“Brimstone, damnation on top of hammeration.” In Walt Disney’s movie Pollyanna that’s how one parishioner described the minister’s weekly sermons. Because of his tirade, the flock departed each Sunday with open wounds instead of receiving encouragement to meet their work week.
Contrast that scene to the one in John when Jesus and his disciples dined together. “The disciple Jesus loved was reclining next to Jesus . . . . He leaned back on Jesus’ breast” (John 13:23, 25). This tender setting reveals Jesus, gentle among his beloved.
The disciples who lived with Jesus witnessed his innate gentleness. He touched leprous skin; he scattered a fallen woman’s accusers. He then led her onto a path of righteousness, “Go now and leave your life of sin” (John 8:11). Gentleness, fruit of the Holy Spirit, surged through Jesus’ time spent with his disciples. Gentleness is the opposite of harsh treatment or an “I’m right; you’re wrong” attitude.
On this weekend when we honor fathers, I’m reminded of the fruits of the Spirit, especially “gentleness.” Last week, we considered “joy.” And this week, let’s think a bit about an easy-going way.
Jesus, on a holy mission to seek and save the lost, exhibited in his daily walk the fruit of the Spirit. You recall the list in Galatians 5:22: love joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. And while on earth, he remained supremely superior in every virtue.
Jesus didn’t twist arms to get people to believe that God was God. Jesus never coerced acquaintances, but rather gave his listeners reason, through living example, to believe he was God’s son, to believe that he spoke the truth. In demeanor and teaching, he refused to lord over people.
Meek, not wimpy or unassertive, gentle Jesus salted the earth with the wisest kind of living. God longs for relationship with us, but his approach is not bullying, revenge, manipulation or scare tactics, but rather the practice of gentle love.
Fathers, you are privileged to present the nature of God accurately. A humility laden life has the power to lead a child in the way they should go. “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up strife (Proverbs 15:1). Message-seeds flung gently by sower-fathers into the lives of their offspring can fall on fertile “heart lands.”
Of course a godly father also knows when to administer appropriate discipline for misdeeds. We all make mistakes in parenting, but a father on a quest to embody the fruit of the Spirit will out-parent those who have no such goal.
Throughout the Old and New Testaments, the Holy Spirit left us word-pictures of God caring for his children. In the western world, we tend to use abstract words to describe God such as those which describe the fruit of the Spirit love, joy, kindness, etc. But in the eastern culture where the Bible originated, the people there often used metaphor in description.
So, the Bible is replete with word-pictures of strong, nourishing God described as a shepherd who looks for one lost sheep; a stable rock; or God stooping down, bending over like a dad, who scoops up a child and dries a tear. Also, God describes himself as engraving his beloved peoples’ names into the palm of his hand declaring, “I will not forget you.” He reminds them that their names are not on a stone monument stashed away somewhere, but on his very palms. Always before him (Isaiah 49:15-16).
Recently at an outdoor event, I watched as several elderly gentlemen hobbled to a wooden bench to sit side-by-side. One obviously had arthritis, one limped, one was simply stooped over – most likely from years of labor. Dads, you’ve done a lot for us. We know you have had us in your mind for many years, always wanting the best for us. You work hard, you provide, you nourish, and you give gentle answers. For mirroring our heavenly Father to us, we give thanks for you and to you. Happy Father’s Day.