Today’s Bible readings.
There was a brother who was posting some pretty harsh posts and comments on Facebook several years ago, and so he was exhorted by another to be gentle. And his retort was, “What is biblical gentleness?”
He brings up a good point. We must be careful to not impose our own definition of a word in order to interpret the Bible. For example, “love” these days is equated with tolerance of absolutely anything. A loving person would not accuse somebody of sin. But the Bible’s clear that if you love somebody, you’re going to call them to a life abundant in Christ, obedient to Him.
So, in this Bleat, let us examine the fruit of the Spirit and get some help from a Greek dictionary.
ἀγάπη (agapē), 1. (Christian) love (Ro 5:8); 2. Love Feast, the fellowship meal (Jude 12+)
χαρά (chara), 1. gladness, state of rejoicing, happiness; 2. reason for gladness (1Th 2:19)
εἰρήνη (eirēnē), 1. peace, harmony, tranquility; in certain contexts seen in the OT concept of the Shalom, i.e., welfare, health (Mt 10:34; Mk 5:34; Jn 14:27; 16:33; 20:19, 21; Ro 1:7; 5:1; 15:33; Gal 5:22; Eph 2:14; Php 4:7, 9; Col 3:15; Ro 10:15 v.r.); 2. freedom from worry (Gal 5:22)
μακροθυμία (makrothymia), patience, forbearance, calm (Ro 2:4; 9:22; 2Co 6:6; Gal 5:22; Eph 4:2; Col 1:11; 1Ti 1:16; Heb 6:12; Jas 5:10; 1Pe 3:20; 2Pe 3:15)
χρηστότης (chrēstotēs), 1. benevolence, usefulness (Ro 3:12+); 2. kindness, provide something as an act. of kindness (Ro 2:4; 11:22; 2Co 6:6; Gal 5:22; Eph 2:7; Col 3:12; Tit 3:4+; Ro 9:23 v.r. NA26)
ἀγαθωσύνη (agathōsynē), 1. goodness (Ro 15:14; Gal 5:22; Eph 5:9; 2Th 1:11+)
πίστις (pistis), 1. what can be believed, a state of certainty with regard to belief (Ac 17:31); 2. trust, believe to a complete trust (Mk 11:22; Ac 24:24; Eph 4:29 v.r.); 3. trustworthiness, the state of complete dependability (Ro 3:3); 4. Christian faith, belief in the Gospel (Ro 1:8; Eph 2:8; Gal 1:23; Jude 3); 5. doctrine, the content of what is to be believed (Gal 1:23; Jude 3), 6. promise, pledge to be faithful (1Ti 5:12)
πραΰτης (prautēs), gentleness, meekness, humility (1Co 4:21; 2Co 10:1; Gal 5:23; 6:1; Eph 4:2; Col 3:12; 2Ti 2:25; Tit 3:2; Jas 1:21; 3:13; 1Pe 3:16+)
ἐγκράτεια (egkrateia), self-control (Ac 24:25; Gal 5:23; 2Pe 1:6+)
Some of these definitions do indeed show a depth of the word that helps us understand it more fully. Peace, for example, is not talking about being peaceable, but having tranquility and freedom in Christ.
Some of the other definitions are more simple. Gentleness means gentleness. Paul expects his readers to understand what it means to be gentle, to be humble, to be meek. We understand gentleness because we know when someone is not being gentle with us. We know when someone else is being arrogant. Paul doesn’t want this to be complicated. He is simply exhorting the sheep, in the Holy Spirit, to be gentle. We don’t need a Greek dictionary for that.
Being gentle, however, doesn’t mean shying away from the truth. We know this because we are also commanded to speak the truth in love. And we see that exemplified by the Savior. But in our speaking the truth, we can’t ignore or sacrifice gentleness. It’s not either/or.