This article is to show how we can obtain or learn gentleness and meekness and what these two divine graces will do to the believer. Last but by no means least, it will address the point, What does it mean to learn of Jesus?
To provide a good foundation for this message, so that a correct understanding can be gained, look at this statement found in Testimonies, vol. 2, 74: “We are not all organized alike, and many have not been educated aright. Their education has been deficient. Some have had a quick temper transmitted to them, and their education in childhood has not taught them self-control. With this fiery temper, envy and jealousy are frequently united. Others are faulty in other respects. Some are dishonest in deal, overreaching in trade. Others are arbitrary in their families, loving to rule. Their lives are far from being correct. Their education was all wrong. They were not told the sin of yielding to the control of these evil traits; therefore sin does not appear to them so exceedingly sinful. Others, whose education has not been so faulty, who have had better training, have developed a much less objectionable character. The Christian life of all is very much affected for good or for evil by their previous education.”
This statement reflects the fact that most, if not all of us, as human beings are victims of poor attitudes, short or ill tempers and impatience. We somehow were not born possessing the graces of gentleness and meekness. Still, even at this present moment, many of us who are professed Christians know but very little of what it means to be gentle and meek. God would have us climb up to another round on the ladder in order that we may become Christlike.
The Definition of Gentleness and Meekness
Gentleness means genteel behavior (and genteel means polite—easy and graceful in manners and behavior); softness of manners; mildness of temper; sweetness of disposition; meekness; kindness; tenderness.
Meekness means softness of temper; mildness; gentleness; forbearance under injuries and provocation; humility; submission to divine will, without murmuring or peevishness. Noah Webster, American Dictionary of the English Language, 1828 Edition, Foundation for American Christian Education, San Francisco, California, 1989.
You will note that gentleness and meekness are synonymous. But there is a slight variation. In the New Testament, meekness (Greek – prautes and the adjective praus) refers to an inward attitude, whereas gentleness (Greek – epiekes, from epi-, “upon” and eikos, “likely,” denotes “seemly, fitting”) is expressed rather in outward action. Notwithstanding their slight variation, they can be and are used interchangeably, for they basically carry the same meaning.
Someone once said that, “Meekness is a grace which Jesus alone inculcated, and which no ancient philosopher seems to have understood or recommended.”
Meekness is part of the fruit of Christlike character produced only by the Spirit (Galatians 5:23).
The high place accorded to meekness in the list of human virtues is due to the example and teaching of Jesus Christ. Pagan writers paid greater respect to the self-confident man.
Sir Thomas Browne [1600s English author] once said, “Patient meekness takes injuries like pills, not chewing, but swallowing them down, laconically (using few words) suffering and silently passing them over, while angered pride makes a noise … every scratch.”
That is why Jesus is our perfect example of meekness and gentleness!
The English poet Richard Hooker (1554–1600) concluded, “There will come a time when three words, uttered with charity and meekness, shall receive a far more blessed reward than three thousand volumes written with disdainful sharpness of wit.” Tyron Edwards; C. N. Catrevas, The New Dictionary of Thoughts, Standard Book Company, New York, 1955, 400.
According to James Hamilton, English Clergyman (1814–1867), “Meekness is love at school, at the school of Christ. It is the disciple learning to know, and fear, and distrust himself, and learning of him who is meek and lowly in heart, and so finding rest to his soul.” Ibid.
“Meekness cannot well be counterfeited. It is not insensibility, or unmanliness, or servility; it does not cringe, or whine. It is benevolence imitating Christ in patience, forbearance, and quietness. It feels keenly, but not malignantly; it abounds in good will, and bears all things.” Ibid., 401. This was said by American Clergyman, William Swan Plumer (1802–1880).
It would do us well to pay strict attention to the words and counsel of American Lawyer John Foster (1831–1917), when he commented, “Meekness is imperfect if it be not both active and passive, leading us to subdue our own passions and resentments, as well as to bear patiently the passions and resentments of others.” Ibid.
“Meekness is the inward adorning, which God estimates as of great price.” The Sanctified Life, 16.
David proclaims, “Thou hast also given me the shield of Thy salvation: and Thy gentleness hath made me great.” II Samuel 22:36.
