Fruit of the Spirit: “Gentleness”


Fruit of the Spirit: “Gentleness”
A Message on 2 Timothy 2:22-26

For Jacksonville First United Methodist Church
July 15, 2018
By Doug Wintermute


2 Timothy 2:22-26 (NRSV)

Shun youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. 23 Have nothing to do with stupid and senseless controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. 24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to everyone, an apt teacher, patient, 25 correcting opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant that they will repent and come to know the truth, 26 and that they may escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.


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Today I want to start off our exploration of gentleness being a fruit of the spirit by talking about silk.


Yep, silk.


As you probably know silk is a material that is made by a specific breed of  moth, the mulberry silkworm Bombyx mori. Silk is produced when the larvae of the moth spins a cocoon in which to stay until it completes its metamorphosis into a moth.


Silk is smooth. It is soft. It feel luxurious to the skin.


But silk is also strong. Very strong. It is one of the strongest natural fibers. An ounce of silk is 5 times stronger than an ounce of steel.


Now if you are like me you have trouble reconciling that something soft can also be strong. But it’s true.


Back in World War I airplane pilots wore silk scarves. There were a couple of reasons for that. First it insulated them from the cold as they flew in their open cockpit airplanes. The layers of silk trapped air next to their skin and insulated them from the cold.


Plus the open cockpit planes made the pilot’s goggles fog up in foggy weather, and oil leaking from the engine could impair visibility as well. The scarf was used to clean the goggles. It also prevented chaffing on the back of their necks resulting from moving their head around searching the skies for enemy aircraft.


But there was another reason they wore it as well. It protected them from more than cold. Some pilots would wrap silk scarves up all around their head several layers deep under a leather helmet because they discovered that the material was effective at stopping flak, little pieces of metal. The softness of the material absorbed the energy of the speeding pieces of metal while the strength of the fibers were effective in sometimes keeping it from penetrating the skin.


Silk is known for both it’s strength and softness.


That’s kind of what “gentleness” is.  I like this definition given by Wikipedia: “Gentleness is a strong hand with a soft touch. It is a tender, compassionate approach toward others’ weaknesses and limitations. A gentle person still speaks truth, sometimes even painful truth, but in doing so guards his tone so the truth can be well received.”


Today I want to continue our sermon series on the “Fruit of the Spirit” listed in Galatians 5 by today looking at “gentleness.” It is a characteristic a person has when he/she lives a Christian life led by the Holy Spirit.


Now there are some other words that different translations of the Bible use to describe this particular trait. The King James Version uses the term “meekness.” The Message translates it to a “compassion in the heart.”


Part of the problem of living in today’s world, and especially in our society in America, is that gentleness is seen not as a strength but as a weakness. It is not viewed as a positive attribute but instead as a negative one.


It’s very rare that you hear someone being commended for their gentleness, but Biblically there are many scriptures that speak about gentleness.


James 3:17 says, “Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced.” (James 3:17, The Message)


Proverbs 15:1 says, “A gentle response defuses anger, but a sharp tongue kindles a temper-fire. (Proverbs 15:1, The Message)


Psalm 18:35 says, “You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your right hand supported me, and your gentleness made me great.” (ESV)


Titus 3:2 says, “…to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show every courtesy to everyone.”


Today’s scripture from 2 Timothy has Paul writing to his young protege Timothy giving him some excellent advice: “Have nothing to do with stupid and senseless controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to everyone, an apt teacher, patient, correcting opponents with gentleness.” (2 Timothy 2:23-25)


Man, how would the world change if everyone claiming to be a Christian acted in that manner? It seems like today people quarrel for fun, especially on social media. It’s like their favorite past time. They are not “kindly to everyone,” they love to get involved in “stupid and senseless controversies” where they do not by any means “correct(ing) opponents with gentleness.”


I got to witness Biblical gentleness this past week at church camp. This last session of church camp (there were four of them) was the largest, with right at 1,000 youth from all over the Texas Conference in attendance.Our church took 59 youth and 11 adults, not as many as in years past but still a whole lot!


I worked the elementary camp where we had 250 kids and 50 adult counsellors.


One of those counsellors was our own Di Smith.  Now I didn’t get permission to talk about her today because she probably would have told me no. So I’m going to do it anyway and ask her for forgiveness instead of permission.


Di went to church camp last week with us and served as a counselor in elementary camp.  We had the largest age group of the camp: 250 kids, 3rd-5th graders, and 50 adults. It was hot, it was humid, it rained, it was crowded, we slept in bunk beds, walked everywhere we went, and the counsellors were with the kids pretty much all of the time without any breaks.


