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By Pastor Glenn Pease
Bill Hybels, the popular pastor of the Willow Creek Community Church, one of the fastest growing churches in America, admits that he is not a tender hearted person.
By nature he is often cold, hardhearted, and indifferent to the hurting world around him.
In his book Who Are You When No One's Looking, he tells of how he and his wife went to see the movie Sophie's Choice.
It was a heavy drama where Sophie had to decide which of her two children she would hand over to the Nazi officer, for sure incineration.
He was thinking he would like another box of popcorn, but he noticed his wife was sobbing.
She cried through the rest of the movie.
As they walked to the car he knew it was no time to crack jokes.
It was a day and a half later when she said to him, "I want to tell you why I was so upset at the movie.
I was picturing having Todd in one arm and Shawn in the other, and having 30 seconds to choose which one was going to live and which one was going to die.
How in the world could I ever make that choice?"
Pastor Hybels did not understand that, for he did not get into the skin of the actor and feel the emotion.
His wife did, and she identified with the emotional turmoil.
His wife is tenderhearted and she can empathize with others, and feel what they feel when they hurt.
He, on the other hand, is hardhearted and does not let the pain and tears of others bother him.
All people tend to fall into one or the other of these categories.
He sees it in his own children.
His 6 year old son will burst into tears when he sees a house plant die.
His 9 year old daughter thinks he is silly, and she could whack one to pieces with no sense of remorse.
His good friend had to put his dog to sleep, and it was torture.
After they took the dog to the vet, he sat in the car for a long time to regain composure, before he returned to work.
His brother said, "Why didn't you bring him to me.
I could have knocked it over the head and taken care of it-no problem."
Here were two brothers raised in the same family and environment, yet one is tenderhearted and the other hardhearted.
The whole point of Pastor Hybels sharing this is, that he, as a hardhearted Christian, knows he must be all the more surrendered to the Holy Spirit to produce the fruit of gentleness, for it just does not grow in him by nature.
Tenderhearted people by nature are more gentle, but Christians like himself need to constantly rely on the Spirit to have a kind and gentle spirit toward hurting people.
This is his honest confession-
"If we harder-hearted Christians are honest, we have to admit that our
tough approach can do damage.
We kid people that we shouldn't
kid, and when they get hurt we say, 'Can't you take a joke?' We don't
listen to other people very well.
Usually while they are talking to us we are either making unrelated plans or mentally responding to what they are saying.We wonder why many people are so weak and timid.
We use people and dispose of them unceremoniously when they have served our purposes.
Although we may not realize it, others tell us we act superior.
We love to be right, to compete and especially to win.
If the truth were known, we secretly view tenderhearted people as emotional weaklings or psycho-logical misfits.
We don't understand them."
He knows a lot of Christians who are like that, but he recognizes that this is not Christ like, and such Christians, like himself, must not relate to other people according to their fleshly nature, but according to the nature of the Spirit.
He is not like the comedian who says, "I am very health conscious.
I'm lazy and out of shape, but I'm very conscious of it."
He is not just conscious of his lack of a gentle spirit, he works hard at letting the Spirit produce this fruit in him.
This fruit of gentleness has a host of English words that translators have used to convey its meaning.
Some of them are, moderation, humility, forbearance, courtesy, considerateness, meekness, kindness, and sweet reasonableness.
We see the spirit of gentleness in the way Jesus dealt with the despised sinners of His day.
Zaccheaus was hated as a tax collector, but Jesus treated him with consideration, and gave him a chance to express himself.
The Pharisees were ready to stone the woman taken in adultery, but Jesus was gentle and did not blast her even with verbal stones, but forgave her and commanded her to go and sin no more.
The gentle person is one who takes all the of the facts into consideration.
The hardhearted are quick to make absolute judgements regardless of the circumstances.
They are legalists, and are seldom open to grace.
A non-gentle Jesus would have had the woman stoned, and only later reflected on the strange circumstances that the man was not also brought to be judged.
Jesus was gentle for he could see this woman was being used by the Pharisees.
They cared not for her fate, but only for how she could be used to trap him.
A gentle spirit takes in a whole picture.
It does not operate on half truths.
It does not jump to conclusions that hurt people.
If you hear something bad about another person and you are instantly ready to condemn them, you do not have a gentle spirit.
A gentle spirit is patient, and will want to get all the facts.
And even when the facts do support a negative conclusion, they will way all the circumstances, and give the person every possible consideration.
If God did not have a gentle spirit, there would be no plan of salvation.
Paul was constantly referring to the fruit of gentleness in dealing with the tensions in the early church.
There was enormous conflict and arguments of all kinds, even over his authority.
Some in Corinth were asking, who does Paul think he is telling us what to do? Paul writes in II Cor.10:1, "By the meekness and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you."
In I Cor.4:21 he wrote, "Shall I come to you with a whip or in love and with a gentle spirit?"
Love and gentleness go together.
Lack of love and roughness go together.
If you are quick to throw stones you reveal, not so much how bad your victim is, but how spiritually rough and unpolished you are.
Paul in Gal.6:1 uses this fruit again in telling Christians how to deal with fallen Christians.
He writes, "Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently."
People who are truly spiritual are gentle people, whose goal is restoration and not judgement.
The Christian operating in the flesh says, "They blew it, let them pay the penalty.
Let's boot them out of the fellowship so they do not contaminate the rest of us."
The spirit led Christian says, "There but for the grace of God go I. Let's help this fallen brother get back on the road, and continue the journey with us."
Pride makes us rough, for it says, "I am superior, and those inferior to me deserve to be stomped on."
Humility, however, is gentle, for it says, "I need the gentle love of God to survive, and others need it from me.
I will do unto others what I would have them to do unto me."
Paul writes in Eph.4:2, "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing one another in love."
You will notice how everyone of the fruits of the Spirit is linked to the other fruits.
None of them operate in isolation.
They are a cluster of fruit, like grapes, and they function together.
These fruits working together in harmony are the most powerful force in the world.
Gentleness does not sound like a great power, but united with the other fruits it is powerful beyond what we would ever dream.
Alexander Maclaren, the famous English preacher, goes to great lengths to praise the power of gentleness.
He writes,
"Gentleness is the strongest force in the world, and the soldiers
of Christ are to be priests, and to fight the battle of the kingdom,
robed, not in jingling shining armor or with sharp swords, nor
with fierce and eager bitterness of controversy, but in the meekness
which overcomes.
You make take all the steam hammers that were
ever forged and battle at an iceberg, and except for the compara-
tively little heat that is developed by the blows and melts some
small portion, it will be ice still, though pulverized instead of
But let it move gently down to the southward, there the
sunbeams smite the coldness to death, and it is dissipated in the
warm ocean.
Meekness is conquering."
We have to be honest and admit, gentleness is not a popular virtue in our culture.
The power of brute force is what produces the heroes in our culture.
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