Again he makes the same proclamation with a little more meaning in Psalm 18:35: “Thou hast also given me the shield of Thy salvation: and Thy right hand hath holden me up, and Thy gentleness hath made me great.”
David shows what God’s grace is and what it does for him as well as every sinner. The word that David used for gentleness is the Hebrew word anawah, literally meaning humility. This characteristic found its supreme expression in the incarnation and death on the cross. “The King of glory stooped low to take humanity.” The Desire of Ages, 43. Man never climbs higher and nearer to God than when he stoops in humility. This is true greatness.
A sinner can be great in God’s sight only when he/she acknowledges the humility or humiliation of Christ by accepting Him as Lord and Saviour, and as a result of such action exemplifies in his/her life the gentleness/meekness and humility of Christ that makes salvation possible. So the Psalmist declares, “For the Lord taketh pleasure in His people: He will beautify the meek with salvation.” Psalm 149:4.
To those who patiently submit to His chastisement, God will ultimately “adorn” or “beautify” with His salvation. It is not because we are naturally meek or gentle, but He will beautify us because we humbly accept a life of meekness, gentleness, and humility like that of Jesus Christ—following in His footsteps! Consequently, the words of Jesus and David will be fulfilled in the experience of all such persons, “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.” Matthew 5:5.
“But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.” Psalm 37:11. “The meekness and lowliness of Christ is the Christian’s power. It is indeed more precious than all things which genius can create or wealth can buy. Of all things that are sought, cherished, and cultivated, there is nothing so valuable in the sight of God as a pure heart, a disposition imbued with thankfulness and peace.” Testimonies, vol. 4, 559.
“Meekness is a precious grace, willing to suffer silently, willing to endure trials. Meekness is patient and labors to be happy under all circumstances. Meekness is always thankful and makes its own songs of happiness, making melody in the heart to God. Meekness will suffer disappointment and wrong, and will not retaliate. Meekness is not to be silent and sulky. A morose temper is the opposite of meekness; for this only wounds and gives pain to others, and takes no pleasure to itself.” Ibid., vol. 3, 335.
“A schoolgirl, when asked for a definition of meekness, said, ‘Meek people are those who give soft answers to rough questions.’ Christ says, ‘Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.’ They will be fit subjects for the kingdom of heaven, for they are willing to be taught.” Welfare Ministry, 153.
“Patience and gentleness under wrong were not characteristics prized by the heathen or by the Jews. The statement made by Moses under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that he was the meekest man upon the earth, would not have been regarded by the people of his time as a commendation; it would rather have excited pity or contempt. But Jesus places meekness among the first qualifications for His kingdom. In His own life and character the divine beauty of this precious grace is revealed (emphasis supplied).” Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, 14.
Jesus Christ was and is the perfect example of gentleness and meekness
Second Corinthians 10:1 states, “Now I Paul myself beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ, who in presence am base among you, but being absent am bold toward you.”
(1) He humbled Himself – “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” Philippians 2:5–8.
“Through all the lowly experiences of life He consented to pass, walking among the children of men, not as a king, to demand homage, but as one whose mission it was to serve others. There was in His manner no taint of bigotry, no cold austerity. The world’s Redeemer had a greater than angelic nature, yet united with His divine majesty were meekness and humility that attracted all to Himself.
“Jesus emptied Himself, and in all that He did, self did not appear. He subordinated all things to the will of His Father. When His mission on earth was about to close, He could say, ‘I have glorified Thee on the earth: I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do.’ John 17:4. And He bids us, ‘Learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart.’ ‘If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself’ (Matthew 11:29; 16:24).” Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, 14.
(2) The Pattern Man – “Jesus, the precious Saviour, the pattern man, was firm as a rock where truth and duty were concerned. And His life was a perfect illustration of true courtesy. Kindness and gentleness gave fragrance to His character. He had ever a kind look and a word of comfort and consolation for the needy and oppressed.” My Life Today, 242.
(3) Unassuming manners – “Humility and meekness characterized His life. And it was because of His lowly walk and unassuming manners, which were in such marked contrast to their own, that the Pharisees would not accept Him.” The Sanctified Life, 14.
