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But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. – Galatians 5:22-24
And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. – 1 Corinthians 2:1-5
He spoke with understated urgency. And he started by having us write a Bible verse on a 3X5 index card: “You are precious and honored in my sight and I love you” (Isaiah 43:4). He spoke for nearly 40 minutes. Never really raised his voice. Was not impressive in his delivery. But he was profoundly powerful in expressing the truth of God’s love us us. I don’t have the index card any longer. But I still remember the message – some 25 years later.
Maybe you don’t do like I do. Get angry. Get big. Get gruff and loud. Sadly I reserve that for the people closest to me. And it never does anything more than achieve resentful compliance. Often it only hurts the one on whom I vent.
I once delivered a blistering sermon titled, “Why Business as Usual is No Longer an Option in the Church.” I utilized some disturbing statistics about the trends of church attendance, membership, and youth involvement from a paper by that name. I hit hard in my message. People came out of the service that Sunday saying, “You really stepped on our toes today.” I took it as a complement. Three weeks later, however, everyone’s toes were recovered. It was back to business as usual.
But I remember so vividly the message of that pastor who spoke of God’s love. I recall clearly the day more than 40 years ago that the pastor preached on John 6:37 where Jesus says, “Everyone whom my Father has given me shall come to me, and whoever will come to me I shall not cast out.” A young mom came out of the service and told the pastor how much she appreciated that, how much she needed to hear that. And I recall the message of my seminary professor, “Every Christian Counts” which was oil on the water at a time of conflict at our school. It was a message of gentle kindness that we dearly needed.
Gentleness is a fruit of the Spirit. Sometimes a stern warning may be needed. If a child is running into the street, yelling may well be appropriate. But to do the work of the Holy Spirit we must not interpose our anger and brash bluster upon others. God spoke to Elijah in a still small voice. And when it comes to touching our hearts with his love, the message may be quiet and gentle. But the impact will be profoundly good.
Gentle now, dear reader. Gentle. Let the Holy Spirit have his way with you, and through you with others.