Instructing with Mildness
1, 2. Why do Christians need mildness in our time?
THERE is another reason why the Christian needs to cultivate mildness. True, it makes him happier, he is easier to get along with, it enables him to be more receptive to God’s truths and thus puts him on the way to everlasting life; but there is something else. Mildness is also necessary when performing the great preaching work that Christians are commissioned to do in these critical last days.
2 God’s truths must be dispensed to humankind. A witness must be given throughout the earth before the end of this present wicked system of things. Additionally, those already dedicated to God must be fed continually with truths from God’s Word. All of this requires much instructing, and mildness plays an important part in carrying it out. There may be various ways of teaching employed in this world, but where God’s Word is concerned, the knowledge contained in it is to be imparted to others in mildness.
3-5. (a) How do we know that instructing with mildness is the right way? (b) Why would sheeplike persons be attracted to Jesus?
3 Instructing with mildness is the right way, the Scriptural way, the way that brings the greatest response from truth seekers. We know this is true because the greatest instructor that ever lived, Jesus Christ, used mildness when teaching the truth to others. This outstanding quality, mildness, was a part of his personality, and he used it with telling effect when instructing those hungering and thirsting for righteousness.
4 That Jesus had a mild disposition, he himself makes clear: “Come to me, all you who are toiling and loaded down, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon you and become my disciples, for I am mild-tempered and lowly in heart, and you will find refreshment for your souls.” (Matt. 11:28, 29) How effective Jesus’ teaching would be because of his mild-tempered ways! Eagerly sheeplike persons would search him out to listen to him expound God’s truths. They would not be afraid of him as they were of their harsh, oppressive political and religious leaders who had lorded it over them without concern for their welfare.
5 Jesus had tender feeling for these common people who were in such pitiful condition spiritually and physically. “On seeing the crowds he felt pity for them, because they were skinned and thrown about like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matt. 9:36) Mild-mannered Jesus, feeling pity for these downtrodden and abused people, would indeed be a source of refreshment for their souls. How different he was from what they were used to! What an uplifting experience it was to be in his presence! Jesus was not like their harsh taskmasters, but he was mild, kind, generous, understanding, loving.
6. Would Jesus’ mild ways attract everyone?
6 The mild ways of Jesus would not attract everybody. Those who were not sheeplike and had no real love for the truth would probably view his manner as foolish and impractical in a hard world. Nor would the wicked ones respond. But Jesus did not want to attract just anyone into God’s new system of things. He was not calling those who would love what was wrong and hate what was right. His mild ways would appeal to the right kind of persons, to lovers of righteousness. These are the ones Jesus was after. He was hunting for “sheep,” not “goats.”
7. What care must be exercised when rebuking others as Jesus did?
7 It was when dealing with wicked, goatlike persons that we see Jesus using stronger language and actions. Jesus was mild, but he was not weak. When necessary, he denounced others, especially the hypocritical religious leaders, the scribes and Pharisees. Repeatedly he told them: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” (Matt. 23:13-36) At times, some of God’s servants may need to deliver rebukes to others, but they must exercise great care in how they do so, for they do not have the insight that Jesus did. Hence, the times not to be mild must be the exception and must be weighed very carefully. In this, Jesus set the pattern, but he had authority and discernment that imperfect humans do not have today.
PAUL INSTRUCTED WITH MILDNESS
8. How did Paul show that instructing was to be done with mildness?
8 The apostle Paul knew that Jesus’ method of teaching with mildness was the best and was the pattern to follow, for he said: “Now I myself, Paul, entreat you by the mildness and kindness of the Christ.” (2 Cor. 10:1) Note, too, what he stated at First Thessalonians 2:5-8 in connection with his way of dealing with others: “At no time have we turned up either with flattering speech, (just as you know) or with a false front for covetousness, God is witness! Neither have we been seeking glory from men, no, either from you or from others, though we could be an expensive burden as apostles of Christ. To the contrary, we became gentle in the midst of you, as when a nursing mother cherishes her own children. So, having a tender affection for you, we were well pleased to impart to you, not only the good news of God, but also our own souls, because you became beloved to us.” To be gentle, to have tender affection, Paul had to be mild. He was.
9, 10. How did others respond to Paul’s mildness?
