The fifth fruit of the Spirit is Gentleness which is often confused with meekness. In some translations the word gentleness is used instead of meekness and Kindness is used interchangeably with gentleness. The exact meanings can get confused when translating these words from the original Greek because the Greek language has more precise words to describe these virtues.
First, though, let me expand a bit on the fruit of the Spirit and their relation with each other as well as their focus.
According to McClaren’s Expositions of Holy Scripture, each fruit of the Holy Spirit builds on the previous one which means that one naturally flows from the other.
Gentleness is only possible when you already have the love, joy, and peace of God which are focused on the believer’s relationship with God.
The next three fruit of the Spirit- patience, gentleness, and goodness reflect how our spiritual lives manifest themselves to others (our actions).
The last three fruit of the spirit- faithfulness, meekness, and self-control – point to how we (Christians) live our lives in relation to the opposition and difficulties we face in the world.
In defining gentleness, it is also known as kindness and refers more to actions. It is not quite the same as meekness which refers more to attitude and the whole state of mind as well as actions. Meekness produces gentleness. Both words stem from the Greek word prautes. It can also be equated with humility.
I’ll talk more about meekness in a later post. Right now I want to focus on gentleness.
Google defines gentleness as “the quality of being kind, tender or mild-mannered.”
However, Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology expands on that definition. It defines gentleness as:
“Sensitivity of disposition and kindness of behavior founded on strength and prompted by love.”
So gentleness is more about how we act towards others but how we act comes from our attitudes (in this case meekness).
2 Timothy 2:24-25a says, “The servant of the Lord must not quarrel, but must be gentle toward all people, able to teach, patient, in gentleness instructing those in opposition. “
When Paul was speaking to the Thessalonians in 1 Thessalonians 2:7, MEV he said,
“But we were gentle among you, like a nurse caring for her own children. So having great love toward you, we were willing to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you were dear to us.”
The gentleness, in this case, flowed out of the spiritual love he had for them which comes from the Holy Spirit. Love came first, then gentleness. What a great picture “like a nurse caring for her own children”. I envision a mother feeding her children, tucking them in at night, gently cleaning a child’s scratched up knee after falling down. A mother loving her child and as great as that love
What a great picture “like a nurse caring for her own children”. I envision a mother feeding her children, tucking them in at night, gently cleaning a child’s scratched up knee after falling down. A mother loving her child and, as great as that love is, the love that God has for us is even stronger and deeper than that. Deeper than we can ever really imagine.
God loved us so much that he sent Jesus to die for us. While he was here on earth, Jesus wasn’t stand-offish. He didn’t have a superior attitude. Instead, he was gentle, humble, and meek but he wasn’t weak.
We often mistake gentleness (and meekness) for being weak when in fact they require much inner strength as well as love which comes from the Holy Spirit. God is all powerful but never misuses his power. He never overreacts but is always patient and gentle with his children no matter how badly they behave.
Strength with a gentle touch is a great way to describe gentleness (and meekness as well).
It is these qualities that are precious to God according to 1 Peter 3:4, MEV:
“But let it be the hidden nature of the heart, that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a gen
tle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.”
The world we live in today doesn’t value these qualities very much. Our actions and attitudes in much of our society today are all about getting ahead no matter who is in your way, making sure we don’t get taken advantage of instead of and making sure our voice or opinion gets heard.
In contrast, we should often hold our tongue instead of reacting with anger, help one another instead of stepping on each other, love our enemies instead hate them, be gentle and meek with our actions instead of reacting with hatred or jealousy.
The fruit of the Spirit- love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, and self-control- are a gift from God and are powerful, but it is only in staying connected to God that we can continue to bear fruit.
By reacting with gentleness instead of anger, you can change someone’s attitude from being defensive and putting up their walls to being open and willing to listen.
Reflect on the fruit of the Spirit today and ask God to help you manifest these qualities to those around you.