It has taken me two months to write this devotional thought. Partially because I was busy, more so because I’m missing this fruit in my life.
My favorite hour of the week is when I sit and listen to my daughter’s piano lesson. You may think it is because of the beautiful music, and you’d be right…for the most part. I confess the secondary attraction of Lily’s lessons is listening to her piano teacher.
As I sit listening to the magic that is music education, on the other side of the wall is a beautiful, tiny Asian woman who could take down a Navy Seal with fire from her eyes. She is firm and must be obeyed. At first my daughter didn’t know whether to salute her or bow. Yet, you can’t really fear her. She probably weighs 90 pounds soaking wet. She is confident and expects a lot out of her students. And how she loves them! She calls them her “kids” because she has no children of her own. She pours Mozart and Chopin in to adolescents like Dumbledore with his wand. Mrs. B’s talents are humbling to a former musician. The true magic begins when she touches the keys. You would think it was impossible for one so tiny to play so violently and then so sweetly all in the same piece. Hearing her play is a treat. I keep reminding my teenager that sitting next to this woman on a piano bench is a gift. Earning a candy at the end of a lesson is sheer joy.
What my daughter’s teacher has learned that I have not is the perfect combination of gentleness and correction. Jesus also was a master at this.
Jesus was gentle at interesting times…at controversial times.
In John 4, Jesus spoke to the woman at the well. She’d had many sexual partners. He pointed out her sin. She wasn’t a part of the acceptable crowds, according to the Jews. She wasn’t accepted much of anywhere. She went to the well during the day to avoid the judging eyes. Jesus spoke to her, gently, about living water…water that she won’t have to carry home. But He didn’t stop there…
In Luke 19, Jesus went to eat at the house of Zacchaeus the tax collector. Zacchaeus had made a lucrative living off the backs of the tax payers in Jericho. Zacchaeus ate well while his neighbors may not have. The people called Zacchaeus “a notorious sinner”. Jesus ate Zacchaeus table and rejoiced when Zacchaeus confessed and repented of his sin.
In John 8, Jesus had a chance to condemn and woman (and the man) who were committing adultery. The crowd wanted to stone the woman. Jesus asked for a perfect volunteer to throw the first stone. No one was brave enough. No one condemned her. “And Jesus said, “I don’t condemn you either. Go and sin no more.”
And here is where I fail. I either am so gentle that I don’t speak truth and I only speak warm fuzzies to comfort friends and family, OR I’m so harsh that I offend. I struggle with finding the balance. In my experience this is true of all Christianity. As Beth Moore said in a recent sermon, “…perhaps the cleverest of all the devil’s schemes in your generation: Sacrifice truth for love’s sake. …Will you have the courage to live in the tension of both truth and love?”
Christians seem to be on this wild pendulum.
We disagree with others so we start crusades and kill masses. We burn crosses. We hold up hateful signs condemning people to hell. We write scathing articles trashing brothers and sisters of whom we disagree. We make tactless comments on social media ripping people apart for liking Obamacare. We love the just God, the fire and brimstone, slaughter the masses God. And hate the love God. In turn, our hate is justified, the gospel is squelched, reconciliation is limited, and self-righteousness reigns.
We feel that all truth-speak is the equivalent of hate-speak. We judge no one. We instruct no one. We hold no one accountable. We accept everyone as they are how without mention of repentance or change. Our greatest fear is hurt feelings. After all, even Jesus came for the sick not the healthy! He ate with them. He loved them! We love the love God, the gentle, meek and mild God. And we hate the just God. In turn, our feelings and freedoms become our idol, and scripture is merely for the happy, comforting verses (those commands are all simply outdated).
Can you relate to one of those options?
What I have not seen often within Christendom is an attempt to balance both, an attempt to speak truth gently.
There are some people who have mastered gentleness. I need to take a class from them. I am a gentleness failure indeed and excel at abrasiveness.
Drink your coffee.
Read through the passages listed above. How did Jesus balance both truth and love? Why is this so difficult? Have our feelings become more important that God’s?
What is one way you can start to practice Gentleness with the people closest to you?
As you practice gentle truth remember that the God described as a mother bird sheltering us with her wings Psalm 17 is the same God described as the One who will destroy those who look to the world for a reward. God is both gentleness and truth. May we all try to leave vengeance to Him, but speak truth in love and gentleness at all times.