Growing up as a young boy in Texas “gentleness” was not on my bucket list of qualities to acquire. I grew up with Bonanza and G.I. Joes. Never once did Mr. Rogers appear on my list of “people I most want to be like.” How could he help when challenged to a fight? Which I was by Rusty in the sixth grade.

Rusty got mad at me about something and called me out to meet him at the bike racks after school. It never crossed my mind to say these words to Rusty: “It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood, a beautiful day for a neighbor. Would you be mine? Could you be mine?”

For some reason Rusty didn’t show so I didn’t have to say anything. But if Mr. Rogers is our idea of gentleness most of us don’t want that.

Which creates a dilemma for those of us who follow Jesus. “Gentleness” is a fruit of the Spirit. The word was used, however, to speak of a tamed animal or soothing medicine. Think of a 1000 pound horse that, when broken, has controlled strength. Or medicine that is strong enough to cure but is easy on the stomach.

That’s a gentleness we might connect with. “Gentleness” then is strength under control.

  • Its Jesus surrounded by a mob in the Garden who could have called twelve legions of angels but didn’t because of a greater goal.
  • And it’s you and me when we are gentle in our relationships with each other. We keep our voices down. We stay in control in the midst of conflict.
  • And it’s you and me when correction is needed. We listen first and, if someone is incorrect in an understanding of Scripture, we gently correct.
  • And it’s you and me when confronting sin. Who would you want confronting you: someone who is harsh or gentle? Gentleness is a sign of the spiritually mature person who restores the one caught in a sin.

Mr. Rogers fit this definition of gentleness after all. At the 1997 Daytime Emmys he was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award. He walked onstage in front of all the daytime stars, GQ men and glamourous women. He stood at the microphone and said, “All of us have special ones who have loved us into being. Would you just take, along with me, ten seconds to think of the people who have helped you become who you are. Ten seconds of silence.”

And then he lifted his wrist, looked at the audience, looked at his watch, and said, “I’ll watch the time.” As people realized that he wasn’t kidding they did what he asked. Men’s jaws grew tight. Women’s mascara ran. Tears fell from both. Mister Rogers was an authority figure displaying a controlled strength who actually expected them to do what he asked. And they did.

After ten seconds Mister Rogers finally looked up from his watch and said with gentleness “May God be with you.”  And may he be with you as he develops gentleness in your life.

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