I explained to her that her approach to him had lured him into a power struggle. He didn’t want to be yelled at, so he was resisting her efforts. I told her there was an easy way to get him up on time. And this is how this story relates to our topic, Making Life Easier. It would be easier, but it would require her to cease all anger, all nagging, all lecturing. Instead, she would have to follow a simple plan. Then, just before bedtime, she would ask her son what time he needed to get up in order to get ready for school with his teeth brushed, clothes on, breakfast, etcetera. She helped him set his alarm clock for that time, explaining that she knew he didn’t like her to yell at him about it, so the alarm clock was his responsibility, as was getting up. She explained that, if she didn’t get to work on time, she’d lose her job. They might not have a place to live or food to eat.
The next morning, he shut off the alarm and went back to sleep. So, when it was time for her to go to work, she pulled him out of bed in his pajamas and put him in the car. She then produced a bag of clothes that she had packed the night before and he would need to put them on, on the way to school, in the car. Now, these clothes were not the clothes he would have chosen. They were clothes that were too small or worn out or out of style – clothes he would never have chosen for himself. So, he got dressed in the car and had an awkward day at school. The next morning, she noticed he got up in time for breakfast. Later that day, I got a text from her, saying, “Guess who was packed in the car and ready to go this morning?”
So, what does that have to do with our topic today, which is mildness? Well, two points here: She didn’t have to get angry with him. She even expressed mild sorrow that his choice had caused him to go to school without breakfast. She was mild. Now, mildness is not weakness. She had a plan and she stuck to it. She had the self-control she needed and didn’t get angry. After hundreds of hours of listening to people who were desperate for help with their lives, I’ve noticed that one of the most common things people do to make life difficult for themselves is to act out of their frustration in deeds, but more commonly, words. Since this series is about making life easier, it wouldn’t be complete until we give some thought to being mild – easy-going with people, slow to anger, quick to listen. What aspects of personality and character undergird mildness? Can it be developed or nurtured? Well, we’re going to get into that, as well, today.
Let’s start in Luke 9:51.
Luke 9:51 – When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him – this is Jesus, of course – who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make preparations for him. But the people did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. The Jews had destroyed the Samaritans’ temples some hundred years before and were very hypersensitive about the fact that the Jews said the only place to worship was in Jerusalem. And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?”
But he turned and rebuked them. And they went on to another village. No pride, no arrogance, no aggression – just a humble, easy-going approach. “Let’s just go somewhere else.” He told people to avoid trouble. He said, “If a Roman soldier wants your cloak, give him your coat, too.”
Another story about Jesus is in Matthew 26, starting in verse 59.
Matthew 26:59-65 – Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking false testimony against Jesus that they might put him to death, but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward and said, “This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it in three days.’” And the high priest stood up and said, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy.
Many people would have begged for their lives. Not Jesus. The question has already been asked and answered in their minds. So, why even give them an answer. It was futile. He told them to their faces how it was going to be – respectful, meek, gentle and mild – but not a coward.
Here’s something else Jesus said. It’s in Matthew 11:28.
Matthew 11:28-30 – Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Gentle, lowly in heart, mild, humble.
I was doing an intake once with a man who was in crisis – extremely agitated. As the intake was coming to a close, he said, “Your calm demeanor has helped me.” A good thing I didn’t know I was doing, right? I think people reacted to Jesus that way, too. He was calm and easy-going.
Let’s look at some biblical instructions for us. One point of discussion is, how do we correct people? Let’s look in 2 Timothy 2:24. Here, Paul is talking to Timothy. He’s instructing him about how to be a good minister.
2 Timothy 2:24-26 – And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.
So, when we correct others sparingly and in gentleness, we make it easier for them to see their error. When we are angry as we correct people, all their attention goes to what a mean person we are, instead of thinking about the errors they have committed. But, if we’re gentle and easy-going, their focus goes to how foolish or wrong they were, which is what needs to happen.
Here’s another one: We talked about correcting. Another one is to bear with people.
Ephesians 4:1-2 – I, therefore – Paul says – a prisoner for the Lord – he was in prison – urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called – we all want to do that – with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love….
Easy-going is a manner worthy of our calling. Being aggressive is not. It’s arrogant – filled with self.
Another thing to think about is to not provoke other people. Ephesians 6:4 – Paul says:
Ephesians 6:4 – Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. There are lots of ways to provoke our children. Too much control is one of them. But none of those ways are godly.
So, why does mildness make life easier? There’s a story in the Bible that lays it all out for us. It’s the anatomy of the harsh approach – why it happened and what happens as a result. It’s the story of Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, who was heir to the throne of Israel. After his father died, we pick up Rehoboam’s story in 1 Kings 12.
