Aggressive Gentleness

Water lilies
Water lilies

 

Gentleness is not apathy but is an aggressive expression of how we view people. We see people as so valuable that we deal with them in gentleness, fearing the slightest damage to one for whom Christ died. To be apathetic is to turn people over to mean and destructive elements, to truly love people cause for us to be aggressively gentle.”― Gayle D. Erwin, Spirit Style

I have told my kids to avoid burning bridges. It’s amazing the way people turn up in our lives thirty years after we were sorely tempted to tell them what we thought of them and their stupid job the day we were told to clean out our desk. What is truly amazing is that people can change and thirty years later enemies can become friends.

I am so grateful that the Lord put a guard over my mouth sometimes (although, alas, sometimes I shouted over it.) I’m so glad gentle folk did not curse me when I was so angry and hurt by some folks in the church and walked away in disappointment. (Discussions about which denomination would be the greatest in heaven were as tiresome to me as the disciples squabbles were to Jesus.)  I am so thankful the gentle ones not only talked about grace; they practised it.

“Speaking the truth in love” is less about criticizing that part of people’s lives which is dead or rotten and more about pointing out the part of them that God sees – the part of them which, like the water lilies I saw in this pond with its dead wood, yearns to live and grow and blossom.

It also struck me this week, whilst reading the apostle Paul’s qualifications to write the letter to the Galatians, that God knew who Saul was going to be even when he was violently opposed to Jesus Christ and threatened his followers. God saw something in him even then and chose him in advance for a special mission. Unlike many of us would have, given the opportunity, Christ did not curse him. When Jesus spoke the truth to him it was to tell him who he really was.

Today I read another blog publicly condemning some well-known ministers. One commenter was quite willing to call them “accursed” for what he considered to be inaccurate doctrine.

There is a reason why Paul told Timothy and Titus that leaders need to be able to teach, but with gentleness. It could be that God is simply not finished with the people they are charged to serve and love. It could be that people whose understanding of God is not yet complete (and whose is?) are people in process and need, like Apollos, to be taken aside and gently and lovingly taught by someone who actually has a relationship with them, rather than be publicly executed by a stranger.

Decisions to remove those who have become toxic to the body from positions of influence can only be made by those who love deeply and are willing to lay down their lives for another in their care. Poor teaching is best routed by good teaching.

We do not need not be contentious in order to contend for the faith.

 Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights.  A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people.  Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth.  Then they will come to their senses and escape from the devil’s trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants. (2 Timothy 2:23-26)

9 thoughts on “Aggressive Gentleness

  1. The love of God and mercy are what we all love but sometimes find difficult to extend to others. Lord, raise my love level! Love covers a multitude of sins. Thanks for a thought provoking post.

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    1. Jesus said this is the identifying mark: (my paraphrase) Wow. Look at how these guys actually care for and nurture each other! They are just like Jesus.

      What would happen if instead of criticizing a “rival church” we blessed them by fixing their roof, or loaned them some good Sunday School teachers, or even just supplied them with coffee and donuts? What if we did not listen to hearsay, or pass it on via Facebook, but actually invited them into our homes for a meal, and simply shared the gracious goodness of God with them the way He has shared it with us? What if we loved each other because while we were yet captives of sin Christ loved us enough to lay down his life for us and didn’t wait for us to have it all together?

      It will take effort.

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  2. Charis,
    There are a lot of things in life that are not pretty. I chose not to look the other way.
    But my challenge is to not be overcome by evil, but to overcome evil with good.
    Its difficult at times to meet ugliness head on, and retain a perspective of gentleness.
    Believe me when I say that your blog is always refreshing to me, like a refuge.
    And helpful in lasting ways as well.
    God bless,
    C.C.T.

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    1. Thank you so much for your kind words, CCT.
      I think the result of innocence lost is that one becomes reconciled to the reality of sin. Purity can be restored, but no matter the reason for the loss of innocence, whether by one’s own choice or the result of another’s choice, we lose the option of looking away. Some things can not be un-seen or un-experienced.

      There is perhaps nothing as disappointing as following a person who we later learn was wrong, or was hiding personal indiscretions the size of the Titanic behind a polished smile.

      A psychiatrist once told me, “Your problem is that you are entirely too sane.” It was an odd thing to say seeing as I was a resident on a locked ward in a psych hospital at the time. What I later understood him to be saying was that I chose not to look the other way -ever. The problem of being assailed constantly by the reality of sinfulness in myself and others was that I either felt responsible for fixing everyone -or gave in to despair. My methods of fixing people inevitably fell back on familiar methods that had failed me before because I felt responsible for looking after God’s reputation or feared I needed to do something -anything- while waiting for him to show up. (I think that qualifies as unbelief.)

      Sometimes my family joked that dinner would be late because Mom noticed someone on the internet was wrong again. I am ashamed of those smart-mouth sarcastic replies now. They were merely an attempt to fight fire with fire and usually ended up in a conflagration that crispified anyone within reading range.

      One day I heard, “Hey you! Eyes here!” and I knew the Lord was telling me to look to Him and His ways. I am learning my responsibility is to turn my eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face, and see more of His goodness than the world’s evil.

      There are indeed a lot of things in life that are not pretty. I cannot deny that reality, but I am learning (at a snail’s pace) that when I talk to Abba about them, when I keep my eyes on Him, He is the one who changes hearts. When I ask what to do about the frustrating, flagrant disregard for His ways and the horrible consequences for the innocent His instructions to me are simply, “Tell them I am good. They don’t know. Show them I am good.”

      I guess I’m saying there is no way to not see what I have seen, but I can choose where to look next. God knows what evil lurks in the heart of men. It doesn’t take him by surprise. But when my eyes are locked on sins’s ugliness I am not beholding his beauty. His perspective is the fuller truth perspective -the only one that real matters.

      -in my humble opinion-

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