Gentleness of Christ

Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Matt. 11:28,29. (NIV.)


In 1996, I worked at a hospital in Saudi Arabia , for a short time. Though I was a Senior Consultant, it was no protection against the frightening diatribes of Arab men. The Administration maintained that in Saudi Arabia , the Arab was always right, and no matter how important I was in my own country, here I was merely a servant of the King and his people.

It was my first week there, and I knew neither the language nor the type of behavior to be expected. A hefty Arab in his forbidding costume, descended on me like an angry vulture ready to gouge out my eyes. I could not understand a word of what he said, but I knew he was very angry. There was pin-drop silence in the ward. Not a soul dared to come to my rescue.

Then a Nigerian nurse appeared on the scene. She looked the man in his eye, and said something to him in a very soft voice. She then moved closer to me, put an arm around my trembling shoulders, and guided me to a chair. The man went away shamefacedly, without any protest. But after a few minutes, he came back and apologized for his behavior.

As this was a country where one seldom heard the word “Sorry,” from a man, his apology came as a surprise.

That evening after work, I sought the nurse out in her quarters, to thank her for her intervention.

“ What was the miracle word you uttered to calm the man down?” I asked.

“Oh!” she said. “I just mentioned that God might not have approved of his behavior, as ‘He is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love’.”(Ps 103:8.)

“ That must have taken some courage. What if he had reacted differently?

I’m sure you must be a Christian?” I said, “No one else would have the courage to stand up to such a rude man.”

“ I’m glad you recognized me,” she laughed, “ In this country where we are under ‘gag orders’ vis-à-vis our religion, there is only one way we can witness, and that is by example. But I can’t be sure that the man hasn’t gone off to the religious police (muttawas) to have me branded as a kafir, and deported. That is the risk one has to take.”

‘Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.’ (Phil4:5-7.)

“This verse is my strength. In a counterfeit culture like this, where power and money take precedence over human qualities of love and kindness, we cannot repay evil for evil.

You’re new here, and my advice to you is to keep this verse in mind always, because you will see more of such behavior on a daily basis. The only way is to show that you are not afraid, and to keep your cool.”

Miriam had been through a rough time. But the job brought her a good income on which she supported a large family at home. She had to put up with insults and humiliation, even though she was an excellent nurse and did more than her fair share of work.

“My mother always reminded me that ‘ a gentle tongue could break a bone,’ (Prov. 25:15.)

I find this is true most times, and I try to follow the example of my Savior.“

‘Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.’ (Math. 11:29 .)

We became “praying friends” for the duration of my stay in Saudi Arabia . In her I saw what Peter described as “the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight, far more than outward beauty.” (1 Peter 3:4.)

The Ethiopian eunuch Ebed-Melech in the Old Testament (Jer 38: 7-13.) must have been a man after God’s own heart. He did not even have a proper name. Ebed-Melech meant ‘King’s slave.’ Yet he had the courage to intercede on behalf of Jeremiah with King Zedekiah himself, and rescue him from a slow death in the empty cistern. The kindness and gentleness of the man was further evident, when he sent down old rags and clothes along with the rope, and instructed old Jeremiah to pad his armpits, so that the rope wouldn’t cut into his flesh. Here was a gentle slave whom God thought fit to rescue from the enemies. Jeremiah was given the privilege of conveying this news to Ebed-Melech.

“I will save you. You will not fall by the sword, because you trust in me.” (Jer. 39:18.)

One of the earliest hymns I learnt as a child was “Gentle Jesus meek and mild.’ That picture of a young man with a child on his knee, and a group of children surrounding Him, has always remained with me. I see this gentleness time and again as I read the Gospels – In his graceful acceptance of a sinful woman’s demonstration of love, (Luke 7:41 “Her sins have been forgiven for she loved much.”) or in his accessibility to the woman who touched the hem of his garment, (Luke 8:52 “ Daughter your faith has healed you.” This was the only recorded instance when he addressed a woman in such tender words) or in highlighting the faithfulness of a widow who gave her mite.(Luke 21:3 “ She gave of her poverty.”)

No wonder Tennyson said, “Christ’s character was more wonderful than the greatest miracle.”

Though a King, He came ‘gentle and riding on a donkey.’ (Mt 21:5) He was led ‘like a gentle lamb to the slaughter.’ (Jn. 11:9) Throughout the Epistles Paul speaks of the ‘meekness and gentleness of Christ.’ (2 Cor.10:1.)

A Christian is a representative of Christ. If we want to hallow God’s name in this world, then His character must be reflected in our behavior. The real test comes in less than ideal settings, when we are provoked, falsely accused, slandered, tormented, we must respond with gentleness, though not at the expense of our zeal for truth. Mrs. Graham Staines showed this character even when her heart was bleeding over the brutal murders of her husband and two little sons.

As God’s chosen people, we are to clothe ourselves with kindness, compassion, humility, gentleness, patience,( Col.3:12.) because we walk in the ‘newness of life’ (Rom 6:4.) yielding to the Holy Spirit, so that Christ’s life is manifest in our own, through the fruit of the Spirit. This is the believer’s privilege – a fitting response to God’s love! We live by Christ’s vision, His example, His assurance. Those who love Jesus are constrained to involve themselves in the task of self-improvement. Through the motivating power of the Holy Spirit, we should look more and more like Him, with the passage of time. Like the Arab who responded positively to Nurse Miriam’s admonition, most people respect the qualities of humility and gentleness in us, and learn to respect the authority of the God we represent. That is what Jesus meant when He said, “By their fruits you will recognize them.” (Mt 7:20.)


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