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IT TAKES GREAT STRENGTH TO BE GENTLE

A SERMON DELIVERED AT

THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS

21 SEPTEMBER 1997

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

Exodus l 9:5-6
Proverbs 15:1
1 Corinthians 4:14-21
1 Timothy 3:2-3, 6:11
Titus 3:1-2
1 Peter 3:3-4
Revelation 21:8

In the macho world we live in, we most often depict strong people, as also being violent.

And we depict the gentle people as being weaklings who get pushed around.

But I submit to you, that these violent people are usually quite weak, particularly in their relationship to God, for their violence is a way of countering their fears.

Conversely, a person who is truly strong in his or her relationship with God, is also not afraid to be gentle in this world.

Gentleness is seen in the person's character.

Several people remarked to me that Elting Hallenbeck was a gentle and quiet man, and that remark stuck with me, for this is part of what we're talking about.

Note what Peter tells us in his first epistle (3:3-4). And even though this passage is speaking of women, the part about their character applies to everyone.

3. And let not your adornment be merely external-- braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses;

4. but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.

Our true adornment is the person we are in the Lord; that imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit.

So, if people saw this character in Elting, then because of this, he also must have been precious in the sight of God.

Even if other things in his life weren't perfect, because of his gentleness, he was still precious in the sight of God.

And this is something we all need to remember.

We seem to think that we are to counter aggressive behavior with other aggressive behavior, but that doesn't resolve anything, as we are told in Proverbs 15:1.

1.  A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.

I read the gentle answers that John and Ethel had written in response to the violent and ungodly happenings in this world, and it confirmed this passage.

But with no gentle answer coming forth, the wrath, the cruelty, of the hard of heart people are encouraged, for if no one is challenging their actions, they assume everyone likes what they are doing.

It takes guts, it takes great strength to stand up and be counted.

Just as violent behavior is a cover-up for fear, so does the silence of the people who oppose such behavior show their cowardly nature.

And the Lord seems to categorize such cowardly behavior along with the unrepentant sinners themselves, as we are told in Revelation 21:8.

8.  "But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."

If we know something is wrong, we should say something, for not to say something, is the same as agreeing with the evil around us, and as such, we become part of it.

To be gentle means to be humble, and so filled with love and compassion, that we simply couldn't harm anyone or anything.

But again, this doesn't mean to be silent, for to be silent in the face of evil, is to allow harm to befall others.

And sometimes in our own silence, we, too, can be consumed.

Listen to what Paul wrote to Titus (3:1-2).

1.  Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed,

2.  to malign no one, to be uncontentious, gentle, showing every consideration for all men.

We cannot be gentle, and able to show every consideration for all people, if we exclude some by our silence.

The so called "silent majority" are really more a part of the enemy camp than they are of the kingdom of God.

Do you remember last week, we were talking about the fact we should be careful about desiring to be a teacher, because when we teach, we take the responsibility of the souls of those we teach upon ourselves, and thus a greater judgment from God when we lead people astray.

But as we looked at this, we also found out that, in reality, we all teach, whether our children or other adults.

Thus, if we carry this one step further, we are to realize that we all place ourselves in some leadership position.

This is why the Lord told the Israelites this same thing when they came out of Egypt (Exodus 19:5-6) .

5.  'Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine;

6.  and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. 'These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel."

And these are the words that all Christians need to hear, too.

It's time we realize we have a responsibility not only to God, but also to his whole creation, and this responsibility must be expressed in gentle ways. 

What we say can be convicting, to attract he person's attention, but what we do or say should never be threatening or suggestive of violent action or reprisals.

And most importantly, we are to set the example.

Listen to what Paul told Timothy (1 Timothy 3:2-3).

2.  An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,

3.  not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, uncontentious, free from the love of money.

It takes great strength to be like this.

It takes great strength to be a leader.

But it takes even greater strength to be a Godly gentle leader.

Every one of us has the potential to be like this, but are we all willing? 

This is a question that each of us needs to honestly ask ourselves.

Whether we want to admit it or not, this kind of commitment and gentle strength is what it really takes to be a Church.

And if some of us are sitting here and saying to ourselves, "I know this is true, but this isn't for me."

And if this isn't for us, then maybe neither is the kingdom of God.

It's time to stand up and be counted. It's time to separate ourselves from the ways of the world, and dare to be different, dare to be Godly, both outwardly and inwardly.

As Paul tells Timothy (1 Timothy 6:11),

11.  But flee from these things, you man of God; and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.

Now some people don't like me because I say it like it is.

Some people don't like me when I tell them to be compassionate and loving, and to allow themselves to feel the suffering in this world.

Some people don't like to hear me say that when we harden our hearts to kill an animal, it also hardens our heart in our relationship with God and other people.

And some people definitely don't want to have someone remind them that animals have souls and spirits just as we do.

For all these reminders cut to the very quick of our being, and make us responsible for our actions, for when this happens, we are faced with the reality of making a conscious decision.

It's easy to go along with the world.

It takes great strength to stand up and be a gentle leader.

Paul was frustrated with the Corinthian Church because of their actions and lack of actions.

And we know he wrote to them in love, but listen to what he says in I Corinthians 4:14-21.

14.  I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children.

Note Paul's expression of love.

15.  For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.

16. I exhort you therefore, be imitators of me.

This is a hard thing to say, and it is even a harder thing to live.

But that is exactly what each and every one of us is being called to be.

Not only are we being called to be imitators of Jesus Christ, and not only are we being called to be imitators of Paul, but we are to present ourselves in such a way, that others can be imitators of us, and thus be imitators of Christ Jesus our Lord.

And this takes great strength.

17. For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, and he will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere in every church.

18. Now some have become arrogant, as though I were not coming to you.

19. But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I shall find out, not the words of those who are arrogant, but their power.

20. For the kingdom of God does not consist in words, but in power.

And this heavenly power is to be expressed in gentleness.

21. What do you desire? Shall I come to you with a rod or with love and a spirit of gentleness?

And I believe we would all prefer the spirit of love and gentleness.

We have to make a choice.

Are we going to be part of this world, or part of the kingdom of God?

I pray it's the kingdom of God.

Amen.

Your Comments are welcome

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