GENTLENESS VS HARSHNESS
Gentleness is supporting others during their times of weakness so that they can achieve their full potential in the Lord.
Definition One Hebrew word for gentleness is anah. It is a root word with a wide range of meanings: “to look down; to depress, to humble oneself; to be bowed down; to be afflicted, humbled; to weaken oneself.”
The Practical Expression of Gentleness
Gentleness is demonstrated in our responses to others, especially those who are under our care. We are to discipline ourselves in order to recognize the weaknesses and limitations of others and respond to them with soft answers and patient encouragement. We are to nurture them with joyful singing, wise answers, crying out to the Lord on their behalf, and lifting them up when they falter.
The Biblical Models of Gentleness
1. A shepherd caring for sheep The very life and health of the sheep depend on the gentleness of the shepherd. The understanding of a gentle shepherd is expressed in Jacob’s reply to his brother, who wanted the sheep to travel with his four hundred men. “And he said unto him, My lord knoweth that the children are tender, and the flocks and herds with young are with me: and if men should overdrive them one day, all the flock will die. Let my lord, I pray thee, pass over before his servant: and I will lead on softly [gently], according as the cattle that goeth before me and the children be able to endure” (Genesis 33:13–14).
The Lord compares Himself to a gentle shepherd in the following passage: “Behold, the Lord GOD will come with a strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him. He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young” (Isaiah 40:10–11). The Hebrew word for gently lead in this passage is nahal. It means “to lead with care; to cause to rest; to bring to a place of rest; to guide; to refresh, protect, sustain.” Jesus describes Himself as the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep. “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). 2. A mother with her infant Paul uses the concept of gentleness when describing his love and care for those whom he led to Christ: “We were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children'' (I Thessalonians 2:7)
The Greek word for cherisheth is thalpo. It means “to keep warm, to foster with tender care.” It carries with it the picture of a mother hen covering her young with her feathers. A nursing mother knows that her infants are very vulnerable and easily damaged by harsh treatment or neglect. She knows that they are dependent on her for loving care, nourishment, and protection. In I Thessalonians 2:7, the word Paul used for gentle means “to be kind, mild, affable.”
How a Gentle Spirit Is Developed
We learn gentleness at the hands of those who are gentle with us. One of the reasons God allows suffering is to provide us with opportunities to express gentleness to others. This concept is reflected in the definition of the Hebrew word gentleness (anah): “to stoop, humble oneself, bow down; to be afflicted, humbled; to weaken oneself.” The concept of gentleness through humbling oneself was taught by Jesus to His disciples when He said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). “Come unto me,” Jesus said, “all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls'' (Matthew 11:28–29). The word lowly means “low lying, humiliated” and denotes being of low degree, brought low, humble, cast down. In order to teach us how to be lowly, God carefully takes us through trials. In them, He gives us comfort and counsel so that we will be prepared to share with others who are going through similar trials. “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God” (II Corinthians 1:3–4).
How Gentleness Makes Us Great
Twice in Scripture, David testifies, “Thy gentleness hath made me great” (II Samuel 22:36, Psalm 18:35). In these passages, the Hebrew word for great is rabah. It means “to increase greatly or exceedingly, to enlarge; to become many, to make much; to multiply.” Gentleness begins with pain and sorrow and ends in an abundant increase. This is the way of God. If we die to ourselves, we will live; if we give bountifully, we will receive bountifully; if we sow in tears, we will reap in joy. The life of Jabez is a beautiful picture of the meaning and potential of gentleness. Jabez means “sorrow.” His mother gave him this name because she “bare him with sorrow.” Names in the days of Jabez were very important. Often they were predictors of a person’s future. However, Jabez wanted to change the focus and goal of his life, so he called on the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that thine hand might be with me, and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me! And God granted him that which he requested” (I Chronicles 4:10).
How Gentleness Is Basic to Wisdom
When James describes the qualities of wisdom, he includes gentleness: “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy” (James 3:17). The gentleness that comes from true wisdom is the result of an understanding heart. That is exactly what Solomon requested from the Lord: “Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people” (I Kings 3:9). The Hebrew word for understanding in this passage is shama. Shama is used in the following passage for the word hear: “Hear [shama], O Israel, the statutes and judgments which I speak in your ears this day, that ye may learn them, and keep, and do them” (Deuteronomy 5:1). Thus, gentleness is the result of a hearing heart. The word shama is also translated obey in Scripture. As we listen to the Word of God and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, we will escape the harshness and corruption of the lusts of the flesh and experience the fruit of the Spirit, which is “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance” (Galatians 5:22–23). The word gentleness in this passage is chrestotes, which refers to moral excellence in character and attitude. A practical expression of wisdom and gentleness is to speak evil of no one and to seek peace and harmony with everyone. “Put them [all believers] in mind to . . . speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men” (Titus 3:1–2). “The servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient” (II Timothy 2:24). Gentleness is supporting others during their time of weakness so that they can achieve their full potential in the Lord.
Personal Evaluation and Application
How gentle are you?
