Devotion for the Week...
It's time for another Fruit of the Spirit devotion and this week we're looking at gentleness. For those who are just joining in, or if you've missed a couple (this has been a rather long series!), you can get all caught up with the introduction, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and faithfulness. By the way, in linking up all those previous posts, I only just realized that I originally titled the goodness post as gentleness. It's fixed now and this post actually is about gentleness!
As always, here is the verse on which I'm basing this series of devotions: Galatians 5:22,23 "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law."
In thinking about gentleness, I thought about how we teach children to be gentle when they're touching a baby or an animal. We hold their hand and touch gently, all the while saying, "gentle, gentle." Interestingly though, the Greek word prautēs, which is here translated as gentleness, doesn't really refer to how we treat other people (or animals). According to W.E. Vine in his book Reflections on Words of the New Testament, "it refers to a grace of the soul and its expression towards God. It is that temper of spirit in which we accept His dealings with us as good, without disputing or resisting." The word is sometimes translated as meekness, but Vine says that translation is also problematic because "meekness suggests weakness to some extent, while prautēs suggests nothing of the kind."
So a working definition of prautēs would be something like "an acceptance of God's plans and dealings with us as good and right, stemming from a spirit of confidence rather than from weakness."
Unlike the character traits we've been looking at up to this point, God the Father never exhibits this type of gentleness, since He never has to accept His dealings with Himself. Jesus, however, did exhibit it while He lived on earth, giving us a perfect example of how prautēs should look in the life of a believer.
Picture Jesus, knelt down in prayer in the garden of Gethsemane. He knew that Judas had betrayed Him. He knew He would suffer terribly very soon and He wanted to avoid that pain. He prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me" (Matthew 26:39). Can you blame Him? Wouldn't you want to find some other way to accomplish the goal?
But then Jesus accepted that there wasn't any other way. "Yet not as I will, but as you will" (v. 39). You can read my thoughts on the time between those two sentences. A little later He again prayed, "My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done." (v. 42).
That is prautēs. That is accepting that God's way is good and right, even when it is also hard. I don't think it was easy for Jesus to accept the plan. I don't think it was easy for Him to move forward in that moment and agree to go ahead through the pain. I think He was only able to do it because of His full trust in God.
And remember that Jesus didn't move forward in weakness. Jesus moved forward in confident power because He knows the Father. He trusted Him completely and was willing to put Himself exactly where God needed Him to be to accomplish the plan.
it's not easy for us to accept God's plans either. There are
times when we are only able to move forward if we believe that, though we may not
understand, we can still trust anyway. His plan is always good and always for our good. Though it may be painful in the moment, we can move forward in confidence in our God.
With Jesus as our example and the Holy Spirit working within us, we can live in gentleness too.