Let us begin with prayer.
Gracious Father, you have said through your Son and your Word that you are gentle. You call on us to have a gentleness in our spirit. Open our minds and spirit to your Word. Prepare our hearts to receive your Word. Give us a teachable spirit as we delve into your Word. Grant us a spirit of gentleness towards each other. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
To help us begin please read the theme verses for this year’s Lutheran Women Bible Study from Galatians 5:22,23. As you heard it being reads did anything strike you differently from the last time you heard it?
Over the course of the year, we have been looking at the fruit of the Spirit. So far, we have looked at love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, and faithfulness.
In our October Bible study Sal Huckel referred to the fruit of the Spirit as a bunch of grapes. Another way to look at the fruit of the Spirit is like a mandarin or orange. Both fruits have an outer skin. It is only as you delve underneath the skin that you can see, or discern, the different segments of the fruit. To really enjoy the orange or mandarin you need to eat all of it. So, today we look at the fruit of “gentleness”.
The word “gentleness” conveys ideas such as graciousness and compassion. Probably the closest English word is “forbearance”. After all is said, the word involves the willingness to yield our personal rights.
In the NIV Bible the words gentle, gentleness, or gently are found 31 times.
As a group, how would you describe “gentleness”, or being gentle?
Then discuss what the opposite of “gentleness” is.
When I looked up the Thesaurus on my computer “gentleness” can also mean mildness, calmness, kindness, tenderness, placidness, quietness, softness, lightness, smoothness, mellowness, restfulness, peacefulness, and tranquillity.
Which of these words would you associate with the word “gentleness”? Which words would you not associate with the word “gentleness”?
How often have you said to your children to be gentle with something like a treasured possession, an animal, a newborn child, or an older person?
As a parent, I have had to use these words, and as a child, I often heard these words.
At times, we heard have the words, “Gentle Jesus, meek and mild”, which are the opening lines of a song that was written by Charles Wesley and a part of a childhood prayer.
Please read Matthew 21:1–17
What struck you as being gentle in this reading?
What struck you as being the opposite of gentle?
Can both be in the same person?
There are times when we see “gentleness” as being a sign of weakness, this is especially in the eyes of the world. Yet in God’s eyes to be “gentle” can be a wonderful thing. God is known to work wonderful miracles, and yet he is known to also work through the gentle things in life.
Read 1 Kings 19:1–18
Just prior to this reading God had given Elijah a great victory over the false god Baal. Elijah would have been on a spiritual high. Yet Elijah went into a downward spiral after Queen Jezebel had sent a messenger to Elijah (1 Kings 19:2).
Elijah flees, he hasn’t eaten for a while and he collapses, wanting to die. Suddenly an angel touches him and says to get up and eat. This happens a second time.
Do you see the act of gentleness in this part of the reading?
Elijah finally gets to Horeb, the mountain of God and he goes into the cave.
Suddenly Elijah has a visitation from God, “What are you doing here?” Eventually Elijah hears the gentle whisper of the Lord.
God can speak and act in a gentle way. His manner is not always harsh or abrasive. Even in his rebuke, God restrains Himself and speaks with a gentle tone (1 Kings 19:12). As God was speaking to Elijah in the gentle whisper, Elijah was blessed.
Why do you think so?
God could have spoken to Elijah in the violent wind, earthquake, or fire, yet he did not. If he had, what effect would have this had on Elijah?
Instead, God spoke in a gentle whisper.
What did this do for Elijah?
In both the spiritual and physical world, trust is often damaged in our families when harsh words are spoken or when violence breaks out. Yet when we speak gently to people a lot can be accomplished.
King Solomon, who wrote the book of Proverbs, understood this really well.
Read Proverbs 15:1–4.
How does this proverb relate to the story of Elijah?
How does this proverb relate to your family story? Please discuss.
Solomon encourages us to speak gently to others.
We also see this in the New Testament.
Read Matthew 11:28,29.
What words jumped out at you as you read this?
In this passage, what does it mean to be gentle?
Jesus asks us to come to Him. He recognises that we all go through stages of weariness and carrying heavy burdens. He wants to give us rest. Jesus tells us that he is gentle and humble in heart, and that as we come to him, we will find rest for our souls.
Jesus pairs “gentle” and being “humble” together. How does this sit with you?
How do you find rest in our gentle Jesus?
Yet this gentle Jesus could be very self-controlled at times as he confronted the religious leaders of His day.
Peter and Paul also spoke of gentleness in their letters that they wrote to believers.
Read Ephesians 4:2, Philippians 4:5, and Colossians 3:12. These texts refer to us.
What do these texts tell you about “gentleness”?
Read 2 Timothy 2:25 and 1 Peter 3:15.
How are these texts different from the three we have just read? Are you confident in dealing gently with other people? Why or why not?
What does it mean to be “gentle with opponents”? What does it mean to be gentle with those who disagree with us?
What situations challenge your gentleness? Or reveal your lack of it? How could you approach these situations differently?
We all struggle with being gentle. Often life’s circumstances play a part of how gentle we can be. Yet Jesus still calls on us to be gentle with each other.
As we close this Bible study on gentleness, do you have any other thoughts?
Gracious Father, you are the source of all gentleness. You are gentle with your creation not wanting anyone to perish and be separated from you. Please instil in us your gentleness as we reach out to other people in Jesus’ name. Amen.