I think most know how a Christian is supposed to be like. Just one look at the Gospels and it’s clear -even to the skeptic- that Jesus is worth knowing and following. The problem however, is that we Christians are often huge failures in representing the Lord of our lives.
Believers are often selective of Jesus’s traits that they choose to follow. Some focus on Him being righteously angry on the hypocrites, and then choose to forget that He was also filled with compassion for the lost and innocent. Some focus on Jesus the teacher and choose to forget that He too was a man of action. Some would focus on Jesus’s miracles and wonders and choose to forget that there were times when He refused to perform miracles and to even speak.
But what makes me scratch my head often is how we believers choose to forget that Jesus, and the Holy Spirit He sent after He left, is full of gentleness. To His disciples, yes, He was especially stern, of course. Any good teacher or leader would be towards his closest followers if the salvation of the world were to be placed on their shoulders. But to the sinners, to those ignorant of Him and even to those who crucified Him – He was filled with gentleness. In fact, He was filled with more than just gentleness. He was filled with mercy and love for them.
It was taboo for a Jew to speak to a Samaritan in those days, much more for a public figure like Jesus. But He chose to spoke to the Samaritan woman by the well guilty of adultery. And He did so candidly and without prejudice. But more remarkable is that He spoke with gentleness to her and to her whole village.
It was also an outrage for a Jew to be touched by people labeled as unclean during those days. But Jesus chose to talk to one who had been bleeding for years and then allowed healing to course through her. He never rebuked her for the disturbance. Rather, He was amazed at her faith and treated her gently while the others wouldn’t even touch her.
Tax collectors were the plague during Jesus’s time. They were seen as terrible traitors who overcharged their fellow Jews. But Jesus didn’t chastise Zaccheus. He chose to be gentle with Him and ate in his home – a big honor not suited for a guy like him. After seeing the change in him, Jesus even showed delight towards the man many saw as a hopeless case.
Jewish adulterers were condemned to death by public stoning in the past too. When one such woman was dragged to Jesus’s feet awaiting His nod for the stoning to begin, He had no rebuke for the woman. With a few words, He disarmed the would-be executioners and declared the condemned woman as clean. He treated her with what most probably believed at that time to be undeserved gentleness.
There are many more of these acts of gentleness of Jesus and of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament. In the HCSB, the word gentle occurs 11 times and gentleness 10 times. Here’s one passage from 2 Timothy 2:24:
The Lord’s slave must not quarrel, but must be gentle to everyone, able to teach, and patient, instructing his opponents with gentleness.
It is quite distinct from love, this gentleness. Love can be expressed in many ways. One can discipline, reprimand or even punish a child out of love to drive home a very important and urgent message. So it is with love between lovers and friends. But gentleness speaks more of a conscious decision to be very delicate with someone or something as if he or she were a newborn baby.
Merriam-Webster defines gentle as “having or showing a kind and quiet nature: not harsh or violent: not hard or forceful: not strong or harsh in effect or quality”.
This gentle nature is what we Christians often choose to ignore and forget.
In the Christian’s desire to speak the truth, he discards gentleness. In his passion for Bible exposition, the believer lashes at the lost souls that their Lord and Savior would have embraced. The light of the world becomes pure hate as we condemn the homosexuals and the sexually immoral. To our shame, non-Christian organizations are better at gentleness and comfort than those who profess to be Jesus’s followers. While we pound our Bibles on the pulpit, while we have a great time with our churches and small groups, the hungry and poor and sick are being fed by those who don’t even know Christ. While we’re busy trying to reach megachurch status, the harassed and the shepherd-less find comfort somewhere else.
And we’re not even gentle towards each other. We’re full of foolish pride and arrogance. We call each other siblings, but fellow Christians would lash at each other more often than not. The protestants refuse to call the Catholics, “Christian”, and reserve the term exclusively for them. The Catholics declare that the protestants cannot be saved without their church and traditions. We save souls, forgetting that we’re not even capable of saving our own without the Lord. We throw condemnation at each other like daggers and talk behind each other’s backs. We thrust the neophytes into the spiritual battle without regard for their safety and maturity. We find comfort not on each other arms, but on the arms of those who don’t bother with theology. We can’t utter a paragraph without a Bible verse in it, and yet our embrace is so cold. To our detriment, we see our churches shrink over time. While the cults gain more and more followers.
To the lost souls who may be reading this. Whether you’ve been called a backslider, a homosexual, a thief, a prostitute… Remember that Jesus would’ve embraced you and given you another chance. If a Christian has hurt you, pray for him or her. But please don’t give up on the Lord who taught us to forgive seventy times seven. Don’t give up on His people in the same way that He never gave up on you.
To you, the proud, arrogant and hurtful Christian. You’re in my prayers. Please pray for me too. I pray that we would remember that when Jesus was here, He was hard on His followers and to those who professed to be God’s annointed leaders. Especially the hypocrtical ones. To those who claimed to be His servant, the God of the Old and New Testament was especially tough in His discipline towards them. But, to the sinners, He was only gentle and compassionate.
And He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow…