Gentle Jesus, meek and mild?
Some of us may have learnt to sing in Sunday school, 'Gentle Jesus, meek and mild'. Perhaps now we would question these adjectives, afraid they give a milk-sop impression of the Saviour of the world. Maybe 'mild' does indeed give a hint of weakness. But 'gentle' and 'meek' - both of which are possible translations for the eighth 'fruit of the Spirit' - express a critical element of Jesus' character.
We know the Jesus whose word stilled the Galilean storm, and who - by the irresistible power that was intrinsic to his very nature - burst out of the tomb. But this same Jesus took a little child on his lap, and turned gently to touch a trembling woman, made ritually unclean by her sickness. Indeed, it was of him that God said, through Isaiah (42:3), 'a bruised reed he will not break, and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out'.
Then Peter - so quick to put forward his own opinion, and so vehement in denying his relationship with Jesus - years later, mellowed by experience and the Spirit, commended 'a gentle and quiet spirit' as of 'great worth in God's sight' (1 Peter 3:4), and urged his readers, when challenged about their hope, to give an answer with 'gentleness and respect' (1 Peter 3:15). And Paul - ready to denounce the wavering Galatians as foolish and bewitched - reminded the Thessalonians how gentle he had been with them, 'like a nurse (or mother) caring for her little children' (1 Thess. 2:7).
Gentleness and meekness are not signs of weakness but of strength. Blustering, bullying, pulling rank and nagging, on the other hand, are the weapons of the insecure. Throughout human history, people have used these means to exercise power over others. And our contemporary society seems sometimes actually to admire roughness and rudeness. Often we are tempted to break and trample on those we perceive to be 'bruised reeds', or to snuff out the tentative, struggling spark in people who seem inadequate to the task.
We all need to remind ourselves that the fruit of the Spirit - the Spirit of Jesus - is gentleness.
There are currently no comments for this article.