Oftentimes when we think of someone being gentle, we think of a shy person who would rather go with the flow rather than rock the boat. The Bible, however, offers a sharp contrast to this idea. Gentleness is not defined as someone who caves to the opinions of others, but rather, someone who stands up for what they believe in with a kind and humble disposition.
In John chapter 8, we see a story where the Pharisees bring a woman caught in the act of adultery to the feet of Jesus. The Old Testament law declared that the woman should be put to death. The Pharisees were trying to catch Jesus in a trap and cause him to choose the wrong outcome for her life. Jesus, instead of being degrading toward the woman, chose to be gentle. He did not commend or overlook her sin, he simply handled the situation with gentleness and grace. John 8:7-11 says,
“He straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her”… those who heard began to go away one at a time… until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
Jesus never told the woman that her sin was acceptable; in fact he was in direct opposition to her sin, yet he handled the situation with gentleness instead of disapproval.
We are called to live this way as well. We cannot hold unbelievers to the same standards as we hold believers. When unbelievers act in ways that are dishonoring to God, we cannot lash out in punishing or inwardly judging them. We are called to rightfully judge with love and with reconciliation in mind. Christians are not supposed to harbor feelings of pride or look down on others with disdain. When others are in sin, though, we have a responsibility to warn them with gentleness.
1 Peter 3:15b says, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”
When others ask about our faith or need righteous correction, we are commanded to do this with gentleness and respect, regardless of how much we think we have figured it out.
Gentleness works side by side with humility. When we are humble enough to admit that we are also sinners, then we are able to treat others with gentleness like Christ did, regardless of their mistakes.