Mildness—An Essential Christian Quality
“Clothe yourselves with . . . mildness.”—COLOSSIANS 3:12.
1. What makes mildness a remarkable quality?
WHEN the weather is mild, it is agreeable, enjoyable. When a person is mild, or mild-mannered, as we may say, it is a pleasure to be with him. Yet, “a mild tongue itself can break a bone,” observed wise King Solomon. (Proverbs 25:15) Mildness is a remarkable quality that combines pleasantness with power.
2, 3. What connection is there between mildness and holy spirit, and what will we consider in this article?
2 The apostle Paul included mildness in his list of “the fruitage of the spirit,” found at Galatians 5:22, 23. The Greek word that is translated “mildness” in Ga 5 verse 23 in the New World Translation is often rendered “meekness” or “gentleness” in other versions of the Bible. The fact is that it is difficult to find an exact equivalent for this Greek word in most other languages because the original term describes, not outward gentleness or meekness, but inward mildness and graciousness; not the manner of one’s behavior, but the condition of one’s mind and heart.
3 To help us appreciate more fully the meaning and value of mildness, let us consider four Bible examples. (Romans 15:4) Doing so, we will learn not only what this quality is but also how it can be acquired and manifested in all our dealings.
“Of Great Value in the Eyes of God”
4. How do we know that Jehovah values mildness?
4 Since mildness is a part of the fruitage of God’s spirit, it is logical that we should find it to be closely associated with God’s marvelous personality. The apostle Peter wrote that a “quiet and mild spirit” is “of great value in the eyes of God.” (1 Peter 3:4) Indeed, mildness is a godly trait; Jehovah values it highly. Certainly, this in itself is reason enough for all of God’s servants to cultivate mildness. How, though, does the almighty God, the highest Authority in the universe, show mildness?
5. Because of Jehovah’s mildness, what prospect do we have?
5 When the first human pair, Adam and Eve, disobeyed God’s clear command not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and bad, they did so deliberately. (Genesis 2:16, 17) That willful act of disobedience resulted in sin, death, and alienation from God for them and their future offspring. (Romans 5:12) Even though Jehovah was fully justified in rendering that judgment, he did not harshly write off the human family as totally incorrigible and unredeemable. (Psalm 130:3) Rather, out of his graciousness and his willingness not to be exacting or demanding—expressions of mildness—Jehovah provided the means through which sinful mankind can come to him and gain his favor. Yes, by means of the gift of the ransom sacrifice of his Son, Jesus Christ, Jehovah makes it possible for us to approach his lofty throne without fear or dread.—Romans 6:23; Hebrews 4:14-16; 1 John 4:9, 10, 18.
6. How was mildness evident in God’s dealings with Cain?
6 Long before Jesus came to earth, Jehovah’s mildness was manifested when Cain and Abel, Adam’s sons, presented sacrifices to God. Discerning their heart condition, Jehovah rejected Cain’s offering but ‘looked with favor’ upon Abel and his offering. God’s benevolent view of faithful Abel and his sacrifice prompted an adverse reaction on the part of Cain. “Cain grew hot with great anger, and his countenance began to fall,” says the Bible account. How did Jehovah react? Was he offended by Cain’s bad attitude? No. Mildly, he asked Cain why he was so angry. Jehovah even explained what Cain could do to gain “an exaltation.” (Genesis 4:3-7) Truly, Jehovah is the embodiment of mildness.—Exodus 34:6.
Mildness Attracts and Refreshes
7, 8. (a) How can we come to appreciate Jehovah’s mildness? (b) What do the words of Matthew 11:27-29 reveal about Jehovah and Jesus?
7 One of the best ways to appreciate Jehovah’s matchless qualities is to study the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. (John 1:18; 14:6-9) While in Galilee during the second year of his preaching campaign, Jesus performed many powerful works in Chorazin, Bethsaida, Capernaum, and the area round about. Yet, most of the people were proud and indifferent, and they refused to believe. How did Jesus react? While he firmly reminded them of the consequences of their faithlessness, he was moved with pity by the miserable spiritual condition of the ʽam ha·ʼaʹrets, the lowly, ordinary folk among them.—Matthew 9:35, 36; 11:20-24.
8 Jesus’ subsequent actions showed that he did “fully know the Father” and imitated him. To the common people, Jesus extended this warm invitation: “Come to me, all you who are toiling and loaded down, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am mild-tempered and lowly in heart, and you will find refreshment for your souls.” How those words brought comfort and refreshment to those who were downtrodden and oppressed! They even have appeal for us today. If we sincerely clothe ourselves with mildness, then we will be among those “to whom the Son is willing to reveal” his Father.—Matthew 11:27-29.
