The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
The eighth of the nine Fruit of the Spirit is gentleness. In the original Greek, the word which we translate as “gentleness” is praitis. In Matthew 5:5, where we read “blessed are the meek” the word is from the same root, it is prais. So, “gentleness” and “meekness” seem to be used interchangeably.
Many people translate “meekness” as “weakness,” inferring that a meek person rolls over and gets walked on, or that a meek person doesn’t stand up for himself or herself. However, while we think of a meek person as being a “softie,” meekness or gentleness more accurately means “controlled strength.”
I read an article recently by Rick Warren (Protestant preacher and writer) that discussed meekness. To explain the concept of meekness, he used the analogy of a wild stallion who has been trained. The horse had not been stripped of its power. Rather its power and strength is now controlled and ready to be used according to the intentions of its master.
The gentle Christian is like the aforementioned stallion. He or she has strength of conviction and yet the strength is controlled. It is not used in a way that is destructive or narcissistic. When a quarterback puts a “gentle” touch on the ball, it is still delivered with accuracy and even authority, but it is a controlled touch that puts the ball exactly where his receiver is, at a speed at which the ball can be handled. When we act with gentleness, we offer of ourselves with authority, but in a way that is controlled. So, when Jesus says, “Blessed is the meek,” He is extolling those who are able to lead but do so with compassion. He is extolling those who can correct others but do so with care. And He is extolling those who stand up for what they believe with conviction but not with ego.
Christians are not supposed to roll over when we face opposition or persecution. However, there is a way to control how we stand up for our beliefs, to do it in a respectful way. And there is a way to correct people who wrong us also in a way that is gentle and respectful.
Proverbs 15:1 offers us some very sound advice: “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” We often underestimate the effect that tone of voice and body language has in delivering the messages we want to deliver. A message delivered with gentleness will often elicit the response we want. The same message delivered with consternation will not.
Meek doesn’t mean week. Gentle means being firm but compassionate, being in control while still being caring.
Lord, thank You for the many blessings You have given me in my life. Help me to be gentle. Give me the courage of conviction but also the compassion to stand up for them in a way that honors other and honors You. Help me to be gentle in my tone of voice when I disagree with people, and when I need to correct someone, to do so in a way that shows love. Amen.
Controlled strength is the key to gentleness!
Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website!
Fr. Stavros has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
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