by Dr. Jack Hyles (1926-2001)
(Chapter 43 from Dr. Hyle's excellent book, Blue Denim and Lace)
In Galatians 5:22 we find mentioned the fruit of the Spirit. Notice very carefully that this does not say the "fruits" of the Spirit. Each of these graces or qualities is a portion of one "fruit." Oftentimes people erroneously teach that soul winning is only one of the fruits and try to prove their point with Galatians 5:22. You will notice, however, that soul winning is not a part of the fruit of the Spirit. Neither is it a part of the gifts of the Spirit. Every Christian is to be a soul winner.
Let's use the simple illustration of a fire department. Every fireman is to put out fires, but there is a certain way that firemen should behave. They should have clean uniforms and clean fire trucks. They should know the streets of the city. They should be courteous. They should be physically strong, etc. No one, however, would say that a fireman should spend all of his time doing calisthenics just to be physically strong. Neither would one say that having a clean uniform would substitute for putting out fires. It is understood that every fireman is to put out fires, but there are some things that firemen should do as they put out fires and as firemen.
The Great Commission, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature," is given to every Christian. Soul winning is not one of the gifts; it is every Christian's job. However, as we win folks to Christ, there is a fruit that we are to have, and that fruit is the fruit of the Spirit as mentioned in Galatians 5. As we go soul winning we are to have love. As we go soul winning we are to have meekness. As we go soul winning we are to have joy, etc.
One part of this fruit is gentleness. Gentleness is not a substitute for soul winning, but is a supplement for soul winning. In other words, we are to be gentle as we serve God.
If a person refuses to obey Christ in carrying out the Great Commission, he will have to find a synthetic fruit. One who works mainly at having love will have a synthetic kind of love. One who works mainly at having any part of the fruit of the Spirit will find it something that is tacked on and not built-in. When one gets the fulness of the Holy Spirit for soul winning, he will then have an inbred fruit of the Spirit. This kind will not fail him in a crisis. It is a part of him. Such is the case about gentleness.
1. There are several words in the Greek which are translated "gentleness." One is a word which comes from two words which mean "into" and "fitting." Putting them together we come up with "fitting into" or better still, "appropriate." We must learn to be appropriate. This would include manners, ethics, etc. Christian people should know how to dress to fit the occasion. They should know the proper eating manners and social graces. They should learn to be appropriate.
Much care should be taken that in teaching such things we do not rear children to become "snobs." The having of manners should not be an end in itself but rather a means to an end. We must remember that manners are only customs. The Japanese sits on the floor while he eats. When eating in a Japanese home one should do likewise. To set a strict, rigid rule for manners is unwise. All such things are relative and one should be more interested in being appropriate than in adhering to a rigid set of rules that make him offensive. However, one should know what is considered proper and be able and willing to be appropriate as long as being appropriate does not mean the giving up of conviction.
I was in a certain home recently as a guest at a meal. It was a poor home and one inhabited by godly people, yet people who did not know what normally would be considered good manners. The head of the house grabbed the fork in one hand, the knife in the other, put his elbows on the table, lowered his mouth three or four inches from the plate and began to "shovel it in." Now I was not equipped with the talent necessary to copy him. I did, however, ask if he would give me permission to divide my biscuit and sop the gravy. (Now in most circles this would not be proper.) Not only did he give me permission, but he said, "You are a regular fellow. I like you! You are not like most preachers!"
The story is told that Abraham Lincoln was once eating at a formal banquet when a fellow next to him poured his coffee into his saucer and drank from the saucer. The elite audience was shocked at such a gesture. Abraham Lincoln realized the man's embarrassment and likewise poured his coffee into his saucer and began to drink from it. Perhaps the greatness of Abraham Lincoln is manifested in such acts as this as well as in his statesmanship and leadership.
