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A Gentle Ministry

October 1, 2022 | by: Matt Hauck | 0 comments


As I reflect on various attempts to minister to people over the years, I can think of countless times A Gentle Ministry. I have missed the mark. Whether in the church, in evangelism, in marriage or parenting, there were times I was more intent to say what I thought was right than I was to actually understand others and help them come to appreciate what was right. Sometimes this might mean being formal and detached, not really paying attention, or at other times just plain harsh. Indeed, the very night I was wrapping up writing this, I spoke harshly to one of my kids who had come out of bed one too many times for my liking. Oh, the irony. “I’m busy writing an article about gentleness!” Lord, have mercy!

In stark contrast to this stands one of my favorite descriptions of Jesus, from the prophet Isaiah: “a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench.” (Isaiah 42:3) This passage is quoted in the gospel of Matthew describing the ministry of Jesus even as it drew the ire of the Pharisees for not conforming to their Sabbath standards. It so vividly depicts the character of Jesus’ ministry. While true that Jesus did not mince words in addressing the false teachers of the Pharisees directly, that was not the main tenor of his ministry; the main tenor of his ministry was gentleness and compassion.

Needless to say, it is difficult to tend to a bruised reed and seek to straighten it without breaking it in the process! It is difficult to fan to flame a faintly burning wick without quenching it! Both descriptions point to extreme care, gentleness, thoughtfulness. Jesus noticed people, he cared for people, and he loved people. He noticed people who were barely holding on by a strand: people crushed, discouraged, beset by weaknesses or sin. On noticing, he cared about them: he felt their very pain and he grieved with them at the effects of sin in their lives. This care led him to act in love towards them: to extend God's grace in whatever way they required.

Furthermore, this was not just the behavior of Jesus as a man; this is the very character of God! Jesus, in his earthly ministry, revealed the Father’s heart to us. Really, this aspect of God’s character should have come as no surprise, as Isaiah had already said: "For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: 'I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.'" (Isaiah 57:15) There is no contradiction here. For God to be gentle and compassionate is part of who he is as the Holy One.

As we reflect on the culture we live in, I think there is a danger in over-emphasizing the threat of the culture as out to get us and forget that we have, in fact, been sent out to “get” them! Brothers and sisters, we are surrounded by people who are lost and confused, like sheep without a shepherd. They don't know Who made them, they don't know what life is about, they don't know what the future holds for them. Whether ignorant through circumstances or determination, they march forward in life blindfolded and are bound to stumble eventually.

I have, at times, sadly found it easier to be obnoxiously in people's faces with the gospel than to be tender and genuine in the presentation of the gospel. It can be easier to think of unbelievers as adversaries that need to be conquered with a pile of Bible verses than to think of them as faintly burning wicks that need gentle, kind, enduring care. But the harder thing is what God has called us to, not the easier thing. "The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth.” (2Timothy 2:24–25)

It goes without saying that this kindness should be doubly manifest amongst the church. We the church are the family of God, we are brothers and sisters, joint-heirs of the grace of God, all washed by the blood of Christ, precious in the eyes of God, chosen from before the foundation of the world. Let us be zealous to build each other up towards maturity, and let us be patient with each other, as we ourselves have often required patience in our own walk.

It is easier to just tell people exactly what we think, though, isn’t it? The words go straight from our heart to our lips before we’ve thought too carefully about whether they will build up, whether we have listened sufficiently first, whether they are considerate of the hearer’s circumstances. I used to think, “Speaking the truth is love.” But the verse actually says: “speaking the truth in love.” (Ephesians 4:15) There is a difference! God calls us to carefully, tactfully, lovingly speak truth into each other’s lives, and this is how we “grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.”

The gospel is what frees us to extend gentleness! We know where to find mercy, both for ourselves and for others. God has forgiven us all our harshness and impatience through Jesus’ suffering on the cross! Furthermore, it is precisely because God has treated us this way that we are able to treat others the same. The world tells us that gentleness is a sign of weakness. Our heart tells us that if we are gentle with someone who is harsh, we will get stepped all over. God calls us to entrust ourselves to him and patiently endure evil. We can trust him who loved us, in whose hands are our very lives, who gave his own life to redeem us, rose from the grave to conquer sin and death, who sent his Spirit to indwell and empower us, and who has promised we will live forever in his presence! Let us rest our hope in him, and so press on in gentle, truthful, compassionate ministry.

"Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.
And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us,
a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."
(Ephesians 5:1-2)

Matt Hauck is a member of Grace Bible Church.