29. A Kinder, Gentler Nature



     As many of you may notice, we are getting our parking lot repaved. I was at first surprised and even incredulous that they painted stripes in a very obviously wrong and mistaken way, only to later find out that they did so based on the wrong and mistaken blueprints that I (yes me) had given them. 

    When I learned that the error was mine (mostly mine I might add) I was thankful that I was gentle rather than harsh when I told them of "their" error. It reminded me of the phrase I used a couple of weeks ago, "Lord, let me give the gentleness today that I will need to receive tomorrow." I was also reminded that anytime you point one finger at someone else's wrong, three are pointing back at you. 

    Do you believe that gentleness is a virtue that you really want to possess? Then why are we so quick to not practice it? The King James word for this is "meekness" which rhymes with "weakness" and we Americans, Christian or not, often do not truly value being gentle as a virtue. 

    Consider road rage. Is it really worth it to get so upset because some driver ahead of you is going to make you five seconds later? Or maybe not even that, as you pull up beside them at the light. 

    When George H.W. Bush coined the phrase, "a kinder, gentler nation," in his presidential acceptance speech, he probably did not realize how that phrase would be such a defining moment nearly 30 years ago. While ridiculed as idealistic, are there not many who wish our presidency, let alone our nation, were a little kinder, a little gentler? A nation becomes gentler when we collectively in our nature become gentler. 

     While there are a lot of things we may not be able to do, is it not true that all of us can be gentle? Gentleness may come more naturally to some than to others (and that is certainly true by the company we keep! Some people are harder to be gentle with than others). But all of us, especially those of us with the Holy Spirit's fruit living within us, ALL OF US can be gentler and kinder to one another. 

The following devotional comes from Zondervan. 


KEY QUESTION: 

How do I demonstrate thoughtfulness and consideration toward others?

Nothing kills a family, a friendship, a neighborhood or even a church like pride, arrogance, anger, closed ears and raised voices. Since God is all about community, he calls his followers to be gentle. Of course, he teaches us by modeling this virtue right in our midst. Jesus offered up powerful insights and encouragement in the Sermon on the Mount.

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:1–5)


KEY VERSE: 

Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. (Philippians 4:5)


KEY IDEA: 

I am thoughtful, considerate and calm in my dealings with others.


KEY APPLICATION:

 What difference does this make in the way I live?

Think about this self-evaluation question regarding the virtue of gentleness: If you had plans with someone for Sunday evening, would they be dreading the time with you or excited about the visit? Would they be expecting you to be calm or abrasive? Would they anticipate you to be thoughtful and attentive or self-focused and distracted? Would they leave the time with you feeling encouraged or discouraged? Worn-out or refreshed?

The problem with this scenario, though, is that self-evaluation is deceptive. We cannot fully see and understand our lack of gentleness. If we want to know the true measure of our gentleness, we have to ask others.

Jesus extends the invitation: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30). I want to be able to say this to the people God has placed in my life. How about you? With Christ in us, we can be gentle!


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