1 Kings 12:1 – Rehoboam went to Shechem to be crowned. All twelve tribes of Israel went there to see it and to support him. They were hoping for a good king. As soon as Solomon died, a man named Jeroboam came back to Israel from Egypt – out of hiding. He’d been a thorn in Solomon’s side for a long time, so he had to get away and hide out. But when he heard that Solomon had died, he came to the coronation of Solomon’s son as well – since he had designs of his own for a crown and a kingdom. Once Rehoboam and Jeroboam and all the people were together for the coronation, the people spoke to the young new heir-apparent. They said, “Your father, Solomon, made our lives hard with labor projects and heavy taxes – all this to build the temple and support the king’s lavish life-style.” And they asked Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, to ease off – to lighten up. They told him, if he did that, they would serve him. And he said, “Let me think about it. Come back in three days.” So, during that time, he spoke to the older advisors of his father. And they told him that he should listen to the people. He needed to become a servant of the people, instead of them being his servants. He needed to listen and answer softly. “If you do that,” they said, “they’ll serve you forever.” Then he went to his friends – the young guys, who were yearning for fame and power – and they told him to tell the people that his father was nothing compared to how he was going to be. So, he told the people that his father punished them with whips, but he would do it with scorpions. Think about that one!
What do you think happened as a result? Today, there are people in Israel, but they’re mostly Jews. The rest of the tribes have lost their identity. The Jews stayed with Rehoboam in Jerusalem in the south, but the ten tribes of Israel went with Jeroboam in the north. There was a big split, in other words, in the country, because Rehoboam produced a ridiculous behavior. His harshness with the people caused them to turn away from him. They left! Talk about losing it! His rough approach alienated 80% of the people.
Now, while all this was going on, let’s read 1 Kings 12, staring in verse 16.
V-16-19 – And when all Israel saw that the king did not listen to them, the people answered the king, “What portion do we have in David? We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse. To your tents, O Israel! Look now to your own house, David” – David being the Jews. So Israel went to their tents. But Rehoboam reigned over the people of Israel who lived in the cities of Judah. Then King Rehoboam sent Adoram, who was taskmaster over the forced labor, and all Israel stoned him to death with stones. And King Rehoboam hurried to mount his chariot to flee to Jerusalem. So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day. He sent the taskmaster over forced labor – wow! He must have been slow on the uptake, but not slow to run away home, that’s for sure.
It reminds me of the Covid mandates recently. I saw, on TV, a compilation of one governor after another telling crowds of their constituents that mandates were in place to wear masks. And they were not suggestions, but laws. A number of them said, “If you don’t comply, we’re coming for you!” – or words to that effect. What a stupid thing to say! Look at what kind of approach that has led to.
I was talking recently to some people who had just been in Mexico. They have one mandate in Mexico – to wear masks indoors while using public transportation. Other than that, it’s left up to the individual. So, they told me that they saw nearly every single person wearing a mask. The resistance to their government was very low, because they had only one reasonable rule. The resistance to our foolish politicians have created, by their strong-arm approach, a worse situation. A large number of US citizens, if it comes down to it, would rather be sick than controlled. We live in a nation that was founded on the slogan, “Live free or die!” Had the politicians not made a power issue out of it, I’m sure we would see a lot more masks on the street. We could say they pulled a Rehoboam on themselves.
By the way, I’m not talking about the validity of masks – only about what trying to make people wear them has done. I think there are probably times when it would be helpful to wear a mask. And I do wear them at that time, so don’t get confused. I’m not talking about the politics of wearing a mask. I’m talking about the politics of trying to control people – to be harsh with them, like Rehoboam was.
So, here’s the principle behind it all. It’s in Proverbs 15:1.
Proverbs 15:1 – A soft answer turns away wrath, but harsh words stir up anger.
So, there is a New Testament scripture that tells us not to provoke our children to anger. We saw that. And this scripture shows the primary way this happens. It’s not that, when we are angry with our children, that they say to themselves, “Oh, I want to be just like Dad or Mom.” It’s that being treated disrespectfully makes them angry with us.
Let’s go to Romans 12:20. Paul says:
Romans 12:20-21 – To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil – and respond back in an evil way, of course – but overcome evil with good.
Did you know that there are a number of case studies in psychological literature that reinforce the effectiveness of this approach? I even saw one that showed that deep forgiveness comes from treating enemies this way. It’s good for us to do that, too – not just for the other person. When we treat enemies with respect, it helps us forgive them. So, what kind of person does this to his enemies? Well, people who can put on an easy-going, mild, patient approach. It’s about being mild.
Let’s now consider some qualities that underlie mildness. Before that, though, let’s define the term: “the state or quality of being mild in any sense of the word” – this is a dictionary definition now. “Gentleness of disposition, manner, action or effect; moderateness of quality or character; placidity; softness; yieldingness.” The word mild is translated sparingly in the Bible. I don’t think the Bible term carries the quality of placidity, as does the English word. And that’s because the Greek and Hebrew words for it have been translated many other ways. So, this leads me to believe that there is no one English word that means the same thing as the Greek and Hebrew words for mildness in the Bible. We went through this in the series, Fruits of the Spirit. So, if you want to learn more about that, you can go back to our Website, liferesource.org, and just search on Fruit of the Spirit, or go to the section on Series and you can find that series there.