• Have you developed self discipline and humility in order to be attentive to the hurts and needs of others?
• When you give instructions or responses to others, do you take into consideration their weaknesses and limitations?
• Do you have a shepherd’s mind-set toward those who are looking to you for spiritual leadership or example?
• Have you translated past pain and suffering in your life into reminders to protect others and prepare them to have a right response to any offenders?
• Are you irritable and reactionary when people with needs intrude upon your time or energy?
• Do you speak evil of someone you dislike? • Do you look for ways to teach those who are not as spiritually mature as they should be?
• Do you give a soft answer so that you do not offend or discourage others?
• Do you see potential in others and purpose to help them grow in the Lord?
Fathers Must Lead Their Home
Dads, don’t give up on leading your families in worshiping Jesus.
As difficult as it was to have our church buildings closed for several months, one of the surprising graces for many families has been the recovery of family worship. Yet in this recovery, many dads — including myself — discovered our shortcomings as family worship leaders.
Despite my role as one of our church’s pastors, I admit that in our home, family worship can at times feel more forced than joy-filled and more frustrating than fruitful. On many occasions, I’ve felt tempted to throw in the towel altogether. Perhaps you can relate. That said, we know that God’s will for fathers is to raise their kids “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4), and that faithfulness requires pressing on in the strength of the Holy Spirit.
Consider three common obstacles that often hinder dads in their efforts toward joy-filled family worship of Jesus.
Typically, when we think of family worship, we imagine the whole family huddled together to share in prayer, Scripture, and song. That’s not a bad way to think about family worship, but the first hurdle requires you to take a step back from intentional times of worship and to consider what else is competing for your family’s worship. The reality is, your family is always worshiping someone or something and, if you don’t consider the competition, you may be surprised to find that despite intentional times spent in God’s word and prayer, your family’s worship of Jesus may still be coming in second place.
You can identify what is competing for your family’s worship by doing a personal assessment of where and how your family spends the bulk of its time, money, and attention. Even more importantly, dads, draw in your wives and children, inviting them to help you determine what is most important in your family’s life. Ask questions like:
For all of the talk within the church about family worship, so few men and fathers today grew up in homes where Jesus was regularly worshiped, the Bible was consistently read, or their fathers played an active role in their spiritual maturation. Husbands and dads know they should be leading their families in worship, but many of us have received little practical discipleship in how to do so. As a result, many men feel as though they are inventing the wheel when it comes to family worship — and the wheel typically doesn’t roll smoothly at first.
I have found that when I’ve tried to hide my insecurities about leading my family spiritually, I’ve actually made our times around God’s word and in prayer painfully awkward and strained. Instead, when I’m honest about the weakness I feel to adequately lead my family, I experience God’s grace at work in and through me the most.
So, dads, clear the hurdle of awkwardness by naming your insecurities as they relate to leading your family in worship, and trust that in your weakness the Lord will prove the sufficiency of his grace and power (2 Corinthians 12:9).
3: Mere Knowledge
Deuteronomy 6:4–9 gives both the goal and mechanism for family worship. The goal is to cultivate a love for God that brings him glory, and the mechanism is saturating your life with his word.
The danger for many dads is to make family worship hardly anything more than an intellectual exercise. I know that I’ve been too easily satisfied at times with my children simply reciting the right answers about whatever passage of Scripture we’re studying or topic we’re discussing. Knowledge is good and necessary, but it’s not enough by itself. God’s chief concern is that the truth of his word is impressed upon our hearts: “These words that I command you today shall be on your heart” (Deuteronomy 6:6). The goal of family worship doesn’t end with learning; it ends with love.
“The goal of family worship doesn’t end with learning; it ends with a changed heart.”
With love as the goal, dads, take the lead in drawing out your family at an affectional level. One of the best ways to do this is to set the tone by expressing how you’re seeing God at work in your own heart. Encourage your wife and children with what the Lord is teaching you and ways you’re seeing him make you more like Jesus. Help them see how the gospel applies to their joys and sorrows, and encourage each of them in the particulars of their lives.
As you approach family worship, clear the hurdle of mere academic exercise by remembering 1 Corinthians 13. If you have family devotions but have not love, you are a noisy gong and ultimately gain nothing. Pursue love, and you gain God.
Consistency Is Key
Family worship is significant but surprisingly simple. Dads, you don’t need to overcomplicate leading your family in worship. God has given you his word, and his Holy Spirit, and promised to work in and through your weakness. With the Spirit’s help, repent of ways your family has valued other activities and worshiped things above Jesus. Then set aside regular times to read the Bible together, sing, discuss, and pray.
Your family’s worship will not always feel profound (though it is!). You will certainly face all sorts of distractions — from wriggly toddlers to defiant teenagers. Sometimes family worship will feel forced. At other times it will feel frustrating. But consistency is key.
God’s word never returns empty and always accomplishes what he has purposed (Isaiah 55:10–11).