9 How did the brothers in the Christian congregation respond to this mild-mannered apostle? Well, on one occasion when Paul told the older men from the congregation in Ephesus that they would see him no more, note the reaction: “Indeed, quite a bit of weeping broke out among them all, and they fell upon Paul’s neck and tenderly kissed him, because they were especially pained at the word he had spoken that they were going to behold his face no more.” (Acts 20:37, 38) These Christians loved the mild-mannered apostle and wanted to be around him, for they found refreshment in this servant of God. It distressed them much to think that they might see him no more. At his departure there was no cold formality, but tenderness, tears and much appreciation for the service he had rendered them.
10 If Paul had employed harsh, worldly methods in his instructing, it is very unlikely that he would have been the recipient of such genuine tenderness. Sincere expressions of love and gratitude are hardly given to the harsh person, because harshness repels, it does not attract. There is no weeping at the departure of the hard, cruel taskmaster, but, rather, there is great relief.
APPEAL TO FREE WILL
11, 12. Why is harshness not God’s way?
11 Harsh methods of leading and instructing frighten. They do not inspire trust and love. They may get obedience for a while, but it is not a willing obedience. What is forced upon others usually does not endure, but is thrown off at the earliest opportunity. So forced obedience is neither desirable nor lasting, for Jehovah implanted in man a free will and desires willing obedience from him.
12 Most persons resent and resist harshness, pressure or compulsion. When “the Egyptians made the sons of Israel slave under tyranny,” how did it affect the oppressed? (Ex. 1:13) Exodus 1:14 tells us that “they kept making their life bitter with hard slavery.” When King Rehoboam said: “My father, for his part, made your yoke heavy, but I, for my part, shall add to your yoke,” the people revolted, as Jehovah foretold. (1 Ki. 12:14) In striking contrast Jesus told his listeners: “My yoke is kindly and my load is light.” (Matt. 11:30) No wonder truth seekers in that day followed him instead of the heavy-handed religious leaders who “bind up heavy loads and put them upon the shoulders of men, but they themselves are not willing to budge them with their finger.”—Matt. 23:4.
13. How did Paul appeal to the free will of Philemon?
13 Observe how Paul appealed to the free will of Philemon in the matter of the runaway slave, Onesimus. When Paul was in prison Onesimus was very useful to him. But Paul wrote the slave’s owner, Philemon, and said: “I would like to hold him back for myself that in place of you he might keep on ministering to me in the prison bonds I bear for the sake of the good news.” But did Paul hold this slave back for himself? No! For he told Philemon: “But without your consent I do not want to do anything, so that your good act may be, not as under compulsion, but of your own free will.” What a difference such an attitude makes! We can imagine how Philemon would have felt had Paul said to him instead: ‘Now, look here, Philemon, I need this slave of yours, so I’m going to keep him no matter what you say.’ No, Paul knew better, for he instructed with mildness. He would rather have been inconvenienced than deal with Philemon in harshness or try to compel him to act against his own free will.—Philem. 13, 14.
14. What other examples show that willingness is desired?
14 When speaking of generosity, Paul also followed this principle of appealing in mildness to the free will of others. He stated: “Let each one do just as he has resolved in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Cor. 9:7) When Peter counseled the older men in the organization about their attitude toward the position of oversight they held, he urged: “Shepherd the flock of God in your care, not under compulsion, but willingly.” These mature ones should not feel they are forced to shepherd God’s flock, but should do so in harmony with their free will.—1 Pet. 5:2.
15. What part does self-discipline play in doing God’s will?
15 Appealing to the free will of people in mildness does not necessarily mean that everybody who dedicates his life to God will fully appreciate all the obligations Christians have. At first, some may find certain requirements difficult to perform. But just because such ones may take time to cultivate appreciation and liking for these things does not mean they will not do them. For instance, when telling of the necessity to preach the good news, Paul acknowledged that some might not want to do so at first, that it might be against the will that the person had molded up to that point in his life. Paul said: “If I perform this willingly, I have a reward; but if I do it against my will, all the same I have a stewardship entrusted to me.” (1 Cor. 9:17) Paul was not saying that someone else would force him to do this. What he was saying was that some would need to overcome their own selfish will in order to conform to God’s will, for, at first, the imperfect flesh may not always be delighted at doing what is right. Yet, even these who do it against their will are blessed, for they are not compelled to do so, but compel themselves because they love God and want to do His will. That is why Paul said: “I browbeat my body and lead it as a slave.” (1 Cor. 9:27) So this kind of obedience to God is still basically willing, of one’s own free will, because the individual is not forced by someone else, but he exercises discipline over himself in order to do God’s will.
