This past weekend I had the unique opportunity to meet one of my living heroes for the very first time. His name is Rueben Job, an 84 year old retired Methodist Bishop. He’s the author and compiler of several books that have dramatically impacted my personal spiritual life, especially his Guide to Prayer series published by Upper Room. We use his materials extensively at Leadership Transformations, on our retreats, among our board/team/donor family, and with seminary students at Gordon-Conwell. I was deeply touched by this encounter with a man after God’s heart, who embodies one word: gentleness.
Having never met my colleague, Rick Anderson, or myself, Rueben and his wife Beverly welcomed us with open arms into their home in a lovely retirement community just outside Nashville, Tennessee. Rueben has been following with interest the development of LTi since our inception in July 2003, has offered words of encouragement to our ministry family, and recently wrote an endorsement for Crafting A Rule of Life (www.RuleOfLife.com/endorsements/) He sat with us in his living room, shared openly about his life story and his love for God’s Word, the Church, and his family. He opened several windows into his own soul, and paid close attention to the state of our souls as well. It was an encounter drenched with the sweet, gentle aroma of Christ.
Rueben reminded me of my own grandfather, another gentle man of God. These men remind me that the word gentleness is very close to the word gentleman…who do you know who truly embodies that word? Jesus was gentle and humble of heart (Matt. 11:29) and he encouraged gentleness among his disciples and followers. The Apostle Paul spoke often of gentleness too: be completely humble and gentle (Eph. 4:2); let your gentleness be evident to all (Phil. 4:5); clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience (Col. 3:12); and includes gentleness as a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:23).
As I reflect on meeting Rueben Job, consider prayerfully the biblical definition of gentleness, and then turn on the television to listen to political pundits and candidates, I’m startled by which kind of life and message is most endearing. A gentle heart expresses gentle words, thoughts, attitudes, and actions. A gentle heart is what most comforts the downtrodden and heals brokenness. A gentle heart is sensitive to God and the needs of others. A gentle heart is not puffed up with pride, instead considers others more important than self. A gentle heart evokes a similar response.
In what ways are you most drawn to gentleness? In what ways might God be calling you to abide in a spirit of gentleness toward all who cross your path today, even toward those who are the most difficult for you to love? Pursue faith, love, endurance and gentleness, and then invite God to blossom from within you a gentle heart.