Radical GentlenessApril 21, 2023 Faith
I have to confess, this series on the fruit of the Spirit has been convicting. In a good way, of course but – convicting, nonetheless.
I’m convicted by how easily contemporary Christians (me included) act like these fruits are nice-but-not-necessary features of the Christian life. We can all recite them, but how many of us intentionally pursue them? How many of us are deeply conscience stricken when they are not evident in our life? I know some of us are, and I’m deeply thankful for you. But, I feel like my vision of piety has been heavy in how-to-respond-to-God and insufficiently focused on the fruit of the Spirit – which is heavy in how we respond to people.
So, the title of this recent article by George Marsden caught my attention: “Radical Christian Gentleness in an Era of Addictive Outrage”. Marsden, a world class scholar on Jonathan Edwards, points out how seriously Edwards took these fruits of the Spirit as absolutely necessary evidence of a genuine faith. If you remember, Edwards was a principal player in the First Great Awakening (1730-1770). This was a religious revival that spawned both fraudulent and factual conversions and spiritual experiences. Edwards devoted an entire book (Religious Affections) to help distinguish between the two. What are the evidences of a genuine work of God and what are the signs of a cheap imitation? Edwards was convinced that one of the essential evidences of a genuine conversion (and a genuine Christian) was the spiritual fruit of gentleness. His treatise on the topic includes pages of Scripture texts showing that this characteristic of Christ should be evident in all those who profess His name.
Marsden writes the following,
“Edwards’ uncompromising firmness on this point is particularly needed today because it’s so seldom emphasized, let alone insisted on, in much of evangelicalism. Particularly in the United States, when people speak of “evangelical” Christians, these are rarely the qualities that come to mind. The Reformed segments of evangelicals generally haven’t been exceptions. Not that these biblical teachings are missing altogether, but the radically gentle and pacific implications of our new nature are rarely accentuated, as they are by Edwards, as essential marks of true Christians.”
As I was reading this, James 3 comes to mind,
“The wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle… (James 3:17).
I want my life to be defined by the wisdom that comes from above. I’d love to grow in this very specific fruit of gentleness. I’m sure you do as well. In a world addicted to outrage, the demeanor of God’s children should look radically different. Lord let it be, and let it begin with me.
- Here is the entire article by George Marsden.
- Worth Reading: Conrad Mbewe, a Reformed pastor in Lusaka, Zambia has written two excellent articles outlining the place and purpose of church discipline. There is a great deal of confusion in the American church over this, in part because so few churches practice it. However, as Mbewe points out, the church is truly a family, and we love each other well when we call each other to a life of genuine faith and obedience. I highly recommend this excellent summary of this essential aspect of life as Christ’s church. Article 1. Article 2.