The big joke used to be that "Brian has no mercy". To an extent, it was true. Every time I took one of those spiritual gifts tests the Mercy column was almost in the negative. It was quite painful. But one day, as if a light shone down from above, my wife explained to me that it wasn't mercy I was lacking...it was gentleness. Gentleness? Interesting.
As I thought about this one for awhile - days on end - I began to find some encouragement in the idea that it was not an enormous genetic character flaw that was plagueing me, but a learned behavior, a reactive and harsh spirit. I know it sounds pretty bad itself, but this was overcomeable (if that's a word). With God's help I could beat this.
One of the driving forces in my spiritual quest to conquer and erase this huge check mark in my "Weakness" column was Philippians 4:5, where Paul exhorts us to "let your gentleness be evident to all". What do people need from me? Do they need my influence? Are they desperate for my witty interjections to brighten their day? Or do they need my insight into God's Word? Maybe. But what they definitely need from me is gentleness. Might sound crazy, but it's true.
So I'm reading about David in 1 Samuel where he's going to fight with the Philistines (as he's running for his life from Saul, again) and the Philistine commander finally tells him, "Thanks, but no thanks". His men start to turn on him and become bitter and uneasy - they're ready to stone him - and he very calmly and patiently brings them back down to earth. I don't know if it chronologically goes along with this story, but you look in Psalm 18:35 and David proclaims to the Almighty that "Your gentleness made me great". Are you kidding me? David? The one who took down a giant with a rock? The one who had "killed his tens of thousands"? And it's not God's righteousness or his power or his might that David is latching his triumph and greatness onto? Huh.
But I guess it really all makes sense, doesn't it? David spent all those years running from the dejected king who really just needed to get out of his way. He could have killed him, disposed of him, done away with the problem, and that's that. But he was not about might or revenge...he was about mercy and gentleness. Much like another who came from his family line who was crucified and died and saved the world, not through political or military conquest, but through surrender. Absorb that for a moment.
The "King of Kings" saved me through surrender. And I question as to how it is HIS "gentleness that has made me great". Not anymore. I want to be "great". Not the world's "great", but the kind that causes a King to say, "Well done my good and faithful servant. Well done."