I have been in the habit lately of speaking harshly to my children. I have convinced myself that it is the only thing that works. If I respond calmly and quietly, my kids often times seem to ignore me. But if I yell, with hands on my hips and nose in their faces, I will get a reaction.
It was after one such encounter (justified in my mind) that I sat down for my quiet time (I know…the irony is not lost on me). I was reading in Galatians and a verse I have read many times before jumped off the page:
“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.” – Galatians 6:1
I had never thought to apply this verse to my parenting before, but here it was, in black and white, instructing me to deal with my children’s sin in a spirit of gentleness.
I began to study “gentleness” in the Bible and have been so convicted! It became very evident, very quickly that gentleness should be a distinguishing trait in my life as a follower of Christ. (See 1 Peter 3:4, Colossians 3:12, Ephesians 4:21, Timothy 3:3, Titus 3:2..just to name a few.) Yet, gentleness is probably the most over-looked fruit of the spirit in my life. Sure, I’m gentle when all is going well. But add stress, fear or kids to the equation and out pops frenzy, haste and anger.. which I’m pretty sure are the opposites of gentleness.
So, what does it look like to respond in a “spirit of gentleness”? The Greek word translated gentleness (or meekness) is praus. I learned that in some classical Greek literature, praus was used to describe a tame animal. This brought an interesting image of gentleness to my mind. I pictured a wild animal who has been brought to submission under the training and care of a master. Now, instead or responding from pure instinct (biting, bucking, fleeing) the animal responds gently out of trust and obedience, doing what pleases the master. I often times respond out of pure instinct (my flesh), but under the training and care of my Master, I can respond with gentleness because I trust Him. Gentleness is responding calmly, humbly, kindly, not because the situation really isn’t that bad, but because the One who is Sovereign over everything has told me to trust Him and be gentle. So, whether it be my kids’ behavior, a reckless driver who cuts me off or a nasty comment on social media, I can respond gently because He is still in control.
My master not only tells me to be gentle, He shows me by example how to be gentle. Jesus says of himself, “I am humble and gentle at heart.” – Matthew 11:29. I bow in worship of the One who has restored me with such gentleness and love!