Key Scriptures: John, I, II, and III John, Titus 3:2, I Peter 3:15, II Timothy 2:24-26, James 3:17, Galatians 6: 22-23, 6:1, Ephesians 4:2, I Thessalonians 2:7, Colossians 3:12-5, I Timothy 6:11, Proverbs 15:1 and :4, Proverbs 25:15.
Guiding Question: What does it mean to be gentle and why is gentleness an important character trait for Christians?
Optional Introductory Activity: Bring in 2 cartons of eggs. Make sure none of the eggs are cracker or damaged. Before bringing the cartons to class cut off the tips that stick up so they are even with the tops of eggs. (For extra help there are numerous videos and instructions on the internet under “walking on eggs without breaking them”.) Ask the students if they think you can stand on the eggs without breaking them. (The trick is to be barefoot, step on one open carton of eggs with all of the points facing up and distribute your weight evenly over the eggs. Then have someone support you as you place your foot on the second open carton of eggs. Practice is your friend. Ask the students why it worked. In addition to the science behind it gentleness was crucial. Had you stomped on the eggs they would have broken.
Lesson: (Questions for the students are in bold italics.) Gentleness is quite possibly the fruit of the Spirit we struggle the most to understand (It’s synonym meekness is also found in The Beatitudes, Matthew 5:5.) The definition of gentleness includes the concept of mildness of manners or disposition, while the definition of meek includes submissive, obedient, humble, quiet and gentle. These qualities are rarely valued in our society yet God mentions them in two important scriptures. Clearly, God expects Christians to be gentle and/or meek but what behaviors does He really expect from us within those terms?
We get some of our best clues from looking at the life and writings of the apostle John. Read John 13:23 and John 19:25-27. What clues do those verses give us that John might be a gentle person? It appears that Joseph died some time earlier in the life of Jesus. Jesus obviously loved Mary very much. Even though Mary had several other children (half siblings of Jesus) Jesus asked John to take care of Mary until she eventually died. We can assume someone Jesus mentions He loves in a special way and trusts to care for His mother would be someone who is gentle.
The world often portrays gentile, meek people as those who are afraid to speak up when they face opposition. Yet John continued to preach Jesus boldly even when sent to jail (Acts 4:3) and most likely beaten and exiled. In fact some people define gentleness as great strength under control. They point our how mothers interact with their babies (I Thessalonians 2:7) or how an elephant can lift 300kg with its trunk but can also use that same trunk to pick a single peanut out of your hand without hurting you.
So why does God want Christians to be gentle? What are we to do with this gentleness? What can we learn from the following verses?
- Titus 3:1-8, for the good of everyone.
- I Peter 3:15, for sharing faith effectively.
- II Timothy 2:24-26, for helping people involved in evil to come to their senses.
- Galatians 6:1, for helping restore Christians who get caught up in sin.
- Ephesians 4:1-6, for the health of the Church.
- II Corinthians 10:1, because Jesus was meek and gentle
- I Timothy 6:11-12, to be a man (woman) of God.
Scripture makes it clear if you want to convince someone to do what God wants him or her to do you have to use gentleness. Does that mean we can’t be direct or boldly speak God’s truth?
Since John was the apostle that Jesus loved who is known for his love and gentleness in the early Church, let’s look at his writings and see how he taught the truth with gentleness. Read the following scriptures and discuss what they teach us about using gentleness when trying to convince others to obey God. (Note: Depending upon your students it may be important to have a discussion about why they as Christians should care passionately about encouraging others to obey God.)
- John took the time and effort to have a loving relationship with people. I John 2:1,7,12,14,18, II John :1, 12, III John :1,2.
- John tells the truth about what God expects. I John 2:15, 3:4,8, III John :11.
- John explains his motivations for encouraging them to obey God. I John 4:17-18, 3:16 and 2:12-14.
- John encourages them showing his belief they are fully capable of obeying God. III John (Implies Gaius wasn’t being particularly loving to Christian strangers needing to sent on their way, but John believes he will in the future.) II John :4-6, I John 5:3.
- John warns them about potential stumbling blocks as they try to obey God. II John :7-10, I John 4:1-6, 5:21.
If we want to help other people become Christians and live a godly life (part of our responsibilities as a Christian) we need to learn how to boldly speak the truth with gentleness.
Skills Activity: Review the main points of the lesson. Explain that many of their opportunities to speak God’s truth boldly with gentleness will come during conversations with people, friends, family and even strangers.
To be effective in these conversations students need to remember to (discuss each point, asking students to give real like examples of what that looks like in a real conversation)
- Listen – What clues is the person giving you about the problems sin is causing in their life, their emotions and what is on their heart?
- Show Empathy and Love – You don’t want to encourage any sinful behavior, but showing empathy for their emotions and demonstrating your love for them does not have to include allowing them to believe their sinful behavior is acceptable. They do however need to feel your love for them.
- Share what God wants for them and from them – Share stories and verses from the Bible. Help them see that their sin is and will continue to cause them pain. Explain what behaviors God wants from them instead.
- Explain why you are sharing what God wants with them – This is a time to one again show our love for them. You are sharing God’s commands not to be critical but because you love them. You want them to experience the peace and joy found when living the life God wants us to live. Most importantly you really want them to be in heaven with you one day.
- Let them know you believe in their ability to obey God – Often people are afraid of failing. Share about repentance and forgiveness but also that with God’s help thy can so it.
- If they decide to change, help them develop a plan to avoid sin – Offering to include them in the youth group, get adult help or encourage them as they go will help them take necessary steps after your conversation.
Demonstrate a possible conversation, using the above steps to tell someone God’s truth with gentleness. Divide the students into pairs. One student should play a peer struggling with sin and the other should share God’s truth with gentleness. Have the students switch roles and scenarios. Observe and offer help as the students practice. Bring class back together and discuss any challenges they faced. Offer general tips needed from your observations (tone of voice, body language, etc.)
Application Challenge: Find at least one person this week and have a conversation where you share God’s truth with gentleness.
Author: Thereasa Winnett