“…Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…” (1 Peter 3:15, NIV).
Today we are considering the Spirit fruit of gentleness. In order that we might better understand what Paul means by gentleness, we need to first look at what gentleness is not. Gentleness does not mean weakness, for God’s very power lives in each of us. Further, gentleness is not defined as timidity or indifference, as we are called as followers of Jesus to stand against oppression and injustices of all kinds. Gentleness does not mean a lack of integrity, indecisiveness, or fearful hesitation. Rather, the fruit of gentleness finds its sweetness in Christian love and compassion, understanding and empathy.
In the passage above, Paul presumes that we will have divine opportunities to tell others about our faith. But, he says we should do so with “…gentleness and respect…” (1 Peter 3:15, NIV). Perhaps you’ve witnessed the opposite of this form of evangelism in your own life. At times, Christian gentleness has been replaced by evangelistic bullying. Respect has been set aside for nothing short of a “holy” guilt trip. The invitation to experience life in Christ has been exchanged for judgement and the threats of Hell-fire and brimstone.
Again, Paul stresses respect in our dealings with those who have not yet experienced faith and life in Jesus. And the Holy Spirit blesses us ever-increasingly with the Spirit fruit of gentleness.