I sat with my friend in her living room listen to her talk about some of the reasons why she had detoured from the Christian walk back into her old lifestyle.
The story she shared has stayed with me after all of these years, and has served as a constant reminder to me of Jesus’ words in Matthew 11.
My friend comes from a long background of drug addiction.
She had come to Christ shortly after walking away from drugs, but was still drinking occasionally and smoking. She was excited about her new walk with Jesus and wanted so badly to grow in her walk with Christ.
Much like my 7 year old wants so badly to do all of the grown-up things his daddy does…even when they’re not yet safe.
Sadly, a conversation with an older, yet immature, believer whom she greatly admired, sent her on a downward spiral of discouragement and despair…and ultimately frustrated her so much she walked away convinced that there was no way she could possibly hope to live a Christian life.
The counsel given to her was:
- Stop smoking
- Stop drinking
- Read your Bible everyday
- Pray everyday
- Start memorizing Scripture
The list went on and on.
The thing is this: she had grown up in a home where addiction was prevalent, she, herself, had just walked away from drug addiction and hadn’t been clean for very long.
She was already engaged in an enormous battle in her mind.
What she needed at this point was Jesus’ gentle yoke reminding her that the Christian life is a journey, not a destination.
The Christian life isn’t a checklist of things we do, it is a lifestyle we live.
Already weighed down by her own personal expectations, and being convinced that she would never live up to them, the advice she received communicated to her this message:
If you just try a little harder, God will love and accept you.
Which yoke are you wearing?
It’s not that the advice my friend received was necessarily wrong.
Should Christians stop smoking and drinking? Should they read their Bibles, pray everyday, and memorize scripture?
The answer is yes to all of these.
The problem was that the one giving the advice didn’t listen to the gentle voice of the Holy Spirit.
Perhaps that advice would have been appropriate for someone else on a different journey and with a different battle. But the advice for this girl, on this journey, and with this battle should have been to live the Christian life one step at a time.
She needed someone to relieve her burden, not pile on.
Gentleness first requires humility
Whether we’re talking about how we respond when we’re offended, the manner in which we confront a brother or sister in Christ, or the approach we take in discipling a new believer…
if we are to proceed with gentleness, we must first allow the Holy Spirit to do a deep work of humility in our hearts.
Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Philippians 4:5
We must first realize in our own lives that our acceptance by God isn’t based on our Christian achievements but by the blood of Jesus.
This requires great humility because it removes from us all ability to prove ourselves and pat ourselves on the back for living a “good Christian life”.
It also removes from us all ability to compare ourselves with others who are not quite as spiritually mature than we are.
Gentleness flows out of Agape love
As we allow the Holy Spirit to cultivate God’s perfect love in our hearts, the natural outcome of that will result in gentleness.
Our responses will not be controlled by our own frustrations and drama, but by the love of Jesus flowing through our lives.
Rather than engaging in gossip and useless debates… “But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient…” 2 Timoth 2:23-24
Rather than responding harshly with slander, incendiary, and mocking words… “to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men.” Titus 3:2
Gentleness should be something a Christian should pursue
While there are those who are by nature a little more black-and-white, confrontational, and direct, this doesn’t mean they are not called upon by God to pursue gentleness.
In fact, gentleness is not tip-toeing around an issue.
Gentleness doesn’t avoid confrontation, when needed. “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.” Galatians 6:1
There are times when Christians must confront sin, but in a spirit of gentleness.
But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. 1 Timothy 6:11
Gentleness should be something we long for, pursue, and cultivate in our lives.
It should be the trademark of every Christian, it should be one of our most defining characteristics, it should be what sets us apart from all other faiths.
“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:2