Gentleness: A Spirit-Filled Life, Day 6
There's a phrase used by the National Park Service that reflects their desire to see nature remain untouched. "Leave no trace." Don't mar the landscape, litter, or feed wild animals. In other words, your presence should be benign, harmless, not a danger to the surroundings, but favorable and wholesome. That is, in essence, what the Greek word for gentleness expresses. When we come into contact with others, the only thing we should leave behind is a reflection of Christ. Unfortunately, we've all met people who have left a distinctly unfavorable taste in our mouths.
How often have you evaded a person you inadvertently ran into because you didn't want to see them or silenced a phone call as soon as you saw the name appear? Be honest. At one time or another, we all have. All the while, the other individual not only saw us but knew we were purposefully ignoring them, perhaps hurt and angry, while we self-righteously patted ourselves on the back for escaping an awkward situation. This is NOT a characteristic of a person walking in the Spirit. Instead, the Spirit beckons us to become more like Him, gentle and kind.
Consider the above definition of benignity in the following verses that use the same Greek word. I have bolded them for you:
Rom. 3:12, "They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is non who does good, no, not one."
Rom. 2:4, "Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?"
Rom. 11:22, "Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off."
Col. 3:12, "Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering."
Titus 3:4-8, "But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life."
These Scriptures make it clear that no matter how hard we try, even if we view ourselves as righteous, our sin always leaves a trace on us and those around us. We've all hurt and been hurt. We've spoken harshly or dealt unsympathetically with others whether we meant to or not, and generally, it's with those we love and care about the most. Unfortunately, our collective self-righteousness has left a seemingly indelible mark on the world, a world that desperately needs the kindness of God expressed through us so that they can come to a place of repentance.
Paul makes it clear in Romans 11:22 (above) that we should weigh God's goodness (often translated as gentleness and kindness) against His severity and then make a conscious choice to continue in His goodness – never ours. If we choose not to do so, we risk being cut off. Remember how Paul told us we were grafted into the nation of Israel? (Rom. 11:16-21) The idea is that refusing to act gently is grounds for being separated from the tree. It also means hindering and frustrating the work the Holy Spirit wants to do in our lives.
However, we cannot do this autonomously. Our flesh is not benign. We need the Holy Spirit to work His gentleness into us. Paul told the Colossians it was one of the things they should "put on." This phrase is one of my personal favorites because it has the connotation of sinking into your favorite soft PJs and resting in them. It is a characteristic that we should comfortably wear as opposed to our "work" clothes and dress shoes that pinch our feet that we can't wait to kick off.
Many years ago, when I first took a spiritual giftings test, neither my friends nor I were surprised to find that I scored in the single digits on compassion. I grew up in the church but had seen an exceptional amount of hypocrisy, which had jaded me. (I say this tongue-in-cheek because I realize that some of that hypocrisy was my own.) I was ashamed and asked the Spirit to help me grow in that area. However, over a decade later, my compassion score had significantly increased. That is a work of the Spirit, and I am, admittedly, still a work in progress.
So I ask you today, are you allowing the Holy Spirit to clothe you often enough that His characteristics have become a second skin to you? As you mature in the Lord, are you growing harder and more rigid or softer and more pliable in your interactions with others? If being kind and gentle with others doesn't come naturally, trust the Lord to heal every hurt, and then endeavor in His power to leave no residue of your flesh in the lives of others so that they can see Jesus manifest through you.