I have often thought that perhaps real education is knowing enough to fit into any situation that is moral and not feel uncomfortable or cause others to feel uncomfortable. If one's education allows him only to behave with the educated, he is yet lacking. On the other hand, for one to be unwilling because of prejudice to know how to fit in gracefully with the educated also shows a sign of character deficiency. We must remember, however, that the purpose of all of this is not that we be good appropriate people. This in itself would be an unholy motive. We must remember the purpose is that all classes of people need help, and by learning the true meaning of the word "gentleness" we may not only be able to reach all but also to help all.
The rich man needs help as well as the poor. The elite one needs help as much as the uncouth. The up-and-outers need help as well as the down-and-outers.
I tell my boy that I want him to be at home on the ball field, when company comes, at church, at a symphony concert, or at the fishing hole. Appropriate manners, appropriate dress, appropriate conversation, etc. should be a vital part of every child's education. One would not want to wear a tuxedo on a fishing trip. Neither would he want to wear a leather jacket to a wedding.
This is the first use of gentleness in the Bible. this particular word is found in Titus 3:2, To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men."
2. There is another word translated "gentleness" in the Bible. This could be called "firm care." This is found in II Timothy 2:24, "And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient." Gentleness is not weakness. It is not even what the average person calls meekness. It is not softness. Gentleness is firmness. Gentleness is strength. It is love wrapped in character. It is as the nurse with the child. She does not yield to the child's whims but loves the child enough to be firm to do things for the healing of the child. Gentleness is the teacher handling the slow student. It is not the overlooking of the student's weaknesses, but the firm leadership of the student that he may do better. Gentleness is the parent handling the trying child. It is disciplining with a tear for the good of the child. This is the reason that a child needs a mother and dad. The softness of a mother with the firmness of a father are chosen by God to be used as a beautiful blend in the rearing of children.
3. Still another word used in the New Testament for gentleness could be translated "evenness." We have learned as we have discussed the subject of meekness that meekness is not looking down upon or up to anyone, not thinking ourselves better or worse than anyone, not thinking of ourselves at all, but looking at everyone equally. Now gentleness could be called "the acting out of meekness." Meekness is the feeling that we have to all men; gentleness is the acting out of that feeling. It is the laboratory of the theory of meekness. In other words, there should be an evenness about our handling of people. We should be as nice to the poor as to the rich. We should be as courteous to those who need our help as to those who help us.
How can we do this and live Bible gentleness? First, we can learn to know all types of people. For a person to become a well-rounded, gentle Christian, he must learn to walk with the illiterate and also with the scholar without feeling uneasy or causing uneasiness. To do this one must plan to rub shoulders with all classes in order that he may know their needs, their heartbreaks, their sorrows, their joys, their victories, and their defeats. For one to limit his contacts to any certain class of people is to limit his opportunity to help people.
Then one must learn to do many things. The pianist could well afford to learn to play sports. The sportsman could wisely learn something about music. One's interest must be varied if he is to help people in all walks of life.
We should also read a variety of things. For many years now I have read such magazines as the Nation's Business, National Geographic, Reader's Digest, and even Better Homes and Gardens. (Yes, you read it right.) I have read sports magazines and other educational publications. All of this is simply to reach people and help people in all walks of life. Since I have tried to help so many ladies, I should know something of their interests. Since I want to help businessmen, I must know something of the business and economic condition of our nation.
There are many other things that would lead a person to be able to help people in all walks of life and all classes. It is important, for example, that every child be influenced by a mother and father. It is important that we learn to keep our hobbies as hobbies and not get the cart before the horse. And of course, it is important that we walk daily with Him. He could talk to a ruler one day and a fallen woman at the well another. He could speak intelligently about bread to the baker, about the stars to the astrologer, about water to the woman, about a vine to the husbandman, about truth to the philosopher, about sheep to the shepherd, about plowing to the farmer, about mediation to lawyer, about fishing to the fisherman, and about marriage to the lover. He is our example of gentleness.
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“I am an old-fashioned preacher of the old-time religion,
warmed this cold world's heart for two thousand years.” —Billy SUNDAY