(4) He was courteous – “What Christ was on this earth, the Christian worker should strive to be. He is our example, not only in His spotless purity, but in His patience, gentleness, and winsomeness of disposition. His life is an illustration of true courtesy.” Gospel Workers, 121.
“The Bible enjoins courtesy, and it presents many illustrations of the unselfish spirit, the gentle grace, the winsome temper, that characterize true politeness. These are but reflections of the character of Christ.” Education, 241, 242.
How to obtain or learn gentleness and meekness
(1) By trials – “Few are willing to follow the Saviour’s example of meekness and humility. Many ask the Lord to humble them, but are unwilling to submit to the needful discipline. When the test comes, when trials or even annoyances occur, the heart rebels, and the tongue utters words that are like poisoned arrows or blasting hail.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 176.
(2) Through the Holy Spirit – “Where the Spirit of God is, there is meekness, patience, gentleness, and longsuffering; there is a tenderness of soul, a mildness which savors of Christ. But these fruits are not manifested by the unconverted.” This Day With God, 291.
(3) Learn of Christ – “ ‘Ye shall find rest’ [Matthew 11:29]. How? By living experience—because Christ’s yoke is a yoke of patience and gentleness and long-suffering. Those who learn His meekness and lowliness learn also how to love one another as He has loved them. They reach the place where they refuse to criticize and condemn others. They learn that there is committed to them a work that no one else can do for them—the work of learning of Christ.” The Upward Look, 359. “Not a soul of us is safe unless we learn of Christ daily, His meekness and lowliness.” Mind, Character, and Personality, vol. 1, 40.
(4) In the school of Christ – “Real refinement of thought and manner is better learned in the school of the divine Teacher than by any observance of set rules. His love pervading the heart gives to the character those refining touches that fashion it in the semblance of His own. This education imparts a heaven-born dignity and sense of propriety. It gives a sweetness of disposition and a gentleness of manner that can never be equaled by the superficial polish of fashionable society.” Education, 241. “But spiritual success comes only to those who have learned meekness and lowliness in the school of Christ.” Testimonies, vol. 6, 397.
(5) It takes time – “The precious graces of the Holy Spirit are not developed in a moment. Courage, fortitude, meekness, faith, unwavering trust in God’s power to save, are acquired by the experience of years. By a life of holy endeavor and firm adherence to the right the children of God are to seal their destiny.” The Ministry of Healing, 454.
(6) Through God’s providence – “God’s providence is the school in which we are to learn the meekness and lowliness of Jesus. The Lord is ever setting before us, not the way we would choose, which seems easier and pleasanter to us, but the true aims of life. It rests with us to co-operate with the agencies which Heaven employs in the work of conforming our characters to the divine model. None can neglect or defer this work but at the most fearful peril to their souls.” The Great Controversy, 623.
(7) By possessing the humility of Jesus – “The difficulties we have to encounter may be very much lessened by that meekness which hides itself in Christ. If we possess the humility of our Master, we shall rise above the slights, the rebuffs, the annoyances, to which we are daily exposed, and they will cease to cast a gloom over the spirit. The highest evidence of nobility in a Christian is self-control. He who under abuse or cruelty fails to maintain a calm and trustful spirit robs God of His right to reveal in him His own perfection of character. Lowliness of heart is the strength that gives victory to the followers of Christ; it is the token of their connection with the courts above.” The Desire of Ages, 301.
(8) Having the knowledge of Christ – “ ‘Learn of Me,’ says Jesus; ‘for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest’ [Matthew 11:29]. We are to enter the school of Christ, to learn from Him meekness and lowliness. Redemption is that process by which the soul is trained for heaven. This training means a knowledge of Christ. It means emancipation from ideas, habits, and practices that have been gained in the school of the prince of darkness. The soul must be delivered from all that is opposed to loyalty to God.” The Desire of Ages, 330.
(9) By wearing Christ’s yoke – “Meekness is a precious, Christian attribute. The meekness and lowliness of Christ are only learned by wearing Christ’s yoke. … That yoke signifies entire submission.