WHEN PREACHING TO OTHERS
16. Did Peter agree with the methods of Jesus and Paul?
16 The kind of people Jehovah wants to live in his new order are those who will respond to the appeal of the truth of their own free will. With these persons our instructing will be most effective when done in mildness. From house to house, when calling back on such interested ones, or when teaching them the Bible in their own homes, the instructor will get his points over much better by a mild, gentle appeal to principles, logic and the beauty of the truth. Peter showed that this method was the one we should use in the work of instructing others when he said: “But sanctify the Christ as Lord in your hearts, always ready to make a defense before everyone that demands of you a reason for the hope in you, but doing so together with a mild temper and deep respect.”—1 Pet. 3:15.
17, 18. How does a lack of mildness hinder instruction?
17 When the Christian instructs with mildness, his listener will be better able to concentrate on the material being presented. He is not sidetracked as he would be if the instructor had a disagreeable manner. A teacher that is rash, argumentative and unpleasant will divert some of the student’s attention from the material and place it on the instructor. This would be a hindrance to his progress. The harsh instructor may even stumble others and drive them away from the truth! On the other hand, the one instructing with mildness finds this quality an asset and will be able to say as Paul did: “In no way are we giving any cause for stumbling, that our ministry might not be found fault with.”—2 Cor. 6:3.
18 Much patience is needed when preaching to others. Here, again, mildness aids the Christian. The mild person is not easily upset when the progress of others is slow, or where he finds indifference to the message. He has a much easier time being patient than does one who lacks mildness, for such are more prone to be hasty, quickly irritated and impatient when results are not forthcoming. But if we lose our mildness because progress is slow or because of negative responses, we will be defeating our purpose, working against what we are trying to accomplish.
19. If opposition comes, what should it not be due to?
19 Appreciate that the mild instructor will not always get a listening ear. In fact, some will oppose and fight against even the mildest of persons, as they did against Jesus. But if there is opposition to the instructor of the good news, it should be because of the message he bears, because he represents the Most High God, Jehovah, and not because of any rudeness or harshness of word or action on his part.
20, 21. Why should we maintain our mildness even when opposed?
20 Maintaining mildness under provocation will help even some of these opposers to have a change of heart. Proverbs 15:1 states: “An answer, when mild, turns away rage, but a word causing pain makes anger to come up.” So effective is mildness when dealing with those who oppose, especially in ignorance, that Proverbs 25:15 says: “A mild tongue itself can break a bone.” A mild disposition can, in time, do much to break down prejudice and opposition. “A slave of the Lord does not need to fight, but needs to be gentle toward all, qualified to teach, keeping himself restrained under evil, instructing with mildness those not favorably disposed; as perhaps God may give them repentance leading to an accurate knowledge of truth.”—2 Tim. 2:24, 25.
21 Many are those who initially oppose but who are struck with the Christian qualities of the one preaching to them and so begin investigating the message they bear, eventually becoming dedicated servants of God themselves. What a powerful reason for the Christian not to “return evil for evil” when faced with unreasonable people! But even where opposition persists, the Christian does not retaliate. He remembers the incident when the Samaritans did not receive Jesus. “When the disciples James and John saw this they said: ‘Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and annihilate them?’ But he [Jesus] turned and reproved them.” Vengeance belongs to God. He is the Judge and he will deal with hard-set opposers in due time.—Rom. 12:17; Luke 9:54, 55.
AMONG CHRISTIAN BROTHERS
22. Where else is mildness a necessity?
22 Mildness is for use not just with those outside the Christian congregation or family circle. It cannot be dispensed with just because one is dealing with those in the Christian faith. To the contrary, if we use mildness with those who are not of the faith, we need to use it even more so when dealing with our Christian brothers. Mildness is not a garment that the Christian puts on as a front to impress those on the outside. It must become a part of his personality. It is to be used all the time, particularly when dealing with those inside the Christian congregation. “Really, then, as long as we have time favorable for it, let us work what is good toward all, but especially toward those related to us in the faith.”—Gal. 6:10.