9. What quality is linked with mildness, and how is Jesus a fine example in this regard?
9 Closely linked with mildness is humility, being “lowly in heart.” Pride, on the other hand, leads to self-exaltation and may often cause one to treat others in a harsh and callous way. (Proverbs 16:18, 19) Jesus demonstrated humility throughout his earthly ministry. Even when he rode into Jerusalem six days before his death and was hailed as King of the Jews, Jesus differed greatly from rulers of the world. He fulfilled Zechariah’s Messianic prophecy: “Look! Your King is coming to you, mild-tempered, and mounted upon an ass, yes, upon a colt, the offspring of a beast of burden.” (Matthew 21:5; Zechariah 9:9) The faithful prophet Daniel saw a vision in which Jehovah delegated ruling authority to his Son. Yet, in an earlier prophecy, he described Jesus as “the lowliest one of mankind.” Mildness and humility do indeed go hand in hand.—Daniel 4:17; 7:13, 14.
10. Why does Christian mildness not imply weakness?
10 The delightful mildness displayed by Jehovah and Jesus helps us draw close to them. (James 4:8) Of course, mildness does not imply weakness. Far from it! Jehovah, the almighty God, displays an abundance of dynamic energy and power. His anger blazes against unrighteousness. (Isaiah 30:27; 40:26) Jesus likewise showed a firm resolve not to compromise, even when under assault from Satan the Devil. He refused to tolerate the illicit commercial practices of the religious leaders of his day. (Matthew 4:1-11; 21:12, 13; John 2:13-17) Yet, he maintained mildness of temper when dealing with the shortcomings of his disciples, and he patiently bore their weaknesses. (Matthew 20:20-28) One Bible scholar aptly described mildness this way: “Behind the gentleness there is the strength of steel.” May we display this Christlike quality—mildness.
Most Mild-Tempered of His Day
11, 12. In view of his upbringing, what made Moses’ mildness outstanding?
11 The third example we will consider is that of Moses. The Bible describes him as “the most mild-tempered of all the men who were upon the surface of the ground.” (Numbers 12:3, footnote) This description was penned under divine inspiration. Moses’ outstanding mildness made him receptive to Jehovah’s direction.
12 Moses’ upbringing was unusual. Jehovah ensured that this son of faithful Hebrew parents was preserved alive during a time of treachery and murder. Moses spent his early years in the care of his mother, who carefully taught him about the true God, Jehovah. Later, Moses was taken from his home to live in surroundings that could hardly have been more different. “Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians,” recounted the early Christian martyr Stephen. “In fact, [Moses] was powerful in his words and deeds.” (Acts 7:22) His faith came to the fore when he observed the injustices heaped on his brothers by Pharaoh’s slave masters. For killing an Egyptian whom he saw striking a Hebrew, Moses had to flee from Egypt to the land of Midian.—Exodus 1:15, 16; 2:1-15; Hebrews 11:24, 25.
13. What effect did Moses’ 40-year sojourn in Midian have on him?
13 At age 40, Moses had to fend for himself in a wilderness. In Midian he met Reuel’s seven daughters and helped them draw water for their father’s large flock. On returning home the young women delightedly explained to Reuel that “a certain Egyptian” had delivered them from the shepherds causing them trouble. At Reuel’s invitation, Moses resided with the family. The adversities that he had suffered did not leave him bitter; nor did they prevent him from learning to adjust his life-style to his new surroundings. His desire to do Jehovah’s will never wavered. Through 40 long years, during which he cared for Reuel’s sheep, married Zipporah, and brought up his sons, Moses developed and honed the quality that came to characterize him. Yes, through adversity, Moses learned mildness.—Exodus 2:16-22; Acts 7:29, 30.
14. Describe an incident during Moses’ leadership of Israel that demonstrated his mildness.
14 After Jehovah appointed him leader of the nation of Israel, Moses’ quality of mildness was still in evidence. A young man reported to Moses that Eldad and Medad were acting as prophets in the camp—even though they were not present when Jehovah poured out his spirit upon the 70 older men who were to serve as Moses’ helpers. Joshua declared: “My lord Moses, restrain them!” Moses mildly replied: “Are you feeling jealous for me? No, I wish that all of Jehovah’s people were prophets, because Jehovah would put his spirit upon them!” (Numbers 11:26-29) Mildness helped defuse that tense situation.
