Friday, March 14, 2008

Gentle and Quiet Spirit

“Let [your beauty] be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.” 1 Peter 3:4

This has always been one of those annoying verses in the Bible I've had to struggle not to take personally. I am the loudest one in my family. I was the loudest person on the faculty at every school where I taught. Loud is practically my middle name.

And my laugh is even louder. My kids used to tell me they could hear me laughing all the way across the football field as they took their places on the competition field in marching band. Today the entire bottom floor of AACS knew I'd come to visit because they heard me laughing in the teacher's lounge.

I had a close friend who lived in Virginia when our kids were little. We had a routine for several years of visiting each other every other month, taking turns in making the drive to spend the day at the other’s home. One day I was on my way over to Dawn’s house. As she prepared lunch, she told her little boy Justin that I was coming over with my kids to visit that day. Justin scowled up at her. “I don’t like Julie,” he told her. Dawn was astonished. She asked him why in the world he would not like her dear friend, who was always kind to him. “She scares me when she laughs,” he explained.

So it is disconcerting for someone like me to hear that God values a quiet and gentle spirit. Is the Bible really telling all of the enthusiastically loud people like me to pipe down and keep quiet? Is this really about personality type? Or do quiet and gentle, as the Bible defines them, go deeper than that? Let’s take a look at these two words.

1. Gentle: Greek = praus
The Greek word for “gentle” is also translated “meek”. It is used two other times in the NT.
Matt 5:5 “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”
Matt 21:5 “Behold, your king is coming to you, gentle, and mounted on a donkey.”

Meekness is not weakness. Jesus may have been meek, but He had power enough to calm a storm or raise the dead.

In the Old Testament, people who are described as gentle or meek were the ones who wholly relied on God rather than their own strength. Moses is described as the “meekest man who walked the earth.” This was no false humility. He totally relied on the Lord for his strength and power. He trusted God to defend His people. He trusted in God’s goodness and believed in God’s control over every situation. Moses was not preoccupied with himself at all. It was all about God getting glory.

2. Quiet: Greek = hasukios
The idea conveyed by this Greek word is a kind of peace and tranquility. The only other time it is used is in 1 Timothy, where it is translated “peaceable”.

Both of these words carry with them the idea of a confidence and trust in the Lord. We can be at peace when we know God is in control. He is totally good. Therefore we can rest and trust Him in every situation. Our hope must rest in the Lord alone.

To further illustrate his point, Peter reminds his readers in the next few verses of a well-known biblical figure: Sarah.

Sarah had that same kind of gentle and quiet spirit. This was demonstrated in her submission to her husband, Abraham. On two different occasions, when she and Abraham were living in a foreign land, Abraham told her to lie when asked about their relationship. “Tell them you are my sister,” he instructed her. Abraham did this out of a motive of self-preservation. He was concerned that someone would see Sarah in all her beauty and want her for his own. Abraham was afraid that person would take his life so he could then have his wife.

Sure enough, Sarah caught the eye of powerful men on both occasions. She was hauled off to the men’s harems and awaited her fate. We have no reason to believe she did anything other than what her husband told her to do. Why would she be so willing to trust God with this? Sarah knew that God had promised Abraham a son who would be born of her womb. God would not go back on His word. So she trusted in God to take care of her in the situation she was in.

Sarah was a woman with a gentle and quiet spirit. Hebrews 11, the faith hall of fame, includes the names of very few women. But Sarah’s name is up in lights as one who trusted God. It says “she considered Him faithful who had promised.” (Heb 11:11) Sarah put her hope in God alone.

A gentle and quiet spirit is a heart attitude. It says "I trust God to be totally good and totally in control." A heart that possesses this attitude can be at peace, because the focus and the responsibility is not theirs. It is on God alone.

Even loud people like me can cultivate a heart that trusts God.


Ann Hagerott said...

Your laughter is a very welcome sound at AACS. I only wish I had more time to "hang out" in the teacher's lounge and gab w/ you. What a great lesson you have given me in being gentle and quiet. As James seems to have decided to join the Army, I need to rely on God and know that he is in control and wants what is best for him. Thanks again for your great wisdom And NICE JOB ON THE USE OF YOUR NEW GREEK VOCABULARY!!
Ann H.

Anonymous said...

We so look forward to hearing the sounds of your laughter in school. You are a great inspiration to us all. We miss you more than you can ever imagine. Your words of encouragement are always perfect and come at the time when needed most!
Love you,

Anonymous said...

I think you passed your Greek exam :-)

Linda said...

Re Sarah--can't agree. It's not OK to lie because your boss told you to.

Julie Coleman said...

I never said Sarah lied! There is no scriptural evidence of this. Technically, Sarah really was Abraham's sister. And I am pretty sure she was not allowed to put in her two cents, anyway. In both cases, Sarah was "taken" to the men's homes. More like a piece of property than a love interest. The point was Sarah trusted the Lord with her circumstances. She demonstrated this by her submission.

The point of the article was that submission is more than blind obedience. It is an act which looks to the other's needs first. Certainly lying for a boss would not be acting in the boss' best interests. It would only encourage a lack of intergrity, which is opposite to enabling him to build character.