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The Right Attitude

February 4th, 2010

“God blesses those who are gentle (and humble of heart).” Matthew 5:5 NLT/TEV

“Gentleness is not lack of strength; it is strength of character governing your conduct.”

My thoughts today are about “the right attitude.”

Our world loves a tough guy, a person of strength and action, forceful in getting things done, often at the expense of collateral damage left in their wake. I am reminded of the story of a little guy whose grandmother leaned down, kissed him on the forehead and proudly said, “You are my sweet, little lamb!” To which he strongly reacted, “Grandma, I don’t want to be a lamb; I want to be a tiger!” I think most of us would choose the same. Isn’t it interesting that Jesus said, “I am sending you out as lambs among wolves.” Luke 10:3 NLT. Not too reassuring, is it?

My Dad and I loved cowboy movies – Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Lash Larue, the Lone Ranger, and of course, Hopalong Cassidy. Together each Saturday morning, we watched Hopalong Cassidy on our little black and white Muntz TV (yeah, I know; that was a long time ago before IPods and flat panel, digital TVs). There were always bad guys who needed someone to take them down a notch or two, and Hopalong was just the man to do that. He was a tough guy in the nicest sort of way, only tough when he had to be. He was my childhood John Wayne.

Today, it seems like everyone wants to be a tough guy, hard-charging corporate executives with a take-no-prisoner attitude, strong willed leaders who command respect and demand compliance no matter who gets stepped on along the way. Jesus’ world was not much different than yours. The strongest ruled and the weaker submitted and/or suffered. Rome was all-powerful; its mighty legions feared everywhere; its taxes burdensome; its rule absolute.

And into that world, Jesus came preaching about His Kingdom, in the Sermon on the Mount. (See Matthew 5-7) Jesus surprised His listeners by talking about the kinds of people God blesses: the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, the hungry and thirsty, the merciful, the pure hearted, the peacemakers, and the persecuted. That’s how Jesus defined the right attitude. Had you lived in ancient Palestine struggling under Rome’s dominating rule would you have wanted any of those attributes, let alone all of them, to be prominent on your personal resume? I think not.

And some had a problem with that, like Peter the rough fisherman, James and John the “sons of thunder,” Judas the zealot who chafed under hated Rome, and Saul of Tarsus with threats in every breath. Yet that very kind of men was inexplicably drawn to this carpenter. Jesus did not apologize when He invited people, “Learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your soul.” Matthew 11:29 NIV. Something deep inside their rough exteriors longed to be different – to find the rest for their soul that Jesus promised.

Okay, what then would gentleness look like in your everyday life? First, let me be clear about what it is not. Gentleness is not weakness, nor is it your fallback position when you have no other option. Gentleness is strength under perfect control. The truly gentle person touches tenderly, listens carefully, walks softly, waits patiently, cares deeply, and serves readily. Being gentle is not about lack of strength; gentleness is about strength of character governing your conduct. Gentleness is all about being like Jesus, and treating others, as Jesus loves you. See John 13:34 NIV/1 Thessalonians 2:7-8 NIV/Galatians 5:22-26 NIV.

My prayer for you today is to be real, and let your reality be like Jesus.

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