At our church we have a pastor named Gary. He stands a daunting five feet tall! The other day we discussed the concept of gentleness or meekness and its positive effect to bring about change in others when applied God’s way by someone walking in the power of God’s Spirit. He told me a story of eating out at a resteraunt with his wife and daughter. Sitting across the aisle from them were two men loudly and enthusiastically discussing life. Gary normally would not have minded except each sentence contained huge “F-bombs” as well as other choice expletives. After several more minutes of ever increasing foul dialogue between two feeble minds attempting to express themselves, Gary would have no more. He arose--all intimidating five feet of him, walked over to their booth, sat down, smiled and said, “Excuse me fellas. Can you do me a favor? I’m here with my family and I would like to enjoy my dinner with them. I would appreciate it if you could change the tone of this conversation out of respect for them.” One man looked at him and replied, “Well, since you put it like that, I guess we can.” To which Gary gently answered, “Thanks!”
Let me ask you ask you a question. Is that weakness or strength? I believe it is meekness or gentleness in its purest form bringing to bear its powerful influence. Notice he did not go over there with a red face yelling and screaming. In fact, his confession was that he was nervous and shaking. If it were me, I might have lost control, marched over, and angrily demanded decency and got myself into a fist fight. But that is not the gentleness that makes people change their ways.
“Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear. God's righteousness doesn't grow from human anger. So throw all spoiled virtue and cancerous evil in the garbage. In simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation-garden of your life” James 1:19-21 The Message
On the other hand, being gentle is not becoming a doormat for others to do what they like to us, violating what’s right while we do nothing. Gentleness simply means I am under control and can access the right amount of power to bring to bear on a given situation. I use a different grip when scrubbing a cast iron skillet than I do when washing fine china. Human personalities require similar distinctions. Unfortunately, many of us don’t get this.
“He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, And he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.” Prov. 16:32
When I fly off the handle I usually inflame things and have a negative influence on others. Conversely, if I am a doormat, I also have little or no positive influence on others either. Emotion out of control has no place in God’s kingdom. Neither do stuffed or supressed emotions. So knowing the right way to respond to others in all the challenging and diverse moments of life is what God’s life produces in us.
I must allow Him space in my life. I have to slow down enough and maintain contact with Him and let Him lead. If I do, I can experience moments of gentle courage or humble submission. Only He really knows what will work in all the different relational dynamics that are constantly in play. Let’s face it, life comes at us in real time. It’s not like TIVO where you can fast forward past stuff you don’t like, rewind for a do over, or simply just press the delete button. (Now that would be nice.)
We have to walk in step with God’s Spirit and give Him voice to impress our hearts with the right words, expressions, and actions that really do influence people for good. We have a transforming effect because the Holy Spirit is doing His “artful work” in and through us.
We can knock them dead with God’s power but our weapons are not like the weapons of this world nor are they meant to destroy people-just change them!
“The world is unprincipled. It's dog-eat-dog out there! The world doesn't fight fair. But we don't live or fight our battles that way—never have and never will. The tools of our trade aren't for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt culture. We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity.” 2 Cor. 10:3-6 The Message
I leave you today with words from that great theologion Roberta Flack:
Strumming my pain with his fingers
Singing my life with his words
Killing me softly with his song
Killing me softly with his song
Telling my whole life with his words
Killing me softly with his song...
May we join in the same Spirit as Pastor Gary and “kill them softly”. May the song of Jesus coming through us change everything.