So, don’t give up even when you feel like your efforts are fruitless. Fight the good fight of faith, and trust that God will use your perseverance in family worship to cultivate deeper love for him and neighbor. Be faithful, and leave the results to Jesus, the true worship leader of your home.
Should you like more helpful guidance on establishing a devotional time each day with your family, please let me know and I will gladly be there for you to offer encouragement and help to get going or keep going.
Faithfully In Christ
There have been two transactions, not one. The first payment, the price of our redemption, was made in order to satisfy all other claims over all men everywhere. Twice in Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians he tells the believers that they have been bought with a price, which price Peter tells us is “the precious blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1: 18, 19). However, a second transaction was, and is still being, made to those who turn to Him in faith … to us. Jesus did not just settle the debt I owed, He purchased me and therefore has rights over me, His purchased possession.
The second payment is not the price that has been paid for sin, to redeem us to God: that price is the precious blood of Christ. The second payment is the gracious Holy Spirit of God.
In Ephesians 1: 14 the AV uses the term “earnest” to denote this payment which is translated literally as pledge, alternatively a down payment. Strong’s identifies the Greek word as “arrabon”, which means a pledge, or surety. It is a commercial term, referring to that part of the purchase-money or property given in advance as security for the remainder – the balance of the purchase price. In modern parlance we would speak of a security deposit.
In modern Greek “arrabona”, a slightly different word, refers to an engagement ring - an expression that some prefer as linking with the concept of the Church as a bride. Whilst this has appeal it confuses two thoughts:
All Christendom has the Scriptures in common, but not all who handle the Scriptures belong to Jesus. What then makes the difference?
The gracious Holy Spirit of God! He is the difference
The table is a place to remember the blessing of God.
There is a concept from a number of years ago that encouraged Christian families to guard their time around the meal table.
The techno world we live in and embrace has in many homes robbed the family of a healthy time of communication with each other. Everyone is on their device or watching television or both and if anyone speaks, it is sometimes perceived as an inconvenience by the rest of the family.
The concept was suggested that Christian families should ensure they sit around the meal table and engage each other as they eat and utilize this quality time, and then conclude it with a devotional time in God's Word and Prayer.
There is a lot of value in this concept and it is by no means a new one. Perhaps you could be encouraged to explore how frequently the Christian Community and Body of Christ and in fact even before this, the Jewish nation in Scripture reveals so much value and situations that revolve around the meal time table.
Jesus empowered the ancient church with a strategy for communion designed to create unity, loving community, and holiness in view of His return. One part of this strategy was to celebrate the Lord’s Supper frequently. The other was to partake of the elements in the context of an actual meal.
Perhaps before we invite people to Jesus or invite them to church, we should invite them to dinner
Sharing tables is one of the most uniquely human things we do. No other creature consumes its food at a table. And sharing tables with other people reminds us that there’s more to food than fuel. We don’t eat only for sustenance.
The Table as a Place of Connection
Tables are one of the most important places of human connection. We’re often most fully alive to life when sharing a meal around a table. We shouldn’t be surprised, then, to find that throughout the Bible God has a way of showing up at tables. In fact, it’s worth noting that at the center of the spiritual lives of God’s people in both the Old and New Testaments, we find a table: the table of Passover and the table of Communion. New Testament scholar N. T. Wright captured something of this sentiment when he wrote, “When Jesus himself wanted to explain to his disciples what his forthcoming death was all about, he didn’t give them a theory, he gave them a meal.”
In the fast-paced, tech-saturated, attention-deficit-disordered culture in which we find ourselves, Christians need to recover the art of a slow meal around a table with people we care about. “Table fellowship” doesn’t often make the list of the classical spiritual disciplines. But in the midst of a world that increasingly seems to have lost its way with regard to matters of both food and the soul, Christian spirituality has something important to say about the way that sharing tables nourishes us both physically and spiritually. We need a recovery of the significance of what we eat, where we eat, and with whom we eat.
In Matthew’s account of the Last Supper, he writes, “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat; this is my body’” (Matt 26:26). The same pattern of language—blessing, breaking, and giving—also shows up in the accounts of Jesus’s miraculous feedings, as well as in the scene in which Jesus is recognized by the disciples with whom he had walked on the road to Emmaus.
We need to recover the importance of gathering with our family and with people around our tables for the purpose of enjoying a meal as both a gift and means of fellowship and encouragement. Such gatherings don’t need to involve lavish spreads. They can, in fact, be quite simple. But they are those meals where we gather with guests and get a glimpse of the banquet of the kingdom to come, those meals where we get a little foretaste of the shalom of God. (I use the word Shalom as we don't seem to have an English word that singularly embraces it all). A Hebrew word meaning peace, harmony, wholeness, completeness, prosperity, welfare and tranquility.
So let me encourage you to make a concerted effort in two areas:
1. In your home, enjoy your meal time around a table as opposed to in the lounge watching tv, and conclude your evening mealtime with a scripture reading and family prayer time.
2. Think of someone each month that you can invite to share in your meal with you as you enjoy the meal the Lord has provided, and encourage them.