We sometimes get the wrong thing in our mind when we think about gentleness or meekness. We associate meekness with timidity or with shyness. Today, we use the word as a negative character quality, but that’s not what Christ or Paul had in mind when calling on us to be meek. Instead, they are calling on us to have a quiet strength that we are capable of holding under control, even under provocation.
James calls on us to receive God’s word with meekness. It’s a central component to our ability to be faithful. Peter also writes that we should be able to convey our hope to others in meekness, and James tells us we should be living in meekness and wisdom. Our examples should be gentle. Teaching others should be approached with gentleness. Galatians says we can take a soft approach when standing firm in the truth, and this requires self-control. If we are going to stand firm in the truth under pressure while remaining gentle and meek, we have to develop self-control.
The last item listed in the qualities of spiritual fruit is self-control. These qualities begin with love and end with self-control. Love cascades through all of these qualities, and they all require a foundation of self-control. This is a capacity to restrain our own impulses so we might serve God and others. Whether we’re talking about faithfulness, patience, forgiveness, or any other quality of Spirit living, we require self-control. By contrast, the items Paul lists in Galatians as defining worldly living demonstrate a lack of control.
Romans tells us we should be transformed from this world through God’s renewal. Self-control allows us to overcome the sinful and self-destructive behaviors that can consume a life without control. When Paul says, in Galatians, that we are called to freedom, we are freed from the bonds created by worldly living, but we can’t grow this self-control by ourselves. We have to accept help from others. As we rejoice together and we sorrow together, we should also be helping each other grow. Ephesians tells us we are to work together to grow in maturity and be more like Christ. Self-control has to be self-contained, but it does not have to grow alone.
-Katie Beth Fletcher