The Gentleness of Christ

2 Cor. 10:1.

As far as we know this expression is not found excepting in this scripture, but the characteristic with which it is linked - viz., meekness - explains it; and, moreover, the fact of the Lord's gentleness shines out in almost every page of the Gospels. It is good for our souls to meditate upon it, though we may be rebuked by the contrast it offers to our own hardness and unyieldingness. The apostle uses it as a ground of appeal to the Corinthians who had turned aside from his blessed teachings, and who, if they had not entirely rejected his apostolic authority, were yet allowing him to be displaced, both in their affections and as a teacher, by "false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ." It was in such circumstances that Paul besought them by the meekness and gentleness of Christ. His enemies had alleged that his bodily presence was weak and his speech contemptible. Was it that the lineaments of his Master - His meekness and gentleness - had shone out through his ministry? And that it was this which had excited the opposition, not to say contempt, of these upholders of the first man, of what man glories in as man, and what exalts him before the eyes of men? We know not; but in any case it will be profitable for us to consider this beauteous trait of Christ.

It has been already remarked that it follows upon meekness, and meekness the Lord Himself connects with humility. (Matt. 11). There is a difference in these moral graces, and yet it might almost be said that they are necessarily bound up together, that where one of them is found the others are sure to appear, at least in measure. Speaking not now of the Lord, for His will was as perfect as Himself, but of the Christian, it will not be disputed that true humility can only spring from brokenness of will; and that where the will has been practically set aside through discipline there also will be meekness, that patient unresistingness in the presence of evil which accepts every cup of sorrow and trial from the Lord's hand, and displays gentleness of spirit and demeanour towards all. This is that contrite and humble spirit with which God loves to dwell; or, as Peter says, that meek and quiet spirit which is in the sight of God of great price.

If we understand this, as applied to believers, we shall comprehend more readily what Paul terms "the gentleness of Christ." His will was never broken (far be the thought!), because it was perfect. But, never exercising it, because He came to do the Father's will, He was always in complete submission to the Father. He lived by reason of the Father, never moved or acted excepting at the Father's word, and thus He ever did the things that pleased Him. He did nothing from Himself but what He saw the Father do; "for whatsoever things He doeth, these also doeth the Son like-wise." Hence when in the presence of evil and of the overflowing of Satan's power, losing sight of the blind and wicked instruments of the enemy, He could say, "The cup which My Father giveth Me, shall I not drink it?" He was gentleness itself in the face of unrestrained violence. So also when before the high priest and the Jewish council, and also before Pilate, His meekness and gentleness were conspicuous both in His attitude and in His words. He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He opened not His mouth. (See Matt. 27.)

Leaving the reader to trace out the same blessed features during His ministry, for they are "written large" by all the evangelists, we now desire to point out that what is seen in Christ should be exemplified by His people. The same apostle thus writes to the Philippians, "Let your moderation be known unto all men." This word "moderation" is the same as that which is translated "gentleness" in the passage under consideration; and this is really its true force. Another word has been suggested, namely, yieldingness; but yieldingness is only the expression of a gentle spirit. And in Philippians it is the outward conduct which is in view, and outward conduct or demeanour towards all, believers and unbelievers; for it says "to all men." The form then which gentleness would assume towards men would be that of never insisting on one's own opinions or fancied rights, but seeking with a chastened subduedness to retire and to take the lowest place in the presence of others, yielding everything to those around excepting where faithfulness to God and to His Word requires firmness. And what a powerful motive is given for the cultivation of gentleness in the words, "The Lord is at hand"! In view of His coming we may well be content to leave everything that affects ourselves to the adjustment of that day.

If then the gentleness of Christ is to be reproduced in the believer, the question may profitably be considered: How is this to be effected? The hindrance to it is plainly in the character of the flesh in us, its impatience, impetuosity, its obstinacy and wilfulness. This much may be discerned even in the case of Peter, whose failures during his companionship with the Lord on earth may all be traced to the eager forwardness of the flesh, notwithstanding his ardent affection for his Lord. It is essential, therefore, before the gentleness of Christ can be displayed, that the character of the flesh should be experimentally learned; that discovering, if through painful discipline, there is no good thing in it, we may hail with gratitude the glad tidings of grace - that it has already come up before God for judgment in the cross of Christ, and has passed away from before His eye for ever. A new state will then be entered upon and enjoyed - the state of being "in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you." Thereupon there will be liberty for occupation with Christ, the One who loved us, and gave Himself for us; divine affections will be formed within us, so that seeking for ever growing intimacy with Christ, He, formed within us, will ever more distinctly be manifested through our walk and conduct.

In summing up the foregoing remarks all would admit that our wills are the difficulty in the matter of gentleness. It would, therefore, help to the removal of this obstacle if it were but seen and confessed that our wills are evil and nothing but evil. "If Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin," for the body governed by our own wills can produce nothing but sin. If Christ be in you - what a thought! If He be, surely we desire that He would take the entire control, and then His blessed will would govern us for His own pleasure. We shall then, moreover, delight in the One who has become the object of our hearts, and then, constrained by affection to seek the intimacy of His company, we shall be daily conformed to His likeness; and thus His own blessed moral traits, His meekness and gentleness, will be formed within us and revealed in our ways and conversation. But the words of the apostle must be recalled in this connection, "Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body."