Posted by: Mike Willoughby | May 18, 2011

Relationship Matters (Gentleness)

The subject of this Intersections article may be on the verge of becoming a lost art in our society.  In Titus 3:2, Paul urges us to “be gentle” with each other.  Gentleness is mentioned often in Paul’s letters and he includes gentleness in the list of the fruits of the Holy Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23.  Jesus tells us that gentleness is one of his personal attributes in the comforting passage in Matthew 11:9:

Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Jesus “walked the walk” when it came to treating people with gentleness as illustrated in the multiple occasions when he literally reached out and touched people stricken with leprosy and other diseases healing them in the process.  His gentle touch made a statement to those he touched and to those watching. 

He was gentle with those who had missed the mark horribly in their lives but were willing to be “touched” spiritually by him.  The example of the Samaritan woman in John 4:7-30 comes to mind as does the example of Zacchaeus in Luke 19:1-10.  In both examples Jesus not only made contact with folks society deemed unworthy and untouchable, he ministered to them with gentleness and respect.  He was even gentle with those who arrested him and put him on the cross as evidenced by his healing of the High Priest’s servant in Matthew 26:51, his response to Pilate in Matthew 27:11-14 and his pleading for forgiveness for his persecutors in Luke 23:34.  The few places where Jesus was not gentle with people usually involved self-righteous hypocrites such as the Pharisees who harassed him and those that took advantage of the less fortunate such as the money-changers in the temple.  If your heart was at all open to hearing his message of hope and comfort, you could be sure that Jesus would be gentle with you.

It seems to me that our society prizes harshness and disrespect rather than gentleness and honor.  We don’t just deliver a criticism – we hammer it home with a sarcastic slam.  We treat each other with disdain and disrespect.  When we aren’t treating each other harshly face-to-face, we are doing so behind one another’s back.  Those less fortunate than us who suffer physically, emotionally or economically are marginalized, ridiculed or just ignored.  Doing nothing is not being gentle – gentleness is an action!  Even Christians have a tendency to be harsh and judgmental when dealing with those who question or challenge their faith in spite of Peter’s encouragement for us to be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”  

The truth is that we all need to be handled with care.  All this harshness and disrespect causes each of us to put up defensive shields in an attempt to deflect the abuse.  This was the natural tendency of the woman at the well before she encountered the Messiah.  The problem with the defensive shields is they don’t really work very well at repulsing the attack.  We may not show visible signs of damage but the damage is done nonetheless.  However, the shields are pretty good at keeping us from showing gentleness to those around us.  It’s kind of perverse that a defense mechanism intended to protect us would keep us from giving that gentleness to others which we crave so much for ourselves.

This is an area where a WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) bracelet might actually come in very handy for each of us.  With our friends, spouses, kids, church family members, co-workers, fellow commuters (even those single occupant cars in the HOV lane – my challenge), folks in the check-out line at Wal-mart and everyone we encounter – let us try do what Jesus would do and just be gentle to those around us.  Take down the shields (they don’t work anyway) and reach out and touch someone with gentleness today. 

It’s exactly WJWD!

Until next week,

Meet me at the intersection!

Previous Intersections Articles

Relationship Matters (Quarreling) Thinking about Justice Relationship Matters (Damaging Words)

Copyright © 2011 Michael Willoughby. All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to author and/or owner with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


  1. It is often hard to be gentle when we are more often than not attacked by the ‘bull in the china shop” approach of people or also as we all know of people who try “to steam roll over you”

    We all want respect and want people to be ‘gentle” with us as we should try to be gentle to others. So you are also saying turn the other cheek.

    Well let me tell you it is hard sometimes, but as I get older and I have developed more patience I react more slowly to bad situations ( not because I am old but I have learned over the years getting older )and try to remind myself you catch more flies with honey.

    Yes we should all try to be more “gentle”

    Which reminds me I recommend you read a new book by Jimmy Breslin Its called Branch Rickey. It can be read almost in one sitting and there are lots of messages in the Book.

    • Thanks, Alan! I look forward to checking out the Breslin book.

  2. Being gentle leads to being patient leads to being loved leads to respect and most of all covers a multitude of sins. Christ was gentle we know but He certainly was no push over as we read what he did in the temple driving out the money changers. If we do everything “in Love” gentleness will become easy. I have always loved a soft answer. Thanks Mike

  3. Always, always in all that we do…well said.

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