Gentleness & Goodness: fruit of the Spirit

Do gentleness and goodness seem like qualities on the top of many lists?  What do these words mean to you?  For some, it might mean being a push-over or a marshmallow… to others, it might be a coveted virtue.  Needless to say, these character traits are as scarce as water in a summer Arizona desert.  We live in a ‘dog-eat-dog’ world.  There is not even much gentleness or goodness where you might expect to find it: nurses and doctors have become preoccupied with their paychecks, homes are toxic environments, and churches are full of bitterness.  It’s tragic how few true ‘gentlemen’ are living generous, good lives in today’s society.

I’ve chosen to blend these two into one thought because they are so closely related; indeed, they are siblings.  Gentleness is the kind, outward interactions pictured by the hands of a cherishing mother.  Goodness is the generous, inward intent of the heart of that same mother.  Gentleness says, “God does good.”  Goodness says, “God is good.”

Gentleness – kind / emphasis: outward; action
Goodness – generous / emphasis: inward; attitude

The 2 G’s – Begin with God

Over and over, the Scriptures speak of a gentle and good God.  He is good to His children:  “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd : he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.”  (Isaiah 40:11)  “Praise him, all ye people. For his merciful kindness is great toward us…” (Ps. 117:1-2) He is gentle with sinners: “The kindness and love of God our Savior toward man appeared… Which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior.”  (Titus 3:4-7)  God plans to spend all eternity showing how good He can be: “That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us…”  (Ephesians 2:7)

But His gentleness and goodness can only come into focus when considered along side His omnipotence and holiness.  The mightier the power, the more compelling his trait of gentleness.  Consider that He can do anything – including abuse His power – yet He only uses it for our good and His glory.  Consider that it’s not necessary to tolerate sin for a split-second, yet He suffers the sinners existence through love.  Make no mistake, this is not tolerance or passivism.  This is not compromise or softness with sin, nor an inability or impotence to deal with it.  His goodness and gentleness reveal His deep understand and great love toward His creation.

The Apostle Paul must have tried to reproduce this kind of goodness on his own – only to fail.  He said, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.”  (Romans 7:18)  Our only way to obtain this kind of gentleness and goodness is from the Spirit.  Ephesians 5:18 states: “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;” Are you under the influence of something earthly or Someone Heavenly?  It can’t be both!  We must strip off all controlling parasites and yield ourselves wholly to God.  Allowing Him to fill us and control us is the only way to be empowered with this supernatural level of integrity.

The 2 G’s – the Bases of Greatness

No one is ever great if they are not first good.  Never has there truly been a great deed that didn’t start with a good intent.  David, the Psalmist of Israel, knew that if it weren’t from the grace of God, he would not have been king: “Thy gentleness hath made me great.”  (2 Samuel 22:36; Psalm 18:35)  As I read C.J. Mahaney’s book on Humility, chapters one and two presented a significant problem to me: the clash between my desire and my call.  My desire to be great is founded in pride.  Greatness (earthly), he said, conflicted with humility.  But I was so happy to get to chapters three and four which redefined greatness through humility.  Yes, I could desire to be great as long as I understood that it only comes through the gracious, serving spirit of gentleness and goodness – not through ambition and self-promotion.  What a revelation!  The basis of greatness is grace: God’s gentleness and goodness.

The 2 G’s – Bearing the Gospel

Let us turn our attention to the cross of Christ… It is only because of the goodness and gentleness of God that we are saved.  In Romans 2:4, Paul asks the question: Don’t you know “that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?”  Our sinful nature is not good. “There is none that doeth good, no, not one.”  (Romans 3:12)  Only by being born again and becoming “partakers of the divine nature” can we ever hope to experience His goodness.  (2 Peter 1:4)

And now to your cross… As Christians, we were created “unto good works” (Ephesians 2:10); we were called to be the “light of the world.”  (Matthew 5:14)  If we are to fulfill our mission, we will be compassionate about those around us.  We will sympathize with the hurting, we will be sensitive to our neighbor’s needs, and we will serve others. Goodness will carry the gospel to a lost and dying world; gentleness will carry it in the spirit of Christ.  Goodness will speak the truth; gentleness will speak it in love.  Goodness will care; gentleness will go.

Yield to Christ, and His virtues of integrity and love will be reproduced in you.  His fruit in you will be in high contrast to wickedness of the world and to the status-quo Christianity.  Be gentle and good because that is what God is like and that is what gives Him much glory.

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