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In what way is gentleness a fruit of the Holy Spirit?

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The fruit of the Spirit, listed in Galatians 5:22-23, is the result of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Gentleness almost sounds like something we could do on our own. Most mothers are gentle with their infants, caring for and nurturing them. But biblical gentleness doesn't mean acting in a tender and soft way, or even controlling physical strength for the benefit of another. To be gentle is to have a humble heart and peaceful mind and to submit wholly to God's plan.

The Greek words for "gentleness" and "meekness" are somewhat interwoven in English translations. Prautes, the Greek word translated "gentleness" in Galatians 5:23 (NIV), means "to submit one's strength in a posture of meekness." It is to calmly accept God's judgment regarding a situation, even if that judgment results in personal hardship. It is humility toward God. Prautes is translated eight times as "gentleness" and once each as "consideration," "humility," and "meekness." Epieikeia is also translated as "gentleness" or "kindness." It refers to the kindly grace that God exhibits when He helps those who don't deserve it (all of us), bringing to mind Jesus' parable in Matthew 18:23-35 about the king who forgave a great debt.

The gentleness in the New Testament is closely related to wisdom and spiritual growth. Galatians 6:1; 2 Timothy 2:25; and 1 Peter 3:15 all use gentleness to describe the way we are to correct or teach others. We are to submit our strength, including the strength of our convictions, to God's wisdom. We are to teach only God's point of view, not our own. And we are to accept that God's actions toward ourselves and others are the right actions, even when human wisdom thinks otherwise.

James 1:21 expounds on the gentle nature we are to have toward God: "Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls." Sadly, everything that is human in us is filthy and wicked, no matter how clear our logic or how closely we try to reconcile our worldview with God's. Only God is good. We need to accept His word "in humility" (prautes) in order to be saved. We must be "like a little child" to enter the Kingdom (Mark 10:15). In addition, to be gentle is to accept the hardships He allows in our lives, considering them disciplinary measures proper for our spiritual development. Gentleness is an inward grace that easily submits our own strength of will to God's Lordship.

Submission or "gentleness" toward God is actually a large piece of the puzzle when it comes to a question about heaven. Many want to know how believers could possibly be content in heaven knowing that loved ones are burning in hell. An incident in David's life may provide some insight. In 1 Chronicles 13:9-11, David is bringing the Ark of the Covenant back to Judah on an ox cart. When the oxen stumbled, a man named Uzzah reached out with his hand and steadied the Ark. God instantly struck Uzzah dead for disobeying God's regulation against touching the Ark. Verse 11 says, "And David was angry because the LORD had broken out against Uzzah." Once David read the instructions governing Ark transportation, however, he accepted that God's judgment was just. In other words, David's initial contention against God turned into godly gentleness. In heaven, when we can finally submit our points of view (no matter how justified in our own eyes) to God's, we will accept His judgment on unbelievers as both appropriate and righteous.

Gentleness is the spirit and attitude behind repentance. To "repent" in a biblical sense is to change one's mind and believe that God is right. Repentance is necessary for salvation, and we need to carry an attitude of repentance in a gentle spirit our entire lives. God is right. Our point of view is limited, misguided, and self-seeking. A gentle heart will accept God's wisdom and yield to His discernment. We can only be gentle as the Holy Spirit develops spiritual fruit in our lives.

Related Truth:

Who is the Holy Spirit?

When do we receive the Holy Spirit?

In what way is kindness a fruit of the Holy Spirit?

In what way is goodness a fruit of the Holy Spirit?

In what way is self-control a fruit of the Holy Spirit?

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