Gentleness in Christianity: by the late J. Knox Chamblin

Western definitions of the Hebrew words for gentle (praus) and gentleness (prautes) would undoubtedly not be words we would associate with a great and powerful leader, or king. They mean, “not being overly impressed by a sense of one’s self-importance.” Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology defines the word gentle as: sensitivity of disposition and kindness of behavior, founded on strength and prompted by love.

The late J. Knox Chamblin, pastor and professor emeritus of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi wrote a piece on how important gentleness is to Christianity:

The Old Testament.

  • Gentleness is suggested by the waters of a stream (Isa 8:6) or by wine flowing over lips and teeth (So 7:9).
  • It stands in contrast to baseness (Deut. 28:54 Deut. 28:56), harshness (2 Sam 18:5), and wildness (Job 41:3).
  • Gentle words wield great power (Prov 15:1 ; 25:15).
  • Job’s counsels were well received, because he spoke them gently (Job 29:22).
  • Gentleness evidences itself in a willingness to yield, reminiscent of a lamb being led to slaughter (Jer 11:19) ; cf. (Isa 53:7).
  • The supreme exemplar of gentleness is Israel’s God. He cares tenderly for the flock under his care, and “gently leads those that have young” (Isa 40:11).
  • He discloses himself not just in wind and earthquake and fire, but in “a gentle whisper” (1 Kings 19:11-13).
  • His consolations are spoken gently (Job 15:11).
  • As Yahweh’s representative, the messianic king comes in humility and gentleness (Zec 9:9).

The New Testament.

  • That king, now come in the flesh, is “gentle and humble in heart” (Matt 11:29).
  • In accord with the prophecy, he enters Jerusalem in gentleness and lowliness (Matt 21:5).
  • Paul appeals to believers “by the meekness and gentleness of Christ” (2 Cor 10:1).
  • By his Spirit, Christ cultivates the same quality in his people (Gal 5:23).
  • Following Jesus’ example, Paul treats his people gently, “like a mother caring for her little children” (1 Thess 2:7). He comes to them not “with a whip [but] in love and with a gentle spirit” (1 Cor 4:21).
  • Church leaders are admonished to be “not violent but gentle” toward persons under their care (1 Tim 3:3); it is a quality they are avidly to pursue (1 Tim 6:11). Knowing themselves to be subject to weakness, they can more readily deal gently with the ignorant and the erring.
  • Believers ensnared by sin must be restored gently (Gal 6:1).
  • A witness to Christian truth is the more effective for being made “with gentleness and respect, ” especially toward a hostile or an unbelieving listener (2 Tim 2:25 ; 1 Peter 3:15).
  • The qualities to which gentleness is joined elucidate its setting and character.
  • Wives should seek “the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit” (1 Peter 3:4).
  • “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love, ” exhorts Paul (Eph 4:2).
  • Let believers clothe themselves “with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Col 3:12).
  • “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Gal 5:22-23), a cluster of qualities each of which reinforces and finds expression in the others.
Image by Albrecht Fietz from Pixabay

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