training yourself to accomplish these things, you learn to slow yourself from becoming angry. As you control your own anger from rising to the surface, you also have a powerful influence in refraining the anger of the people around you. Keep in mind, also, that we are people who represent God. In everything we do, even in our anger, we must mirror the righteousness and goodness of our Heavenly Father.
Another quality of gentleness is meekness. What does ‘meek’ mean?
In Matthew 5:5 Jesus says, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” A person who is meek is someone that is quiet, gentle, submissive and yielding. It is actually a powerful personality, which at the same time remains humble and peaceful. In meekness, you stand firm in doing what is right and honorable, not being shaken to do that which is wrong. The key quality about a person that is meek is that they behave in a peaceful manner in the way that they go about things. David Guzik provides a quote in his commentary identifying a meek person as someone “who can be angry, but restrain their wrath in obedience to the will of God, and will not be angry unless they can be angry and not sin, nor will be easily provoked by others” (Guzik, D. & Poole, n.d.). In pursuit of this characteristic, however, one does not behave in passive aggressiveness. Rather they gain control over their decisions, actions, and behaviors, while maintaining peace and gentleness in their manner of approach.
The Bible mentions many practical situations where gentleness should intentionally be implemented – when using your tongue and speaking, defending your faith, in teaching and correcting, when overcoming evil or fighting temptation, when caring for others, raising your children, handling money, introducing yourself as a believer, and interacting with people in authority.
Most importantly, we are told that our Father is gentle to us—in His gentleness He is a shield, a comfort, a counselor; He is a shepherd who takes care of His sheep; He shows mercy; He gifts us with grace; and He loves. He also suffered without making any threats, being oppressed and afflicted without opening his mouth…like a lamb (Isaiah 53:7). He was obedient to the Father, even when He knew He would face physical suffering and pain. Jesus is the prime example of gentleness, one whom we should ultimately strive to be like and pursue to imitate.
Study Guide for Matthew 5 by David Guzik. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.blueletterbible.org/comm/guzik_david/studyguide_mat/mat_5.cfm