“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)