23. How does mildness help when misunderstandings arise?
23 If a misunderstanding arises between Christian brothers, mildness helps them to do the right thing. “Accordingly, as God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, clothe yourselves with the tender affections of compassion, kindness, lowliness of mind, mildness, and long-suffering. Continue putting up with one another and forgiving one another freely if anyone has a cause for complaint against another. Even as Jehovah freely forgave you, so do you also.” (Col. 3:12, 13) Those cultivating the mild spirit will more quickly make peace with their brother and forgive as God forgives. Mild-tempered ones are more likely to be “like-minded, showing fellow feeling, exercising brotherly love, tenderly affectionate, humble in mind.” Their mildness helps them approach the depth of love and affection Peter recommended when he said: “Above all things, have intense love for one another.” (1 Pet. 4:8) There is nothing so important in relations among Christian brothers that mildness, tenderness, empathy and love should be disposed of and cold, hard tactics substituted instead.
24. How is counsel to be given one who stumbles into wrongdoing?
24 At times a Christian may stumble into wrongdoing. Then he needs counsel. How is it to be given? “Brothers, even though a man takes some false step before he is aware of it, you who have spiritual qualifications try to restore such a man in a spirit of mildness.” (Gal. 6:1) For a person who takes a false step before he is aware of it restoration is promoted when he is corrected in mildness. Of course, where wrongdoing is willful and persists to the point of making a practice of wickedness, then the Christian congregation takes further measures to punish such wrongdoers and to protect the congregation.—1 Cor. 5:11-13; 2 John 9-11.
25, 26. What care should those taking the lead exercise, and what is their proper relationship to their brothers?
25 Overseers and ministerial assistants should exercise great care and work hard to continue their advancement in mildness. The many responsibilities they have, the various problems and difficulties they handle can work toward a loss of mildness if they resort to their own imperfect human reasoning and spirit. They want to be dependent on Jehovah and continually look to him for guidance by his holy spirit. In that way their mildness will be maintained and advanced. The congregation will be built up and encouraged by these mild shepherds who produce the fruitage of God’s spirit, but it will be discouraged and torn down by harshness. And in the Christian congregation, any who persist in dealing harshly with God’s flock will, in time, be removed from their privilege of serving their brothers. Peter warned those taking the lead that they should not do so “as lording it over those who are God’s inheritance, but becoming examples to the flock.”—1 Pet. 5:3.
26 Jesus showed that those taking the lead were to serve, or minister, to their brothers. “He put water into a basin and started to wash the feet of the disciples and to dry them off with the towel.” Explaining why he had done this, Jesus said: “You address me, ‘Teacher,’ and, ‘Lord,’ and you speak rightly, for I am such. Therefore, if I, although Lord and Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash the feet of one another. For I set the pattern for you, that, just as I did to you, you should do also.” On another occasion he declared to his followers: “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your minister, and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave.” This kind of humility God’s servants want to imitate today. Those mild in spirit will have no difficulty doing so, for mildness is the natural companion of humility.—John 13:5, 13-15; Matt. 20:26, 27.
27. Where else is mildness essential?
27 Mildness is essential in the smallest unit of the congregation, that is, the family circle. Fathers and mothers deal with one another and their offspring in mildness, not resorting to displays of bad temper or unreasonableness. The family head, the husband, needs to give much counsel and discipline, but it is to be done with mildness. This mild way of dealing with children will have a great effect for good on young minds. They will learn from infancy that the mild way is the way to deal with others. As they grow to adulthood, the mild spirit grows with them and becomes part of their Christian personality.
28. What are the results of mildness?
28 Instructing with mildness, then, is God’s way. It gets the best results when preaching to those outside the Christian congregation, when teaching and counseling those inside the congregation, and when instructing and correcting within the family circle. It makes for great peace and happiness individually and collectively. What a pleasure it is to be among an entire society of people who produce the fruitage of God’s spirit, who work, live and instruct with mildness! That God blesses such ones Jesus made plain when he said: “Happy are the mild-tempered ones, since they will inherit the earth.”—Matt. 5:5.