The Fruit of the Ruach is Gentleness
DIG: Why is the word gentleness difficult to define today? Does prautes mean meekness? Why? Why not? Does the Bible ever say that YHVH is gentle? Do the Scriptures picture Yeshua as being gentle? In what way? Why does gentleness run counter to our culture today? Can you be gentle, yet assertive? How? What are the two things that we need to remember about gentleness?
REFLECT: How are you doing with memorizing the fruit of the Ruach? The first three have one syllable, the second three have two syllables, and the last three have three syllables. When was the last time you responded like King David, Jeremiah, Stephen or Paul? Do you foster a spirit of gentleness in your household? Do you respond with gentleness at your place of work? Do you want shalom? Where does it start?
When Paul spoke of walking by the Ruach (to see link click Bv – Walk by the Ruach, and Not the Desires of the Flesh), he was not referring to following after mystical visions and revelations. Instead, he provided a list of attributes that describe a Ruach-led person. Thus, the evidence of the fruit of the Ruach is a changed life. Paul now presents the proper path according to which those faithful to God in His Messiah should walk. The fruit stands in contrast to the deeds of the flesh. The Ruach’s fruit simply shows us the qualities which characterize the Kingdom of God. But, in contrast to the deeds of the flesh, the fruit of the Ruach (singular, like a cluster of grapes) is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (5:22a). All of these elements should be a part of your life as you allow the Ruach ha-Kodesh to flow through you.
Of all the fruit of the Ruach, gentleness (Geek: prautes) is the most difficult word to translate out of all of them because the meaning of it has changed so much over the years. Even in the context of Scripture it often means several things. For example, in Matthew Chapters 5, 11 and 21 prautes is used being submissive to God’s will in our lives, trusting and following Him. Then, there are other times, for example in James Chapter 1, prautes is used to describe a person who is teachable. But usually, when you read First Corinthians 4, Ephesians 4, Second Corinthians 10, Philippians 4 and here in Galatians 5, it means considerate, gentle, and compassionate.
But many people, because of the King James translation, associate this word with meekness, or humility. The problem with the word meekness, is that in the four hundred years since the King James Bible (published in 1611) was written, the meanings of words have changed. For example, Saint Paul’s Cathedral was destroyed in the great fire of London in 1666. The king of England commissioned Sir Christopher Wren to rebuild that great structure, and he spent the next thirty-five years of his life doing just that. In 1711 when he finished that work, Queen Ann came to tour the finished facility she said it looked “artificial” and “awful.” And Wren breathed a sigh of relief and thanked her for her kind words! Because in 1711 the word “artificial” meant artistic, and the word “awful” meant awe inspiring. Meek is the same way because today meekness means weakness. Meek people get run over. Meek people can’t make decisions or get anything done. So, it is a negative word today. A better translation of prautes today would be gentleness.
Of the nine characteristics of the fruit of the Ruach, this one and the one following do not apply to HaShem. The TaNaKh never refers to YHVH as being prautes, and in the B’rit Chadashah, only the Son is spoken of as being gentle during His incarnation. Although He was God while He lived on earth as the Son of Man, He was gentle [prautes] and humble in heart (Matthew 11:29, 21:5; Second Corinthians 10:1). And like our Lord, we are to actively pursue gentleness (First Timothy 6:11), and to wear it like a garment (Colossians 3:12).
So, what does the Bible mean when it says we are to be gentle? It is that humble and gentle attitude that exemplifies strength under control. Now that runs against the culture that we live in today. The words gentle and strength don’t seem like they belong in the same sentence. In 1977 Robert Ringer wrote a book entitled Looking Out for Number One, and it became the theme of our culture over the past forty years. And the book said that you need to look out for yourself and put yourself first because nobody else will. Therefore, Gentleness runs counter-cultural to that thought.
Gentleness doesn’t mean that you can’t be assertive, successful or a good leader. Gentleness is the attitude by which we do those things. It points to a person who is strong, but under control. That plays itself out in two ways. First, how we treat people around us. The Bible says that we are to treat them with gentleness. Then, secondly, in the way we respond to how people treat us. How do you react when someone mistreats you? We are supposed to be gentle in the way we treat people, but we are also to be gentle in the way we react to people.
We see four examples (although there are dozens of them) of how people in the Bible demonstrated a spirit of gentleness: How King David reacted to Shim’i (see the commentary on the Life of David Ds – Shim’i Curses David); how Jeremiah reacted to the priests, the false prophets and all the people who had heard his prophecy against their evil ways (see the commentary on Jeremiah Cg – Jeremiah Threatened With Death); how Stephen reacted while being stoned to death (see the commentary on Acts Ax – The Stoning of Stephen); and how Paul responded to those who had deserted him (Second Timothy 4:16).
We live in a world that does express gentleness. The world says, “I don’t get mad. I get even.” The Bible says when we are filled with the Ruach, we are to have a spirit of gentleness. Therefore, we need to remember two things. First, we need to be careful about how we react. We live in a world that is violent. We live in a world that reacts before they think. As followers of Yeshua Messiah, we need to be careful about our actions, and our actions need to be gentle. Since the Ruach ha-Kodesh lives in you, our actions must reflect that spirit of gentleness. But not only that. Secondly, we must be gentle in our words. The common saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me” is not true. Cruel words can break our spirit. Thoughtless words can break our heart. Angry words can break a relationship. If we can be gentle in our words, then our actions will be gentle.
Paul, in writing to the church at Philippi said: Let your gentleness be known to all people . . . Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable – if there is any virtue and if there is anything worthy of praise – dwell on these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me – put these things into practice, and the God of shalom will be with you (Philippians 4:5a and 8-9). If you want shalom to come to your house, your block, your city, or your country, it starts with you.
Dear Heavenly Father, Praise You for who You are! You the holy, powerful King of the universe, willingly was gentle, laying aside your power and holiness to die in our place bearing our punishment for sins – for Messiah, our Passover lamb has been sacrificed (First Corinthians 5:7c). He was pierced because of our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities. The chastisement for our shalom was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed (Isaiah 53:5). Help us to follow Your example of gentleness. In Your holy Son’s name and power of resurrection. Amen