Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Lost Art of Being Gentle


"As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you; and ye shall be comforted in Jerusalem." Isaiah 66:13


 The children above are deeply relaxed and confident in their mother's love and care. They can tell her anything, perform their childish antics, and know that her love will be there, steadfast and unwavering. She will comfort them through mistakes and trials, they will break her glass jar and not fear that she will yell or physically punish them. God is our loving Father, and His love is perfect, even better than a mothers. He will comfort us, even to those who have not known a comforting mother, God is the perfect parent to His children. 

 The calloused human heart is naturally prone to harshness. Yelling, anger, punishment, and 'hurting' someone back comes too easily. The harsh ways of others we have absorbed are perpetuated onto more people, and the cycle continues. If we break the cycle of a hard heart, and ask God to renew us and create a cycle of gentleness and wholeness we can begin a new pattern in our lives. We must begin by viewing God as the loving and perfect father he is, getting to know his character and nature. When we learn of His perfect ways, we can begin to see how gentleness should become part of our renewed nature in Christ.

A gentle shepherd will look for his lost sheep until it is found. He will carry it in his arms, bruised and bleeding, to make sure it will rejoin the flock. He gently guides the flock with his staff. His staff is to guide and direct, to let the sheep know they can be confident in him. The staff is not to inflict harm. It is a sign of authority and of comfort---the sheep can be absolutely sure they are cared for and they do not live in fear when walking with their shepherd.

"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

Jesus shall gently lead those who are with young. We have the guidance of our gentle shepherd, and we can pass that gentleness on to those around us. Jesus, who knew the perfect heart of his father, lived and reflected gentleness. He was not spineless, or a pushover, but in knowing perfect love, he reflected love in it's perfect state---strong, gentle, guiding love. Jesus did not beat or berate those who cried, who made mistakes, who sinned---He gently led them to himself and showed them his love, and in doing so, people were changed. It was not his yelling, his harshness, his chastening---it was his perfect love and gentle, spotless nature that healed people and left a permanent mark on hearts.

"I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep." John 10:11

The woman at the well, the woman who had committed adultery, the woman who touched Jesus' robe in the crowd, the children who came to see Jesus---Jesus showed them all gentleness, and their hearts became his. If his response had been different, yelling, physically or emotionally punishing them, stinging their hearts and then followed that with telling them he loved them, these people's picture and image of love would have been forever changed. How they passed on love and care to others would have also been forever changed.

"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 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. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

When we are gentle in heart, we truly know Jesus, and we find rest for our souls. Carrying a hardened and harsh heart, one who always has to punish others, even little ones, is a heavy and harmful burden to bear. Jesus took the punishment, He took the burden, He took the bitterness, anger, harshness, and calloused corners of human nature for us. They aren't ours to carry or pass on to others. There is no punishment to bear, no burden to pass to others---"...he said, “It is finished!” (John 19:30) Now knowing Christ--- his very nature, love and gentleness--- that is the legacy we should pass on. Knowing who he truly is, and reflecting him to others, especially our little ones.

"He will not shout
    or raise his voice in public." Isaiah 42:2

It is easier to react, than it is to love with gentleness. God is his perfect love and mercy will show us the way of gentleness. It means leaning on the strength of God, being renewed by Christ to be consistently gentle. Yet one who always responds in frustration, anger, and spite is reactive and does not yet understand the love of God. They are the weaker ones, who need to be made strong by the love of Christ.

"He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city." Proverbs 16:32

Little children can best come to know Christ when we are his hands and feet. Sometimes tantrums and tears are out of frustration, being tired, or not being able to communicate something, and yet so often we are harsh. Sometimes it is normal childish antics. How many times are we frustrated, tired, angry and without words for something we take to God? To God, we probably daily perform childish antics ourselves. Faithfully he is always there comforting us, as a mother comforts. 

We are more apt to follow someone who is gentle and kind, than harsh and always punishing. Children who grow into adults will turn their hearts away from a God they view as harsh and uncaring, and they will pass that on to future generations. God embraces us, and we can embrace little ones and those we love on the journey of life, with love and gentleness, just as Jesus has embraced us, his sheep. We can point them to the perfect shepherd, and they will grow to lead others to Him. Jesus, the One who was gentleness in a harsh world, the One who came to show us God. God in the flesh, who took our punishment upon Himself, because He loves his sheep.

"For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls." 1 Peter 2:25

"Nothing is so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength." Saint Francis de Sales

"Only the weak are cruel. Gentleness can only be expected from the strong." Leo Buscaglia



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