The next attribute of the fruit of the spirit in Galatians 5:22 is gentleness. The Greek word for peace used in the text is prautes. It is derived from the Greek root praus which translates as mild. Used in the context of scripture, this adjective turned noun implies an attribute reflective of a mild character – meekness, gentleness, humility.
Praus is used in Matthew 21:5 in reference to one of the prophecies of Jesus, stating that he would come “gentle and mounted on a donkey.” Those of us who know the story will recognize this as Jesus’s “triumphal entry” into Jerusalem, which we now celebrate as Palm Sunday, a week before he is crucified. A similarly well-known use of this concept is found in Matthew 5: “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”
In this article from Nichols Notes, I found this summary to be particularly helpful:
Albert Barnes in his Notes on the Bible writes, “Meekness is patience in the reception of injuries. Christ did not trample others to secure His own rights….Meekness is the reception of injuries with a belief that God will vindicate us. Meekness comes from a heart too great to be moved by little insults. It looks upon those who offer them with pity. He that is constantly ruffled; that suffers every little insult or injury to throw him off his guard and to raise a storm of passion within, is at the mercy of every mortal that chooses to disturb ‘him. He is like ‘the troubled sea that cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt”.”
Looking to Jesus as an example, as well as the promises afforded to those who follow Him, we recognize that this kind of gentleness stems from having your identity firmly rooted in God. Jesus was not promised an unpainful end, nor are we as his followers. Yet, being in communion with our Creator – abiding in Him – gives us the fortitude to remain gentle in the midst of life’s circumstances. Rather than a weakness, it is strength – a strength that only God can provide.
1 | Thinking about the events of Palm Sunday and the crucifixion to follow in just a few days’ time, how do you think Jesus would have reacted to the circumstances had he not been firmly rooted in the will of his Father? Would He have still been able to be “led like a lamb to slaughter”?
2 | Looking to the Beatitudes and the assertion that it is the meek who will inherit the earth – do you believe that? How does the world strive to tell a different story about humility? Thinking on examples of those who seem to encapsulate this version of meekness and those who seem to represent the inheritors of the earth, what is the disconnect? Do we have the wrong idea about meekness or the wrong idea about what our inheritance really is?
3 | Thinking about your daily encounters, what are the things that make you more likely to lose your cool instead of demonstrate gentleness? Can you identify some overarching struggle in your connection to God that may make gentleness difficult to maintain in those moments? In what ways could reconnecting to God assist you?
4 | Following up from the last question, what ways do you typically connect with God? Do your efforts tend to stay in the lane of the Sunday School Answers (read your Bible, pray, go to church)? If so, are there ways that you can shake up your relationship that might be more beneficial in truly rooting yourself in His love and His will? Take some time to explore other options. Don’t be shy! The sacred and the secular don’t have to be miles apart.
In the Scriptures
James 1:21 | Therefore, ridding yourselves of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent, humbly receive the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
James 3:13 | Who among you is wise and understanding? By his good conduct he should show that his works are done in the gentleness that comes from wisdom.
1 Corinthians 4:21 | I’m not writing this to shame you, but to warn you as my dear children. For you may have countless instructors in Christ, but you don’t have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. Therefore I urge you to imitate me. This is why I have sent Timothy to you. He is my dearly loved and faithful child in the Lord. He will remind you about my ways in Christ Jesus, just as I teach everywhere in every church. Now some are arrogant, as though I were not coming to you. But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk, but the power of those who are arrogant. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power. What do you want? Should I come to you with a rod, or in love and a spirit of gentleness?
2 Corinthians 10:1 | Now I Paul, myself, appeal to you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ — I who am humble among you in person but bold toward you when absent.
Galatians 6:1 | Brothers and sisters, if someone is overtaken in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual, restore such a person with a gentle spirit, watching out for yourselves so that you also won’t be tempted. Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
Ephesians 4:2 | Therefore I, the prisoner in the Lord, urge you to live worthy of the calling you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit — just as you were called to one hope at your calling — one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.
Colossians 3:12 | Therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and dearly loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a grievance against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you are also to forgive. Above all, put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.
2 Timothy 2:25 | The Lord’s servant must not quarrel, but must be gentle to everyone, able to teach, and patient, instructing his opponents with gentleness. Perhaps God will grant them repentance leading them to the knowledge of the truth.
Titus 3:2 | Remind them to submit to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to slander no one, to avoid fighting, and to be kind, always showing gentleness to all people. For we too were once foolish, disobedient, deceived, enslaved by various passions and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, detesting one another.
1 | In James 1, the author states that “the implanted word” must be received humbly in order to save souls. How is turning to and following Christ the ultimate act of humility and meekness?
2 | In Galatians 6, Paul advises the church to act in gentleness when working with a fellow member who is struggling with wrongdoing. Thinking of the gentle spirit as one that is humble, why would showing humility while working to restore someone be important? How is it difficult to be humble in such a situation, when you are doing the correcting or disciplining?
3 | 2 Timothy 2 and James 3 provide further evidence that humility is a vital part of the Christian witness. The lesson applies to both followers of Christ who are struggling with some sin and those who are not yet followers. Think about those people who helped guide you towards your faith. Did you respond better to those who were humble and gentle or those who taught “fire and brimstone?” Why do you think that is?
4 | Gentleness is sprinkled through many lists of virtues in the NT, alongside the other characteristics of the fruit of the spirit. In fact, these same attributes tend to be listed together all over the epistles! How does the ability to be humble underlie the other characteristics of the fruit? Is it possible to demonstrate those characteristics without humility?