We’ve had a golden Labrador since my Boy was a toddler; the dog is as gentle as the sun is warm. When the time comes, I wouldn’t hesitate to replace her with another Labrador. She’s our second dog, the first is a Jack Russell, who in contrast is harsh, ornery and grumpy (but we love her anyway because she’s spunky, brazen and fearless). You can do almost anything to the Labrador and she’ll stay relaxed and at peace. My Boy used to climb all over her; when we watch movies, she lays at our feet, content to be used as a foot stool. You can pull her lips, flap her ears or use her as a puppet.
She is gentle but when she’s defending our property, she can be a beast to the one who is a threat. Her bark is loud and deep, and she doesn’t back down. When my Boy was younger, we’d send him outside to play but always sent the dog with him knowing she would defend the Boy if necessary but otherwise would remain a gentle companion at his side, playing hockey or soccer with him (she makes a good goalie) or is an excellent tracker in the game of hide & seek.
Paul describes the fruit of the Spirit as having gentleness, or being gentle (prautēs); Jesus preached blessed are the meek (praus), for they will inherit the earth. It’s the same root word and it’s how Jesus described himself in Matthew 11:29.
Some people think of Jesus only as meek and mild, and we’ve been taught gentleness or meekness is being a door mat. Jesus is gentleness personified – he was and is always gentle, but he also was not a door mat. Remember his interactions with the Pharisees and with the temple money changers? Like my dog (yes, I’m using my dog as an example of how to live and exhibit the fruit of the Spirit), she is gentle in spirit but at the same time ferocious at the threat of intruders into her territory.
We should be likewise, the kingdom of heaven is ours and we should defend it, being gentle at all times but not a door mat, receiving every false doctrine or contention that threatens the kingdom (keeping in mind our battle is not against flesh and blood).
The fruit of the Spirit is cultivated by having Christ in you; he is gentle, so be gentle and learn from him.