Immanuel Lutheran Church
Gentleness: When Life Takes a Bite Out of You
Jason Fredlund Youth Director
Immanuel Lutheran Church
August 5, 2018
When it comes to talking about the fruit of Spirit, Dee and I have a particular excitement and fondness for it. Growing and bringing out the attributes of the fruit of the Spirit is a result in youth that we pray for when working in youth ministry. Our name, Immanuel, which means God with us, was truly amplified and shown through our youth and adults on this years mission trip. The Holy Spirit bringing out the Fruit of the Spirit working both in their actions and spiritual growth!
The dictionary says that fruit is the sweet and fleshy product of a tree or other plant that contains seed and can be eaten as food. I think when Paul used fruit, he was relating to us as the fleshy product of God. Filled with the Holy Spirit, to grow, ripen and spread the seeds of the Fruit of the Spirit.
So, how do you react when life takes a bite out of you? Do you react with Gentleness? Gentleness is one of lesser talked about. Yet without gentleness, I find it very difficult to have an understanding of the other eight. Gentleness to me is the foundation for the Fruit of the Spirit.
When you think of gentleness, what comes to mind? A quality of being kind, tender, mild-mannered? Softness of action or effect; lightness, easy? What about humility and meekness? Did they come to mind? How about grace of the soul?
I think society finds it much easier to associate gentleness with the female gender rather than the male gender. Too often a super- masculine ideal dominates males. Males have to be macho; hard and tough. Real men are always winners. If males display or achieve anything less, they are considered to be weak or inferior.
I have been taught males should have a strong, firm, almost crushing like hand shake. If someone had a weak hand shake, they in turn must be a weak, inferior person. A death grip hand shake is a measure of strength and character, right? It says, I am a winner!
For an evening activity on our mission trip, Youth Works, the organization we go through for the trip, brings in Daryl. Daryl is a Native American teacher from the tribal school in Sisseton. Daryl gives a talk to teach us about the Native Americans past and present in and around Sisseton. In this talk, he told us that if you shake hands with a Native American you will receive a light, soft, gentle hand shake. Do not be offended by this action. By doing so, Native Americans are expressing humility and meekness. Saying I am not above you but equal. The complete opposite of what I was used to! Being in sales and public service, I have shaken a lot of hands. Very well practiced, I believe I have one of those death grip handshakes. However, I cannot count how many times I have said OUCH to myself after a handshake. How many of you have seen two males shaking hands for more than five seconds? You know whats going on there right? A testosterone contest! I had the opportunity to shake Daryls hand a few days later. I was so impressed by his soft and gentle touch. I found myself smiling and instantly relaxed. The complete opposite of what I was used to. A way of thinking that was new!
In John 21 the Risen Jesus appears to the disciples the third time as they are fishing by the Sea of Galilee. It is at this meeting that Jesus reinstates Peter. Peter, a disciple who denied him three times. Think of the of unbearable grief, guilt and remorse Peter must have had! The tension in the air must have been thick. How could Peter ever face Jesus again?
How did Jesus choose to handle this situation? Jesus walked with Peter. Let me repeat that. Jesus walked with Peter. Jesus walked Peter away from the others around the fire after breakfast. Then Jesus asked Peter three times Do you love me? That must of have been hard for Peter, the three times recalling the three denials of Jesus. Peter responded to Jesus with sincerity that he truly loved Jesus. From Peter, Jesus heard what he needed to know. Jesus could have called down the thunder and called Peter out in front of all the disciples. Instead Jesus chose not to shame Peter in the presence of the other disciples. Jesus asked Peter to go out and feed His sheep. Not with food, but to spread the seeds of the Spirit! Jesus asked Peter to put himself out there. Let others see how Peter tasted when they took a bit out of him. Jesus acted in gentleness so Peter the failure became Peter the forgiven, Peter the gentile.
In 1847 the Italian chemist Ascanio Sobrero first made nitroglycerin. I can not help but think, from that year forward, how many short prayers were said something to the effect of My God, please treat this with gentleness. Now, I am sure you are thinking, right words, wrong context for this sermon. I think, there is a lesson here. How many times have we not treated a situation with gentleness only to have it blow up in our face and escalate the situation into something worse. How many times have you witnessed road rage, a me too I am entitled attitude? Too often these days Im afraid and they have escalated into something horrific.
On this years mission trip, I was taught a lesson in gentleness. There is a Native American boy named Tashaun that can be a particular handful at Kids Club. Between last years trip and this years trip, I have been in this childs life a couple of hours. Those couple of hours were spent doing nothing but trying to correct some extremely inappropriate behavior. I kept talking about the situations he created and how awful this child behaved. On Tuesday as we were getting ready for dinner, I looked up and saw Tashaun standing in the kitchen! I was instantly very angry! All I could think of was what was this child, particularly this child doing in our private space? I am tired and hungry. I did not feel comfortable with Tashaun there. Who is going to watch him? Are our things safe? Here comes the lesson As I was standing in line for dinner, from behind, I felt two small arms wrapping around my stomach. I turned around, looked down and saw a smiling Tashaun. He said I wanted to give you a hug and say hi. He then got his food and sat by me at dinner It tore me up .
Aristotle defined gentleness as the golden mean, that is halfway between two extremes. Excessive anger and being unable to get angry about anything. Getting angry is simple human nature. We need to get angry. Imagine the world if no one got angry about anything. Anger often has a good purpose. It signals to us that something is wrong, something is not right. What would have not happened in December of 1955 if Rosa Parks had not gotten angry and given up her seat on that bus?
Gentleness, is not a weakness. Instead I think it is strength under control. A grace of the soul. That is how Rosa Parks decided to handle the situation when life took a bite out of her. Just think about what seeds Rosa Parks planted.
In Pauls second letter to Timothy, he wrote that the Lords servant will correct his opponents with gentleness. Be honest, how hard is that to do that all the time! It is NOT easy!!! We are human.
In Matthew 11 Jesus says, Come to me, all you are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. I think this is what Paul was talking about when meeting our opponents with gentleness.
I find it particularly interesting that we have a Triune God. That the attributes of the fruit of Spirit are what God is, what he wants us to be and what we are supposed to spread. That also is Triune It is all intertwined working together with three of best farmers to tend us should we let them.
There are certain things in life you can never recover, a stone after it is thrown, a word after it is said, an occasion after it is missed, time after it is gone and trust after it is lost. God left it up to us to decide how we will taste once bitten or what seeds we will spread.