Note: To better understand this article please read my articles, Understand Your Identity in Christ and What is the Fruit of the Spirit?
In this article I’ll discuss how those walking in the Spirit TREAT PEOPLE.
You want to live the Christian life but you don’t know how to express your true feelings without offending those who offend you. How does a Christian walking in the Spirit treat people?
To answer that question, let’s talk about what Jesus meant in the Lord’s prayer when He said,
(Father) forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.Matthew 6:12
What is a debt? A debt is something someone OWES you. For example, when you are in a public situation and someone is rude to you, instinctively you feel like they OWE you respect. You are offended.
So the debt that Jesus is talking about isn’t necessarily monetary debt, it’s also debt we feel people owe us based on their response to us or how they treat us. But what does Jesus say to do with that debt? He says to FORGIVE it.
But how do you forgive debt (rudeness) that people aren’t even aware that they’ve acquired?
You do it by being INTERNALLY EFFECTIVE. God isn’t asking you to “stuff” your feelings. He isn’t asking you to pretend that you aren’t offended. He’s okay with you internally acknowledging that you are offended. But what He wants you to do is forgive them for their offense. You can do this internally without ever voicing your offense to the offending party. As you do this you are able to move on to expressing the fruit of the Spirit that specifically addresses how God wants us to deal with people who offend us. God want us to respond to people with GENTLENESS.
Because gentleness is the response God gave us when we offended Him. Originally offended by Adam’s sin in the Garden of Eden, God was also offended by the subsequent failure of all mankind.
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.Romans 3:23
But God responded with mercy and gentleness. He came to earth in the form of a man (1 Timothy 3:16). Christ created a new nature and made it available to man (Ephesians 4:24).
It’s through this new nature that we are able to respond to others in gentleness.
But how do you put gentleness on?
It isn’t accomplished by mimicking God’s behavior. Walking in the Spirit is not COPYING God. It’s letting our new nature shine through.
How do you let your new nature shine through?
Consider the picture below.
I want you to acknowledge two things:
1. The light is abundantly shining. There is no lack in the light’s ability to SHINE.
2. The light is being blocked ONLY by the trees.
Our new nature is the same way. It’s always shining. There is no lack in your new nature’s ability shine. It’s perpetual, it shines on its own.
But what keeps your new nature from shining through are the “trees”. The fruit of our old nature, that is, our old thought processes that stand in the way.
We are self righteous, we haven’t died to our flesh so that God’s forgiveness and gentleness can shine through. We want to hold on to debt rather than forgive it.
Getting rid of our flesh means that we must learn how to deal with sin God’s way (see my article, How To Deal With Sin).
As you get rid of the “trees” in your life, gentleness and long-suffering will shine through. The same is true for all the other fruits of the Spirit (love, peace, meekness, faith, goodness, temperance and joy).
Gentleness Makes People Great
As your gentleness shines through it will make people GREAT. It will make them great because God’s gentleness made us great.
Listen to what King David said God’s gentleness did for him.
For by you I can run against a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall. You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your right hand supported me, and YOUR GENTLENESS MADE ME GREAT.Psalm 18:29,35
Forgiveness and gentleness makes us great because it allows us to move forward, it doesn’t focus on sin and failure. It allows us and others to transition into growth and development.
Summary: Gentleness is the power of kindness and mercy.
Where gentleness is the fruit of the Spirit that addresses what we do when other people offend us, LONG-SUFFERING is the fruit of the Spirit that addresses what we do when other people are offended by us.
As we learn to “put off” the old nature and “put on” the new nature (Ephesians 4:22-24), there will be times when we say or do the wrong thing. People will get upset with us.
How do we handle it?
We remain calm and don’t get upset. We are gentle with ourselves even when others are not.
We listen to people and try to understand why they are frustrated. We try to peacefully resolve the situation. If appropriate we ask for forgiveness.
If change needs to occur, we know that lasting change can’t be done through self effort. Real change comes as we learn to we deal with sin God’s way (How To Deal With Sin).
Summary: Long-suffering is maintaining emotional balance.
Walking in the Spirit means treating people the same way God treats us, with gentleness and long-suffering. God forgave our debt, so we should forgive the debt of others. Gentleness makes people great because it doesn’t focus on failure, it wants people to succeed. There are times when people will be upset with us. Instead of becoming defensive, try to understand what they are upset about. Apologize if appropriate. Learn to deal with sin God’s way so that your new nature can shine through.
In my next article, I’ll discuss the third category of the fruit of the Spirit, How To Live Your Life in the Spirit. We’ll discuss how to put on the fruits of faith, goodness, temperance and joy.