The 20th Century was one of the most violent periods in human history. Plagued by two world wars, genocide, infanticide, and holocaust just to name a few, the last century was one we’d like to forget. Jesus called for a gentler way of life. First and foremost, he called us to love each other. How can we foster a gentler way of life?
The Gentle God
After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper” (1 kings 19:12).
God tends to come to us in the small, quiet moments of life. He can bring thunder and lightning – no doubt about it – but, his preferred approach is gentleness.
The incarnation is perhaps the greatest proof of God’s gentle approach. God came to us in a tiny baby, sleeping peacefully on the hay in a manger while the angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14).
God’s ultimate revelation of himself is Jesus who said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt. 11:29).
Five Ways to a Gentle Life
Everything in our world seems to work against the gentle way of Jesus. We are constantly fighting and grabbing to take all we can. The national rhetoric is often degrading and dehumanizing. Racism keeps rearing its ugly head all around the world. We are on the brink of a different kind of world war – a war for sanity.
Yet, Jesus calls us to be salt and light (Matt. 5:13). He calls us to model a different way. How do we make a powerful impact on our world by bringing peace and goodwill? How do we nurture a gentle spirit in all that we do?
1. Make gentleness your first response.
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Prov. 15:1).
When someone does something to make you angry or to hurt you, your first reaction is almost always wrong. Count to five, take a deep breath and wait to respond.
A gentle approach to a conflict will almost always produce greater results.
Practice starting your conversations with positive affirmations. Before you tell someone something negative (which we all have to do from time to time), give them a positive — point out something good that they have done — let them know you are for them.
Before you respond in anger, throw up a quick prayer and let Jesus guide your tongue.
Our Savior was described as a gentle lamb – “I had been like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter …” (Jer. 11:19).
The Apostle Paul commanded us – “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Eph. 4:2).
Gentleness was always Jesus’ first response.
2. Deal privately with your anger.
In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry …” (Eph. 4:26).
Psychologist Robert Plutchik has identified eight emotions – Fear, Anger, Sadness, Joy, Disgust, Surprise, Trust
Anger is simply one among a number of natural basic emotions. It is not necessarily better or worse than any of the others. It’s a matter of how you deal with the emotion.
The Scripture encourages us to do three things with anger:
- Learn to recognize the potential damage anger can cause.
- Do not allow anger to hurt other people (this is when any emotion becomes sinful).
- Deal with your anger within a reasonable time period (24 hours).
3. Find rest in Jesus.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest (Matt. 11:29).
Our minds and bodies are finite. Which means — not only that one day they will die — but that even now, our bodies can only go for so long and take us only so far without rest.
We live in a sleep deprived and rest deprived world. We go, go, go, go – always striving for higher productivity. When do we find time for rest?
More and more experts are realizing that sleep and rest is the key to success.
Jesus promised to help us with finding rest. He promised to give us deep down soul rest.
The night before his death Jesus said to his disciples, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).
Too few take him up on it. Go to Jesus daily to find rest!
4. Practice gentleness as a discipline.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Col. 3:12).
The Apostle Paul encouraged the Christians in his churches to practice gentleness as a daily discipline. He said, “clothe yourselves.” This isn’t something that always comes naturally. You have to “put it on” the same way you put on clothes.
When my granddaughter was three-years-old she liked running around the house in as little as possible. Her mom was always chasing her, trying to put clothes on her. We forget that in our most natural state we are naked.
However, you eventually learn that this is unacceptable. So, you put on clothes. You’ve done it for so long you don’t even think about it. In fact, it would be very difficult for you to go outside naked. You have forgotten that nakedness is actually how you arrived in this world and it is how you will leave it. You have developed the habit of putting on clothes.
Gentleness is like that. For most, it doesn’t come naturally. It’s something you have to “put on.” Eventually, it will feel natural.
5. Let God fight your battles.
All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give all of you into our hands” (1 Sam. 17:47).
Goliath looked incredulously at David and laughed out loud. How will this runt ever defeat the great giant?
David’s answer: God will win the battle for me.
You don’t have to fight everyone who offends you. You don’t have to be angry about every slight. You don’t have to plot revenge. You don’t have to fight every perceived foe.
Give your battles to the Lord. He has already won them.