“The heavenly universe looks upon an absence of meekness and lowliness of heart. The self-exaltation, the feeling of swelling importance, makes the human agent so large in his own estimation that he feels that he has no need of a Saviour, no need to wear Christ’s yoke. But the invitation to each soul is, ‘Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls’ (Matthew 11:29).” In Heavenly Places, 236.
(10) By the surrender of the will – “The submission which Christ demands, the self-surrender of the will which admits truth in its sanctifying power, which trembles at the word of the Lord, are brought about by the work of the Holy Spirit. There must be a transformation of the entire being, heart, soul, and character. … Only at the altar of sacrifice, and from the hand of God, can the selfish, grasping man receive the celestial torch which reveals his own incompetence and leads him to submit to Christ’s yoke, to learn His meekness and lowliness.
“As learners we need to meet with God at the appointed place. Then Christ puts us under the guidance of the Spirit, who leads us into all truth, placing our self-importance in submission to Christ. He takes the things of Christ as they fall from His lips and conveys them with living power to the obedient soul. Thus we may take a perfect impress of the Author of truth.” Ibid.
The effect of meekness and gentleness on the believers
(1) The disposition becomes meek – “The most precious fruit of sanctification is the grace of meekness. When this grace presides in the soul the disposition is molded by its influence. There is a continual waiting upon God and a submission of the will to His.” My Life Today, 253.
(2) The understanding is enlightened – “The understanding grasps every divine truth, and the will bows to every divine precept, without doubting or murmuring.” Ibid.
(3) Softens the heart – “True meekness softens and subdues the heart and gives the mind a fitness for the engrafted word.” Ibid.
(4) Believers become obedient – “It brings the thoughts into obedience to Jesus Christ.” Ibid.
(5) Opens the heart – “It opens the heart to the word of God, as Lydia’s was opened.” Ibid.
(6) We become learners – “It places us with Mary, as learners at the feet of Jesus. ‘The meek will He guide in judgment, and the meek will He teach His way’ [Psalm 25:9].” Ibid.
(7) We will not be boasters – “The language of the meek is never that of boasting. Like the child Samuel, they pray, ‘Speak, Lord; for thy servant heareth’ (1 Samuel 3:9).” The Sanctified Life, 15.
(8) We possess the Holy Spirit – “Meekness in the school of Christ is one of the marked fruits of the Spirit.” Ibid.
(9) We are sanctified – “It is a grace wrought by the Holy Spirit as a sanctifier, and enables its possessor at all times to control a rash and impetuous temper.” Ibid.
(10) Controls unhappy temper – “When the grace of meekness is cherished by those who are naturally sour or hasty in disposition, they will put forth the most earnest efforts to subdue their unhappy temper.” Ibid.
(11) Develop self-control – “Every day they will gain self-control, until that which is unlovely and unlike Jesus is conquered.” Ibid.
(12) Become like Divine Pattern – “They become assimilated to the Divine Pattern, until they can obey the inspired injunction, ‘Be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath’ (James 1:19).” Ibid. 15, 16.
(13) Makes the home happy – “The meekness of Christ, manifested in the home, will make the inmates happy; it provokes no quarrel, gives back no angry answer, but soothes the irritated temper, and diffuses a gentleness that is felt by all within its charmed circle. Wherever cherished, it makes the families of earth a part of the one great family above.” Sons and Daughters of God, 82.
(14) Converting power – “In doing with meekness and humility our appointed service, we are to reveal the converting power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Then we become the Lord’s agencies to do His work.” Reflecting Christ, 130.
(15) Bring about unity – “Those who are truly converted will press together in Christian unity. Let there be no division in the church of God, no unwise authority exercised over those who accept the truth. The meekness of Christ is to appear in all that is said and done.” Testimonies, vol. 9, 147.
(16) Transforms whole life – “You have been invited to learn of Christ, who is meek and lowly of heart. Precious lesson! If well learned, it will transform the whole life.” Ibid., vol. 2, 188.
(17) Make us peculiar – “Among the peculiarities which should distinguish God’s people from the world in these last days, is their humility and meekness.” Ibid., vol. 4, 226.
