Are you a “gentle” person? In our culture and society, that is not a word that is often used to describe people, is it? The adjective “gentle” is often used in the following phrases: a gentle breeze, a gentle rain, a gentle animal, a gentle push, a gentle voice, a gentle massage, a gentle grip, a gentle detergent, a gentle reminder, gentle to the skin. Most of the time we use the word to refer to things rather than people.
I searched the internet for pictures that described or captured the meaning of the word “gentle” and found some precious pictures. There was the picture of a newborn baby’s tiny hand grasping the thumb of its mother. There was the picture of a young child hugging a horse’s face. There were pictures of powerful and ferocious animals playing with their young.
The Greek word translated “gentle” is the word epieikes, and it is a different word from the one translated “gentle” in James 3:13. The term was often used in the ancient world to describe a fine aged wine. It was not harsh or bitter, but mellow, fragrant, and very pleasing to the taste buds. The apostle James uses this word here in verse 17 as part of his description of wisdom from above. In contrast to the harsh, critical, strict, and self-centered wisdom of the world, this wisdom was kind, willing to yield, thoughtful, considerate and patient with others. The words “chill out” and “mellow out” are ofen said to people who are easily irritated and often judgmental of others. You would never have a reason to say these words to a gentle person.
The following definition is so true, and always brings a smile to my face: “Gentleness is the oil that reduces the friction in life”. Warren Wiersbe said: “A gentle person does not deliberately cause fights, but neither does he compromise the truth in order to keep peace.” Carl Sandburg described Abraham Lincoln as a man of “velvet steel”. That’s a good description of gentleness! In II Corinthians 10:1 the apostle Paul says, “Now I, Paul, myself urge you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ . . .” The Lord Jesus Christ is the perfect example of gentleness.
In the “One Year Book of Hymns” I found the following story:
The story is told of a little girl named Becca who lived in an institution for troubled children. She had never spoken, and her behavior was quite violent. She terrorized the other children, hitting them and stomping on their toys.
This was in the 1800’s when treatment for emotional problems was still quite primitive. But there was a nurse who showed love to this little girl. And slowly Becca calmed down. She began to show affection for the nurse, and she would even sit quietly with the other children as they learned to sing. Still, she wouldn’t speak. One summer evening, the nurse put Becca to bed early. The sun had just gone down, and some birds were singing outside. Then the nurse heard another voice along with the birds. It was Becca. Alone in her room she was singing a song she had heard the other children sing: “Gentle Jesus, meek and mild, look upon a little child; pity my simplicity; suffer me to come to Thee.”
Let me ask the question again: Are you a gentle person?
Charles Wesley wrote that hymn, and the last stanza goes like this:
Loving Jesus, gentle Lamb,
In Thy gracious hands I am;
Make me, Savior what Thou art,
Live Thyself within my heart.