Bible teacher Kristin Bonin can straight-up preach a word on unity and integrity in the body of Christ! Last fall this author and founder of Dwell Project spoke to several hundred women at my church, and since then, I’ve gotten to linger over coffee with her to talk all things scripture, raising kids, and reaching our communities for Jesus. I’ve asked her to share her heart on the topic of gentleness for our summer Fruit of the Spirit devotionals, and I know you’ll find it a sweet treat for your soul.
Ask my girls what scripture I quote on the regular at our house and they’ll tell you: “A gentle answer turns away wrath.” Proverbs 15:1 (NIV)
I wish I could say it’s because I’m a loving mother who walks around reminding my children of the wonderful news of the Gospel, but that’s not the reason I’m always going back to God’s wisdom on gentleness.
It’s because we’re not very good at being gentle.
In fact, I’ll never forget the day we were all discussing where we wanted to go eat. None of us had the same thing in mind, yet we held some pretty passionate opinions on hamburgers vs fajitas. I’m not sure how us Bonin girls managed to turn the blessing of dinner into a brawl, but apparently, we have that gift.
My husband very matter-of-factly asked, “Are you listening to the way you’re speaking to each other? You all sound barky.”
Woah. Dude! Barky?
We’re dog people, so I had a very clear understanding of what he meant when he used that word.
Throw in a little growling and nipping at each other and you have his definition of barky.
Not quite the character trait I aspire to possess. I don’t want my kids to look back on their childhood and remember me as barky. I don’t want to remember them that way either.
The irony in my husband’s strong tone is how it matched the way Paul addressed the Galatian church. He was incredibly invested in these people and wanted to see unity and growth.
Let’s look at how The Message words Galatians 5:22-23:
“He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.”
There’s something so beautiful about the way this reads that brings us holy perspective. It’s worth hitting pause to just sit with the words, “not needing to force our way in life.” In other words…be gentle.
Gentle in our responses.
Gentle toward others.
Gentle toward ourselves.
Gentle in making decisions.
There really isn’t one situation I can think of where presenting our thoughts, opinions, or will on others in a forceful way will yield the best results. Of course, we do it anyway, right? I’ll go first in admitting I do.
Scripture shows us over and over again that the Lord works best in strength under control.
Strength + Self Control = Gentleness
Our words influence people. And the way we say them makes an impact on the hearts of those we’re speaking to. God honors gentle answers. He pays attention to our intentional decisions to treat people with care.
Here are some filtering questions that have helped me become less barky and more gentle:
• Is this really that big of a deal?
• Am I seeing this from every perspective?
• How can I express how I’m feeling in a way that makes this person feel safe?
• Am I offended or defensive? (If so, take a step back)
• Do I want to be right or protect the connection I have with this person?
Gentleness isn’t easy, but it is— as scripture calls it— fruitful. Fruit is good, refreshing, sweet, full of flavor, and craved. I want my life to be all of these things. At the end of the day, I want to have offered Jesus in the most fruitful ways possible.
So, in my best mom voice, I once again leave you with this from Proverbs 15:1: A gentle answer turns away wrath.
And it also strengthens your character.
Check out Kristin’s devotional book, Bare Naked Truths: Stripping Away the Lies that Derail Your Destiny, at her website http://www.kristinbonin.com.
Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash