David Powlison on the Incalculably Powerful Gentleness of Jesus

I’ve highly recommended David Powlison’s outstanding book Good and Angry: Redeeming Anger, Irritation, Complaining, and Bitterness. This book reflects a big view of God, and I personally benefited from it. In this excerpt, David talks about the gentleness of Jesus, and how it’s been commonly misunderstood as a weakness, rather than a demonstration of God’s strength.

As I write in my book Face to Face with Jesus, “The gentle, compassionate Jesus is also the Jesus who drove the merchant-thieves from the temple and spoke condemnation against self-righteous religious leaders. His less popular qualities so outraged people that they nailed him to a cross. We should believe all that Scripture says about Jesus—whether or not it makes sense to our finite little minds.”  —Randy Alcorn

The English language has no full-orbed equivalent for the word translated as gentleness. Jesus exhibited this trait so remarkably that its fragrance and coloration marked his entire life. Here walked the Lord of glory among his own people. Every human being that Jesus met owed him life and utter loyalty. This is the LORD, to whom temple sacrifices were offered in repentance and gratitude. Yet most of these people ignored Jesus, misunderstood him, tried to use him, reviled him, and plotted against him. Even his own intimate followers, who basically loved him, repeatedly proved themselves dense as stones. How did he put up with it for thirty-three years? Gentleness. He was utterly mastered by merciful purposes.

Jesus dealt gently with the ignorant and misguided, even when he suffered at their hands. Such meekness is incalculably powerful. It is a virtue almost beyond our imagination, the ability to endure injury with patience and without resentment. I have known several people who demonstrated the firstfruits of this virtue. Their lives showed hints of radiance, a glimpse of the unveiled glory of Jesus, the loveliest thing I’ve ever seen. They were purposefully constructive in the most difficult circumstances.

We can understand to a degree that Jesus was compassionate toward sufferers. But when we consider that the Christ’s master purpose was self-sacrificing mercy for his enemies, here the gentleness of Jesus exceeds comprehension. George MacDonald captured the essence of such gentleness this way: “It’s a painful thing to be misjudged. But it’s no more than God puts up with every hour of the day. But he is patient. So long as he knows he’s in the right, he lets folk think what they like—‘til he has time to make them know better. Lord, make my heart clean within me, and then I’ll care little for any judgment but yours!”

It’s unfortunate that “gentle Jesus, meek and mild” has become a picture of someone weak and ineffectual, a sentimental, pablum savior, good for children, but not good enough for grown-ups. May the God of the Lord Jesus Christ give us his true gentleness. Such strength is a royal attribute.

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