Galatians 5:22-23 ESV But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
The word fruit, in our scripture, is singular. It is one Fruit. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are the qualities that make up the Fruit. There are not nine different fruits—it is a nine-part Fruit. The Fruit is like an orange, and inside the orange, there are numerous slices. So, imagine that each slice of the orange is one of the aspects of the Fruit of the Spirit.
The “fruit” of the Spirit is the expression of our renewed nature as it is seen by others.
Many older Bible translations use the word meekness in Galatians 5:23, whereas modern versions translate it gentleness. Matthew Poole’s Commentary explains this quality as “forbearance of passion, rash anger, and hastiness of spirit.” Forbearance is restraint or self-control.
The Expositor’s Greek Testament says, “Meekness is the outcome of true humility, the bearing towards others which results from a lowly estimate of ourselves.” A lowly estimate of ourselves does not mean having a low self-worth; rather, it means not thinking of ourselves as higher or more important than others.
Romans 12:3 ESV For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.
Another way of considering gentleness is having “gentle submissiveness to divine will” (Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers).
It takes a strong person to be truly gentle. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow gives us a wonderful illustration of gentleness in “The Village Blacksmith.”
“The smith, a mighty man is he,
With large and sinewy hands;
And the muscles of his brawny arms
Are strong as iron bands.”
Jesus Our Example
As with all of the fruit of the Spirit, we look to Jesus for how we can live out gentleness. Now, you’ll remember that Jesus threw the money changers out of the temple, and he chastised the Pharisees for their hypocrisy. So he is not soft!
But much of the imagery foreshadowing Jesus’ life on earth and much of his actual ministry demonstrated humility, a focus on others to the sacrifice of himself, and patient endurance of wrongs inflicted on him.
Isaiah 53:7 ESV He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.
Isaiah 40:11 ESV In Isaiah, we also read that Jesus will come with might and also that
He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.
Jesus ate with the outcasts, healed the sick, touched the leprous, and wept at his friend Lazarus’s death. We consider the mystery of his humility as he lets women anoint him with expensive perfume and as he ties a towel around his waist and washes his disciples’ feet.
Philippians 2:5-11 ESV Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
He invites us into this ministry of meekness, of gentleness, that only the Holy Spirit can empower:
Matthew 11:28-29 ESV Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.