Yes, I'm still hanging around, studying this topic of gentleness - the fruit of the Spirit which includes submission to God's will, humbleness and a teachable heart. And recently, when I think of biblical gentleness, after Christ, probably the most striking biblical example is John the Baptist. In some senses, I find this "amusing(?)" because that certainly doesn't fit with my childhood imaginings of John the Baptist - wandering around the desert, eating locusts and honey, dressed so atypically for his times and crying out to any who would listen, "Repent!" Words that I more typically would use to describe him might be uncompromising, steadfast, confrontational, prophetic, loud...
However, as I was looking at this biblical figure who Christ praised -
"I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he." (Matt 11.1)
- it dawned on me that biblical gentleness is a perfect adjective to describe this man, who was mightily filled with the Spirit from his very birth.
John the Baptist lived a life submitted to God's will. (Matt 3.13-15) Even when he had questions (Matt 11.2), you don't get the idea that he was fighting God's plan for his life or that he was no longer submitted. Rather, I see a man stuggling with his circumstances and searching for reassurance. Christ reminded him of what he, John the Baptist, had already seen, heard reported... what he already knew.
His life was also characterized by humility. Read the following comments he made:
- But John tried to deter him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?"
- The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Christ. John answered them all, "I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire."
- John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, "This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.' "
- John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, "I am the voice of one calling in the desert, 'Make straight the way for the Lord.' "
- "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!"
- And they came unto John, and said unto him, "Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him." John answered and said, "A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven. Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him. He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom's voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease."
In Living Beyond Yourself, Beth Moore points out one other factor possilby leading to his humility: John the Baptist was humble because from his birth, he saw humility modeled in the life of his mother, Elizabeth. When Mary comes to Elizabeth, as recorded in Luke 1, she addresses Mary as the mother of her "Lord." While she recognized the miracle of her own pregnancy, Elizabeth knew that it was nothing compared to the Messiah who would be born to Mary. And both Elizabeth and Zachariah humbly submitted to God's will for the name of their son - even when others questioned.
Finally, I see that he was teachable - again look at the examples listed under his submissiveness to God's plans for his life. When corrected (the baptism of Christ) or when reminded of what he knew (while in prison), he accepted the teaching, learned and moved on. I would like to also imagine that as a young child maturing into a young man, that he received and accepted the instruction and correction of his parents. He most definitely learned, quite probably from his mother especially as a very young child, that Jesus was his Lord.
As I've meditated on the example of John the Baptist - and from there considered the example of Elizabeth, his mother, I realized that as I allow my Lord to craft gentleness into my life, He can be using my example and leading to craft this same humble and teachable submissiveness and recognition of Christ as Lord into the lives of my children.
The process of becoming gentle my be hard, hard work and painful at times, but these thoughts about Elizabeth give me another reason to earnestly desire that God does what He needs to do so that He and His fruit, His gentleness are what people (including my children) see in my life.
Note, all Scripture quotations for this post are from the NIV. Picture of John the Baptist from Garden of Praise, free educational materials. Picture of Mary and Elizabeth from the web site of Sacred Heart College.