15. Though Moses was imperfect, why is his example one to follow?
15 On one occasion Moses’ mildness seems to have failed him. At Meribah, near Kadesh, he neglected to direct glory to Jehovah, the Miracle Worker. (Numbers 20:1, 9-13) Though Moses was imperfect, his unwavering faith supported him throughout his life, and his outstanding mildness appeals to us even today.—Hebrews 11:23-28.
Harshness Versus Mildness
16, 17. What warning do we draw from the account of Nabal and Abigail?
16 A warning example comes from the time of David, shortly after the death of God’s prophet Samuel. It involves a married couple, Nabal and his wife, Abigail. What a contrast there was between these two! While Abigail was “good in discretion,” her husband was “harsh and bad in his practices.” Nabal rudely refused a request for refreshment from David’s men, who had helped to guard Nabal’s large flocks from thieves. Righteously indignant, David and a band of his men girded on their swords and set off to confront Nabal.—1 Samuel 25:2-13.
17 When word of what had happened reached Abigail, she quickly prepared bread, wine, meat, and cakes of raisins and figs and went out to meet David. “Upon me myself, O my lord, be the error,” she beseeched him. “Please, let your slave girl speak in your ears, and listen to the words of your slave girl.” David’s heart softened at Abigail’s mild entreaty. After listening to Abigail’s explanation, David declared: “Blessed be Jehovah the God of Israel, who has sent you this day to meet me! And blessed be your sensibleness, and blessed be you who have restrained me this day from entering into bloodguilt.” (1 Samuel 25:18, 24, 32, 33) Nabal’s harshness ultimately led to his death. Abigail’s fine qualities eventually brought her the joy of becoming David’s wife. Her mildness sets a pattern for all who serve Jehovah today.—1 Samuel 25:36-42.
18, 19. (a) What changes become apparent as we clothe ourselves with mildness? (b) What can help us make an effective self-examination?
18 Mildness, then, is a must. It is more than mere gentleness of manner; it is an appealing quality of temperament that refreshes others. In the past, we might have been accustomed to speaking harshly and acting unkindly. Upon learning Bible truth, however, we changed and became more pleasant and agreeable. Paul spoke of this change when he urged fellow Christians: “Clothe yourselves with the tender affections of compassion, kindness, lowliness of mind, mildness, and long-suffering.” (Colossians 3:12) The Bible likens this transformation to the change of vicious wild beasts—wolf, leopard, lion, bear, and cobra—to peaceful domestic animals—lamb, kid, calf, and cow. (Isaiah 11:6-9; 65:25) So outstanding are such personality changes that observers marvel. We, though, attribute this transformation to the operation of God’s spirit, for included in its truly remarkable fruitage is mildness.
19 Does this mean that once we have made the needed changes and dedicated ourselves to Jehovah, we no longer need to work at being mild of temper? Hardly. Why, new clothes need constant care to keep them looking clean and presentable. Peering into God’s Word and meditating on the examples it contains help us to take a fresh and objective look at ourselves. What does the mirror of the inspired Word of God reveal about you?—James 1:23-25.
20. How can we succeed in displaying mildness?
20 By nature, temperaments differ. Some of God’s servants find it easier to manifest mildness than do others. Nonetheless, all Christians need to cultivate the fruitage of God’s spirit, including mildness. Paul lovingly admonished Timothy: “Pursue righteousness, godly devotion, faith, love, endurance, mildness of temper.” (1 Timothy 6:11) The word “pursue” implies that effort is needed. One Bible translation renders this exhortation ‘set your heart on.’ (New Testament in Modern English, by J. B. Phillips) If you make the effort to meditate on the fine examples from God’s Word, they can become a part of you, just like an implant. They will mold and guide you.—James 1:21.
21. (a) Why should we pursue mildness? (b) What will be discussed in our next article?
21 The way we conduct ourselves toward others demonstrates how well we are doing in this regard. “Who is wise and understanding among you?” asks the disciple James. “Let him show out of his fine conduct his works with a mildness that belongs to wisdom.” (James 3:13) How can we display this Christian quality at home, in the Christian ministry, and in the congregation? The following article presents helpful guidance.
• What did you learn about mildness from the example of
• Why do we need to pursue mildness?
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Why did Jehovah look with favor on Abel’s offering?
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Jesus showed that mildness and humility go hand in hand
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Moses set a fine example of mildness