Praotes 4

Isaiah 61:1

Sometimes when facing the difficulties of life, we don’t need a solution as much as we need a sympathetic ear. I have heard so often that when a person loses a loved one there is no way to stop the grief, but what is appreciated is when you grieve with them. So often gentleness – praotes – takes on small forms but has profound effect.

This passage from Isaiah is the passage Jesus read in the synagogue to let people know that he had come as the Messiah (Luke 4:16-21). What power is at work? For what purpose is he anointed? What is he sent to do?

This passage is not a prophecy of war and conquest. It is not a prediction of overwhelming change. The Spirit of God anoints so that good news can be preached. Freedom and release will be proclaimed, and those who are suffering sorrows – the broken-hearted – will not have their troubles removed or solved, but will be bound up, supported, encouraged.

All of these actions seem so simple, yet they will have an everlasting effect. This is the essence of praotes. Living out gentleness means doing the small, courteous things that God has taught us to do. Praotes is expressing God’s love in small ways, supporting, caring, and persisting in the agape love we share.

Praotes is being strong when others are weak. It is being a leader when others feel lost. But most importantly it is letting God be the One who is in control, rather than ourselves. Then we will know that the gentle things we do will truly help those in need.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you bind up the broken-hearted?

Praotes 3

James 2:14-17

How much is enough? Unfortunately, when talking about serving God or providing for people in need, there is never enough. Jesus said in John 12:8, “You will always have the poor among you.” Opportunities to help are ever-present. There is always need in the world.

The Book of James is credited to James, the brother of Jesus, and is most known for its theme of mission and outreach, of helping the poor. What, according to James, does faith need? What concrete example is given in verses 15 and 16? What is the conclusion?

This passage came to my mind while in Port-au-Prince, Haiti as we surveyed the repair work we had done at an orphanage. What we had done was a good thing. The children and the orphanage director all appreciated the repairs, fixes that would make life better where they were. But they needed so much more.

However, the continuing needs of the poor should not be a discouragement from doing what we can. I am glad for the work we were able to accomplish, but seeing the need up close and personal as I did simply spurred me on to want to do even more.

I see that as a part of gentleness – praotes. If praotes means that we must submit to the will of God, that we should be led or taught by God, and that we should extend consideration to others then we will indeed have faith which includes deeds. Submitting to will of God and extending consideration will inspire you to do more work and meet the needs of the poor.

Isn’t that the will of God? Doesn’t God will it that we should serve one another, that we should care for one another, that we should meet the needs of others? If we will exhibit the fruit of the Spirit then we will indeed have faith that includes action – real and specific work that meets specific and essential needs.

“Gentleness” can easily be seen as a weak and, perhaps, disposable attribute. But in fact, submitting to the will of God requires strength and provides strength. Through the will of God you will have a faith that has deeds.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What specific need can you meet this week?

Praotes 2

John 13:1-5

Sometimes the hardest thing to face with an aging parent is the role reversal that happens when the parent becomes the one who needs care and the child becomes the caregiver. It's difficult for everyone involved, but the loss of independence can be extremely frustrating and degrading for the parent.

The ability to care for ourselves is important, showing ourselves and others that we can succeed; we are independent. The need for assistance in private care is a concession of helplessness and dependency. And offering that help is an act of humility and love – love expressed in our own self-control.

What was Jesus planning to do at the Passover Feast? What background information is presented in verses 2 and 3? What does Jesus do?

It was customary in the time of Christ for visitors to wash their face and hands as they entered a home. They would also have their dirty feet washed off so as not to track in any undesirable filth and germs. But this act was done by a servant – a second class (or third class) person.

But, before the Passover Feast that we have come to know as the Lord’s Supper went forward, Jesus showed his disciples in a very concrete and visible way how much he loved them. Identifying himself with the bread and wine to show the sacrifice he was about to perform was a bit more esoteric. This act was easy to understand.

Jesus had been the teacher, the leader of this group of faithful people. And now he was offering another lesson – the lesson of sacrifice. And that lesson required praotes – gentleness – a submission to God’s will. Jesus, the teacher, was making himself a gentle person, one who had praotes – the ability to be taught, to give of himself, to lower himself to the level of a true servant.

He loved them so much that he served them. He washed their feet. It was an act of humility. It was an act of kindness, gentleness, and goodness. It was Jesus giving himself away to those whom he loved.

Here is an example of agape love, the love that is part of the fruit of the Spirit. When we are in step with the Spirit and we belong to Jesus, then we will be able to express our love the way Jesus did. We will be able to love sacrificially, completely, in ways that demonstrate all of the aspects of the fruit of the Spirit. And the act of washing the disciples’ feet was not a showy display of service; it was profound, yet simple and gentle. Such should be our attitude of serving others in gentleness.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you sacrifice for others?

Praotes 1

Russ attempts to fix a chair with the help of the children.
Isaiah 40:11

Our mission trip to the orphanage in Port-au-Prince, Haiti was a wonderful success. We were able to do much good for the children and the workers, and we return with many good memories, and many painful ones. One observation that almost every person makes when visiting the orphanage is that the children are desperate for attention. They all want to be picked up and held, even the older children. They need to have that human touch, that expression of gentleness.

William Barclay’s commentary states that the Greek word for “gentleness” is praotes (prah-OH-tays) and is “the most untranslatable of words.” It is defined as being submissive to the will of God, being teachable, and being considerate.

What image of God is given in today’s passage? How is God’s gentleness expressed?

From the weakest to the strongest, from the youngest to the oldest, we are all in need of God’s tender mercy. We all need those moments of gentleness, where we are cared for, protected, and wrapped in the safe arms of the Father.

But like all else, we are not to simply stop there, receiving the comfort of God’s gentleness and being content. We must go from this place of safety and express God’s gentleness ourselves, lifting up those who have fallen, leading those who are lost.

Gentleness may seem like the least of the qualities, the least of the aspects of the fruit of the Spirit. Yet it is one of the most demanding.

To live out gentleness we must submit completely to God – and this is a difficult thing to do, requiring effort and sacrifice. We must become teachable – that is, we must allow ourselves to be led and controlled by God. And finally, we must express the tenderness of loving others through our considerate acts of love.

Gentleness is not being idle and docile. It is being active in expressing kindness and love, active in giving comfort, active in serving others. As the shepherd gathers his sheep, as Jesus has gathered each of us, we also must gather up the hurting and lost. God’s love expressed through our love should be given in an attitude of gentleness.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Who needs expressions of gentleness from you?