Demonstrating gentleness toward others, especially when they’re against us, means we’re walking in the humility needed to handle others with care in the ways we speak and the ways we act. Gentleness is a determination to encourage and bless others as we interact with them. So in the face of persecution, we shouldn’t be angry, meeting aggression with aggression. When we meet aggression with aggression, we only create more aggression. But when we meet aggression with gentleness, we stop escalation in its tracks.
In some ways, this was the brilliance of Martin Luther King Jr.’s philosophy during the civil rights movement. He knew that to heal his country and address systemic oppression, he had to stop the cycle of aggression and retaliation—not by passively accepting the status quo, and not by violently fighting against it, but by living for the kingdom of God here on earth, in gentleness, meekness, and peacefulness.
When we choose to live beautifully, we break the most grotesque cycles of injustice we see in our world. Dr. King learned this truth from his Savior, Jesus.
Jesus is textbook gentleness. The Bible says that when he was arrested, “as a sheep to the slaughter . . . He opened not His mouth.” If there were ever a person in the history of humanity who could have laid out everything each of his persecutors ever did and held it over their heads, it was Jesus of Nazareth. But he chose not to defend himself. Why? Because he wasn’t looking for anyone’s validation, except his heavenly Father’s.
And, brothers and sisters, even if we never contend with persecution, the goal is the same: God is still calling us all to be gentle.
So as followers of Jesus in this world, we need to show ourselves as gentle with our politics, gentle with our spouses, gentle with our kids, gentle with our grandkids, gentle with our neighbors, gentle at our places of work and worship, gentle wherever we go.
In 1 Thessalonians 2:7–8, Paul said, “We were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children. So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us.”
Paul was gentle to this church because the people had become dear to him. Our job, as followers of Jesus in a dying world, is to let this world become dear to us, that we might demonstrate Christ’s own gentleness to everyone we meet. This world is dear to Jesus—so dear that he took all the sins of humanity upon himself on the cross. And what’s amazing is that if, God forbid, we do encounter persecution, he would want our persecutors to become dear to us, that we might respond in gentleness.
Jesus died not just for the persecution we experience at the hands of others but for our persecution of others, too, in our own rebellion. And now he’s inviting us to let his Spirit of gentleness breathe through our lives to a hurting, fragile world.
And let’s not miss the fact that usually aggression is a symptom of deeper hurt or fear. Agression reveals a person’s fragility. And when you respond to someone who is hurt and scared in an aggressive way, he or she gets more scared and more aggressive.
Jesus is the great de-escalator, and he’s calling you and me to that more excellent way.
The best thing about the crazy happy life? Jesus never says, “You got that? Good luck!” Every day he walks with us and empowers us by his Spirit, showing us the way and helping birth his gentleness in the face of our persecution.
Jesus himself lived this out as he gently prayed for forgiveness for those who crucified him. “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.”
As we follow Jesus and are transformed, this same gentleness adorns our life. The crazy happy life is one in which we respond to persecution with gentleness. And when that happens, the crazy happy life of Jesus is on display for all who have eyes to see.
Daniel Fusco is the author of “Crazy Happy: Nine Surprising Ways to Live the Truly Beautiful Life” and the lead pastor of Crossroads Community Church in Vancouver, Washington. His radio program, Jesus Is Real Radio, is broadcast across the country, and his TV show, Real with Daniel Fusco, airs weekly on the Hillsong Channel. Daniel and his wife, Lynn, have three children and live in southwest Washington.
Excerpted from Crazy Happy: Nine Surprising Ways to Live the Truly Beautiful Life. Copyright © 2021 by Daniel Fusco. Used by permission of WaterBrook, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.