So, to get around that minor difficulty of the language, I’ve used a number of English words repeatedly in this presentation – humility, meekness, gentleness, love, the term easy-going, patient. We could add non-aggressive, conciliatory, forgiving, magnanimous and kind – but not weak.
So, how do we acquire this quality? I think there are seven things we can think about. First of all, meekness is a fruit from the Holy Spirit in us. That said, our job is to nurture that quality in ourselves. It is every plant’s genetically-driven effort to grow to maturity. So, if we water that plant, and we feed it, and we give it the right amount of light, and keep it warm enough, it’s natural force will be enhanced. The same is true of the fruit of the Spirit. It’s fair to talk about plants if we’re talking about fruit, right? God uses fruit as an example of the Spirit. So, how would we do that?
Well, the second point is to know that it’s in you. The seed is there! Because of God’s Spirit, the capability is already there in us. Did you know that? It’s not impossible. It’s right there! All we have to do is nurture it.
Thirdly, we need to be mindful of the opportunities of expression. Jesus said, “Let not your heart be troubled.” Now, let in Bible talk means to make your heart not be troubled. We have to apply some effort to let that happen. So, don’t let being troubled happen, but let yourself be relaxed, calm, at ease, trusting instead. Just do it when the opportunity arises. It’s already there in you. Use it.
So, what else can we say? The fourth thing might be that we should make plans to do it. The woman I mentioned at the start, who put out a bag of clothes, away from her son, so she didn’t have to get angry is an example. She had a plan. So, there the clothes were in the bag up in the closet – all ready. She had a plan so she didn’t need to be harsh with her son. She wasn’t going to be blown away by what happened. It wasn’t a surprise to her. She was planning for it. So, we can make plans. If we know that we have to face somebody who is difficult to deal with…. My wife has a dentist who is kind of rude. So, she knows she has to be prepared for that. And that way she can be ready for it and act in a meek way – mild way, pardon me. So, this woman didn’t have to be harsh with her son, because she was ready for it. If we know what we’re going to say ahead of time, it helps a lot. I remember I went to an EMDR convention once, and Daniel Siegel – the brain researcher – was there. He was talking about trying to talk to scientists about brain science and attachment theory. They would just get in his face about it and want to argue. He said he never won the argument and just cause division, so he would just say instead, “Interesting. Tell me more,” instead of arguing. See, he had a plan. He knew he was going to run into that. He didn’t really care what they thought. He knew what he knew already. He’d seen the evidence and all their arguing wasn’t going to change his mind, so why argue with them? So, he just listened.
And that is probably the fifth thing was can think about. That is listening, instead of expressing our opinion. You can’t be harsh while you’re not talking. It’s also good to know when we have a difference of opinion with people, it’s not about winning or losing the argument, but finding a mutually beneficial solution – something that works for everybody. Most people, if it comes right down to it, are happy to just understand the other person’s point of view, rather than trying to force their own opinion on them. If you’re one of those who always wants to force your opinion on other people, you’ve got some psychological issues. They call that narcissism.
And lastly, not getting your own way does not make you a loser. Those people who are humble will be exalted. So, the way to win is to lose, if you want to put it that way. It’s another of the great spiritual paradoxes. If you just say, “Chillax! It’s all going to work out. God’s going to take care of things. Have faith.” Those things are easy to say and hard to do. And yet, they’re completely true. If we believe that and we follow those, we’re going to be way ahead.
So, I was looking at the hits for this series so far, and it’s been predictably low compared to other series I have given. I say, “Predictably,” because the topics I think are more important always score lower than some of the lighter things I have done.
Sometime back, I gave a series called Bible Stories for Adults. It was fun to do and it was helpful to some people, but certainly not as high up on God’s priority list as the Fruits of the Spirit, for example. And yet, Bible Stories for Adults was one of the most popular series I’ve ever done – catchy title, new material. Most of us are kind of like the Bereans…I’m sorry, not the Bereans, but those people on Mars Hill, who wanted to see and hear some new thing. So, I don’t really know why it was more popular. Whereas, the Fruits of the Spirit or Making Life Easier, we just think those things are so boring. And yet, to me, they’re more important. It’s all about living godly, rather than being interesting.
Of course, topics covered in these series are front and center core of Christianity – the core of Jesus living a Christian life and how we can follow His example – totally compatible with our destiny, but totally contrary to our nature – topics that we need to hear over and over, sliced and diced a thousand different ways. Who knows? You might even hear something valuable you never thought of before. We have three more in this series to cover. And I’m really excited about them. And I hope you will be too.