(18) We behold Christ – “He who beholds Christ in His self-denial, His lowliness of heart, will be constrained to say, as did Daniel, when he beheld One like the sons of men, ‘My comeliness was turned in me into corruption.’ Daniel 10:8. The independence and self-supremacy in which we glory are seen in their true vileness as tokens of servitude to Satan. Human nature is ever struggling for expression, ready for contest; but he who learns of Christ is emptied of self, of pride, of love of supremacy, and there is silence in the soul. Self is yielded to the disposal of the Holy Spirit. Then we are not anxious to have the highest place. We have no ambition to crowd and elbow ourselves into notice; but we feel that our highest place is at the feet of our Saviour. We look to Jesus, waiting for His hand to lead, listening for His voice to guide. The apostle Paul had this experience, and he said, ‘I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.’ Galatians 2:20.
“When we receive Christ as an abiding guest in the soul, the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, will keep our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, 15.
Are you enjoying that peace that comes by wearing Christ’s yoke? What is it that destroys that peace that Christ longs to give?
“It is the love of self that destroys our peace. While self is all alive, we stand ready continually to guard it from mortification and insult; but when we are dead, and our life is hid with Christ in God, we shall not take neglects or slights to heart. We shall be deaf to reproach and blind to scorn and insult.” Ibid., 16.
What it means to learn of Jesus
(1) Not to retaliate – “When unkind, discouraging words are spoken to you, do not retaliate. Do not reply unless you can return a pleasant answer. Say to yourself, ‘I will not disappoint my Saviour.’ The Christian woman is a gentlewoman. On her lips is ever the law of kindness. She utters no hasty words. To speak gentle words when you are irritated will bring sunshine into your hearts and make your path more smooth.” Welfare Ministry, 153.
(2) Gives evidence that Christ dwells within – “By manifesting meekness under provocation and growing away from low earthliness you give evidence that you have an indwelling Saviour, and every thought, word, and deed attracts men to Jesus rather than to self.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 597.
(3) Represent the character of Christ – “There are many who have given themselves to Christ, yet who see no opportunity of doing a large work or making great sacrifices in His service. These may find comfort in the thought that it is not necessarily the martyr’s self-surrender which is most acceptable to God; it may not be the missionary who has daily faced danger and death that stands highest in heaven’s records. The Christian who is such in his private life, in the daily surrender of self, in sincerity of purpose and purity of thought, in meekness under provocation, in faith and piety, in fidelity in that which is least, the one who in the home life represents the character of Christ—such a one may in the sight of God be more precious than even the world-renowned missionary or martyr.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 403.
(4) Be teachable and obedient – “To be one with Christ in God is the privilege of every soul. But in order to be this, we must be meek and lowly, teachable and obedient. Shall we not be of that number who make a business of securing by earnest prayer and faithful practice the faith that works by love and purifies the soul?” This Day With God, 150.
“The first and chief ingredient in this meekness is an inward calmness and tranquility of mind. This shows itself in an outward, affable, courteous, kind, and friendly behavior to men. The meek man is slow to anger. He is prudent and moderate in his passion, tempering it with a spirit of calmness and moderation. He lets go his anger as soon as he can in reason, at least he suffers it not to settle into a fixed hatred or lasting resentment, but is ready to embrace all overtures of reconciliation. Meekness is always joined with humility, resignation, contentment, cheerfulness, courtesy, gratitude, moderation, peaceableness, kindness, patience, forgiveness of injuries, charity, and all other social and good-natured virtues.” Thomas H. Leale, The Preacher’s Homiletic Commentary, vol. 21, Logos Research Systems, Inc., Bellingham, Washington, 78, 79.
The questions that each one of us needs to answer are, Am I truly a meek, gentle and humble Christian? or Am I proud and self-sufficient?
Be reminded of the word of the Lord “But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” James 4:6. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, … meekness.” Galatians 5:22, 23.
Today, Jesus our loving Saviour once again extends His invitation of mercy to each of us “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28–30.
Will you without hesitation answer His call today?
Pastor Ivan Plummer ministers through the Emmanuel Seventh Day Church Ministries in Bronx, New York. He may be contacted by telephone at: 718-882-3900.