On Being Gentle

Whenever I teach a yoga class, I preface almost every change in position with the words, “Now please gently…”

One time a student called out, “Why do you always say gently?”

Good question.

Gentleness is not something most Americans know much about. Our approach to life is marked by force, attitude, determination, control, tenacity, a ‘git-r-done’ mentality. While none of that is wrong in and of itself, they most often militate against any “gentleness consciousness.”

We speed down the road in a hurry to get to our next task. We jockey for the best parking space at the store. We set things down with a bang/clang. We consume our meal as if it is the “Passover” and we need to be ready to flee. Even the way we tread upon the earth lacks gentleness.  Rice Paper Walk

When we are trying to persuade another of the rightness of our opinion, we raise our voice, intensify our language or tone–not gentle.

The Buddhist practice of “ahimsa” keeps gentleness in the forefront of the practitioner’s consciousness so that all they do is wrapped with gentleness.

What do Christians have in the way of a gentle practice? “A bruised reed he will not break, nor a smoldering flax will he not put out.” (Matt. 12:20) (When was the last time you heard a sermon from that verse?)

We often see the phrase referring to the “gentle Savior,” but we rarely find a gentle disciple. Yet Jesus said, “It is enough that the disciple be as his master.” (Matt. 10:25)

Gentleness should mark the life of one who considers himself spiritual. Gentleness should be the characteristic of all that we do in thought, word, and deed.

Why is gentleness in such short supply?

In what way could you practice being gentle today?

 

 

 

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Self-Control: Fruit of a Spiritual Life

The question posed from previous posts is: what does a spiritual person look like?

Within the context of our passage–Gal. 5:16-6:1–we find that a spiritual person is marked by the evidence of “fruit” in his/her life. This is taken from vss. 22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…”

Now the question naturally arises, “What does this fruit look like?”

There is much discussion in today’s society about love, and what that means. Some folks actually get upset and forget to love when their particular view of love is not accepted by others. (Oh well. We’ll get it someday, I’m sure.) 🙂 For the time being, I will leave that discussion until a future post. Consequently, I will begin with the last–Self-Control.

What does self-control look like?

The word so translated, was rendered “temperance” by the King Jimmy translators; but “temperance has come to denote only one form of self-control. Therefore, it is no longer a viable rendition for the word.

However, we will begin with the idea of “temperance.” Originally, it meant “moderation.” Because of the “temperance movement,” it came to mean abstinence.

Temperance (Sophrosyne in Greek is defined as “moderation in action, thought, or feeling; restraint.”) has been studied by religious thinkers, philosophers, and more recently, psychologists, particularly in the positive psychology movement. It is considered a virtue, a core value that can be seen consistently across time and cultures (see Historical and Religious Perspectives). It is considered one of the four cardinal virtues, for it is believed that no virtue could be sustained in the face of inability to control oneself, if the virtue was opposed to some desire. It is also one of the six main categories of the VIA Character Strengths (see Major Theoretical Approaches). Temperance is generally defined by control over excess, so that it has many such classes, such as abstinence, chastity, modesty, humility, prudence, self-regulation, forgiveness and mercy; each of these involves restraining some impulse, such as sexual desire, vanity, or anger. (Wikipedia)

I hope you read that paragraph above with a conscious awareness. Did you get that? Self-control should be considered as the priority virtue, because no other virtue will stand if there is an inability to control oneself.

Wow! What a concept.

Of course, this thought is reinforced in Ecclesiastes 10:1 where we are told that a momentary act of stupidity can ruin a lifetime of achievement. We see this almost everyday, especially during an election campaign.

However, down here at street-level, we need to know how this works.

We all know people who seem to be quite loving in their nature. However, when they are pressed by certain circumstances, that love is nowhere to be seen.

Take a look at the list of the fruit of the spirit once again: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

Do you know someone who seems to be patient–until patience is called for?

Do you know someone who seems to be kind, but gets upset when their kindness is not recognized?

Do you know someone who is gentle until they get out on the highway?

Are you beginning to get a picture of what self-control might look like?

