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But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. – Galatians 5:22-24
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. – Philippians 2:3-4
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. – Romans 12:3
I’ve always gotten a kick out of Numbers 12:3: Now Moses was very humble—more humble than any other person on earth. It’s in the Bible, so I’m certain it’s true. But did Moses write this of himself?!? Doesn’t seem very humble to me. But I digress. Humility is a virtue so very closely related to gentleness. And it is essential to Christian growth and relationships. Without humility we can neither be impacted by others nor have an edifying impact on others.
Bruce asked me, “What do you think Diane is feeling right now?” [Some of you may know this story, but it’s such a powerful example that I repeat it here.]
“I feel like a kid caught daydreaming in class.”
“That’s OK,” he said. And he continued the conversation with Diane, picking up where they had left off. We were in the counselor’s office investing in our marriage through some deep dive counseling. In a matter of a few sentences, he asked again, “Dave, what do you think Diane is feeling right now?”
I was ready! “She is feeling like…” I filled in the blanks, though I have no memory of what I said at that moment.
“OK,” he responded; or something similar to that non-comital phrase. He continued talking with Diane for a while longer. Then he turned to me a third time, “Dave, what do you think Diane is feeling right now?”
I was stunned, and said, “I don’t know.”
In that moment of humility, Diane tells me her walls came down. I had access to her heart like never before.
Humility does that. It opens a way into another’s heart. No wonder Jesus has such an impact in people’s lives!
Humility’s outward expression is gentleness. No blustering. No bravado. No right answers. No formulaic propositions. Gentleness trusts God, the Holy Spirit, and truth. Gentleness trusts that God will have his way in the hearts of the humble. Humility does not suppose that it has all the answers. Humility searches for common ground at the foot of the cross. It is so very important.
If I really want to speak into your life, I will do well to do so gently. This is true for husband and wife, for friends, brothers and sisters in Christ, and even Jesus-followers who want to make a heart impact for the gospel in the lives of others.
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. – Galatians 6:1
Gentleness and humility accompany those who recognize their deep brokenness, need for mercy, and potential for falling prey to the devil’s charms. This is the work of the Holy Spirit. And a great encouragement to me is that the older I get, the more aware I become of my own brokenness, need for mercy, and potential for falling prey to Satan’s pull – or the pull of my own sinful flesh. Maybe you can identify with that. If all that makes us more gentle, more aware of our need for the mercy of God, the forgiveness of Jesus and the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, that’s a good thing. It’s also evidence of the Holy Spirit’s work in us. Thanks be to God!