Di was there with them the whole week. She was in a room full of girls, one or two of whom were… how can I say this nicely… were quite challenging. But she did it, artificial knee and all. And what I appreciate the most was that she was a great example of gentleness.


I came across this quote about gentleness that I think exemplifies what Di did this past week. “Gentleness is not apathy but is an aggressive expression of how we view people. We see people as so valuable that we deal with them in gentleness, fearing the slightest damage to one for whom Christ died. To be apathetic is to turn people over to mean and destructive elements, to truly love people cause for us to be aggressively gentle.” ― Gayle D. Erwin, Spirit Style


Di was “aggressively gentle.” She worked the medicine runs with us. She went to the infirmary with injured or sick kids. She participated in almost everything the kids did. Here’s a video of her dancing to the song “Church Clap.” (Show video.) Way to bust a move, Di!


Being a counselor she gave advice to the kids. She gave advice to the other counsellors and to me. She helped us through some difficult situations that came up. She was willing to go to great lengths to help others.


One night for the evening activity we had “Carnival Night.” There were different booths set up and the kids could earn tokens for things like ring toss, sack race, football bowling (where you throw a football at bowling pins to see how many you can knock down) and things like that. The kids could then use their tokens for various things.


One of the things that the kids could do with their tokens was to have someone hit in the face with a shaving cream pie.  It took a lot of tokens to do that, though, more than most of the kids had. Some of the girls used teamwork and pooled their tokens together and selected as their “recipient” Di. And Di obligingly did it. (Show photo.)


Di was willing to humble herself in order to make other people, especially the kids, have a good time at camp. She was willing to be silk: soothing and comforting while at the same time strong.


There were two boys in our camp that each learned a lesson about gentleness. It was the last day of camp, Friday. We had already had the closing ceremony and kids were being picked up to go home. We were about 15 minutes away from camp being over without there being a serious disagreement or fight among the 250 elementary campers. I was breathing a sigh of relief. I should have known better.


We were putting up chairs when I heard a disturbance behind me. I turn around to see “Boy A” as we will call him on the concrete floor with “Boy B” on top of him just beating the thunder out of him. Boy B apparently knew how to fist fight and was landing some serious blows on “Boy A.”


Some adults pulled them apart by the time I got to the scene and I took “Boy B” aside mostly to remove him from the situation but also to find out what had caused this behavior. I remember thinking to myself, “15 minutes. Only 15 more minutes…”


After Boy B settled down I found out the story. Boy A had been picking on Boy B, calling him some very un-nice names and then hitting him and running away. He kept on picking on him and hitting him and picking on him and hitting him and then did it one time too many times. Boy B had all he could take. He ran Boy A down and commenced to put a serious beatdown on him.


The first thing I said to Boy B was “Where are we?” He replied, “In Copeland Auditorium.” “No, I said, “Where have all of us been this past week.” “Church camp,” he said. “Right,” I said. “There’s no fighting at church camp! It’s not a good idea to fight anywhere, but we absolutely don’t fight at church camp.”


And then I asked him, “What would Jesus do?”


“Walk away,” was his reply.


“Yes,” I replied. “And you could have walked away. You could have come and told a counselor of me or any adult what was happening, and then the other boy would have been in trouble and you wouldn’t have.”


I know it’s kind of cliche and some of my classmates from seminary would roll their eyes upon hearing it, but it really is a pretty good tool for us as followers of Jesus Christ to frequently ask, “What would Jesus do?”


Jesus was gentle. He wasn’t a pushover, he wasn’t powerless, and he had plenty of reasons NOT to be gentle. But he was. He chose to be gentle. He was “aggressively gentle.”


So my challenge to you this week is to be like Jesus (and Di Smith at church camp) and be “aggressively gentle.” Live you life in such a way that gentleness happens without you even thinking about it.


People are going to get on your nerves. People will mistreat you. People will manipulate you. People will try to walk all over you and take advantage of you. The world tells us to treat them like they treat you. But the Bible tells us to respond with gentleness.


Remember that Jesus prayed for forgiveness for the very men who took his life, the ones that beat him and tortured him and nailed him to the cross. And yet he allowed himself to be killed on the cross as a sacrifice for us, a sacrificial, gentle lamb, his love for us providing us with forgiveness of sins and life eternally. If Jesus can do that surely we can be gentle to our fellow humans.


Be like silk: gentle but strong. I’m pretty sure Di would approve.


In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

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