Self-control is a young person’s discipline. It becomes more difficult as one gets older, having established patterns for the way they handle things. (I’m not saying it is impossible for an older person.) If you have not exercised the discipline of self-control in your younger years, it becomes extremely challenging to find it in your later years.

What area of your life do you need to exercise self-control?

What can you do to begin strengthening temperance in that area?

What one thing will you do today to move yourself in that direction?

Leave your comments below and help us all to better understand this most challenging fruit of a spiritual life.

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The Fruit of The Spirit

16But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21envy,d drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (ESV)

With this article I am challenging the standard interpretation of Galatians, which is essentially “the fruit of being filled with the Holy Spirit in your life is…”

Most evangelical Christians claim this verse, and use it to measure the effectiveness of someone’s walk with the Lord. The various groups have differing views as to the work of the Holy Spirit and how that is accomplished; but that is not the focus of this article.

The focus here is on the context of the letter written by Paul to believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The letter itself is written to combat the idea that one must perform certain things in order to be right with God. In this particular case, it is specifically about a requirement that Christians should follow certain Jewish traditions, especially circumcision. Paul writes that not only are they not necessary, but they are also detrimental to the believer’s walk with God. The issue becomes one of works vs faith, and Paul is totally on the side of faith for righteousness.

In the section under consideration, Paul is bringing his discourse to a close with a summary of the results one can expect in life. Living by the dictates of the flesh produces one kind of life and living by the dictates of the spirit produce another.

QUESTION: Where is the Holy Spirit mentioned in this letter, or in this passage?

The New Living Translation follows the implication of the other versions and translates it “Holy Spirit.” King James capitalizes the word “Spirit” as do most of the other translations.

First of all, the word “holy” does not show up in the manuscripts in this passage. So, to say “Holy Spirit” is an interpretation. Secondly, since the word “holy” does not appear, then capitalizing the word “spirit” to make it seem to be God’s Spirit is also an interpretation. Thirdly, most of the manuscript evidence available for larger portions of the New Testament were written in the uncial style, which is all capital letters. This is especially true for the evidence that was available for the King James translators. In other words, there is no evidence for the use of special capitalization to denote Deity (or a proper pronoun) as we do in modern English.

Therefore, this begs the question: was the writer talking of the Holy Spirit, or man’s spirit? Or, was he writing about the outcome of a particular kind of focus in life?

Plainly, Paul was speaking of a life devoted to the spiritual aspects rather than the physical appetites.

When fully comprehended, this will change not only your understanding of the passage, but also your focus in life and how you judge others. (Please don’t comment about how we are not supposed to judge. You will only reveal that you missed the point entirely.)

So… what does a life focused on the spirit look like?

Please post your comments below.

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Blogged Bible Study–Nothing (John 15)

Jn 15:5
 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.       KJV

Nothing.

I can’t do a thing apart from Him.

I know the context of the verse is talking about bearing fruit. Of course, it is true that I cannot bear any kind of quality fruit if I am not in the Vine.

But, the reality that the Lord is driving home for me is that I am not capable of anything apart from Him.

Nothing.

What is excluded from “nothing?”

Nothing.

Anything I do is included in that. Everything I do is included in that. Nothing is excluded from that.

Without Him I am useless.

Aside from the fruit-bearing and the normal spiritual stuff we relate to the concept, I am being turned to look at the realities of my existence on this plane at this time.

I can’t even brush my teeth without Him.

The Lord is to be in and a part of absolutely everything that I do.

The following may be somewhat crass, but it is still a good illustration of the point:

My wife came into the room all excited one day, because she had been able to have a bowel movement. No, there had not been any problems before. Yes, she was doing well at the time. But, it occurred to her while in the midst of the business that the Lord had made her body, and He had made it to function well. For that she was giving Him the glory.

That made me realize how often I take things for granted about this life.

It is for certain that if we were to have a difficulty with that particular function of the body, we would get all excited and praise the Lord when it was restored to its proper health.

Then, why not give thanks when it is working properly–before it goes awry?!?

He is my all and in all.

Apart from Jesus, I can do nothing.

Apart from Jesus, I am nothing.

 

Note: there are others who are writing on themes contained within the 15th chapter of John’s gospel. Check it out and be blessed.