Going to take a break from Matthew today and share some thoughts I picked up as I was studying for my sermon last week. Our reading for today comes from Ephesians 4:1-3.
Here it is for you if you don’t want to click on the link.
4 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
As I have already shared this was my text this past Sunday morning, here is a link to the audio.
For the sake of this post I really only want to focus on the attributes or virtues listed in verse 2. While each of these attributes would serve any coach well as they live out their calling as a coach I was particularly drawn to the idea of being completely gentle.
One of the commentaries I use when I study was written by a guy named William Barclay. In the volume titled The Letters to the Galatians and Ephesians,He writes about gentleness or meekness as some versions translate the meaning of the Greek word praotes (noun) or praus (adjective).
Here is what Barclay writes (page 161 – 162)
It was Aristotle’s custom to define every virtue as the mean between two extremes. On the one side there was excess of some quality, on the other there was defect; and in between there was the quality in exactly its right proportion in life. Not Aristotle defnies praotes as the mean between excessive anger and excessive angerlessness; it is the mean between being too angry and never being angry at all. The man who is praus is the man who is always angry at the right time and never angry at the wrong time. To put that in another way, the man who is praus is the man who is kindled by indignation at the wrongs and the sufferings of others, but who is never moved to anger by the wrongs and the insults he himself has to bear. So then, the man who is meek is the man who is always angry at the right time, but who is never angry at the right time.”
I don’t know if you like thinking about gentleness or meekness in this light, but I know it was helpful for me. When I turned to the life of Christ to see how Jesus modeled gentleness for us I was reminded of the two extremes of Jesus turning over the tables of the money changers in the temple and Jesus not saying a word before Pilate, seeking salvation to the thief who hung next to Him on the cross, and asking His Father to forgive those who hadn’t a clue what they were doing.
How does gentleness relate to coaching? My suggestion would be to learn when you can be angry and when to learn when you can’t when working with your student athletes. I’m thinking too that because of the context gentleness is best done when practiced in concert with the other virtues listed. Humility, patience, and love are right there with gentleness. When coaching for maximum impact in a student athlete’s life you have to coach with gentleness.
I would argue that anger for the sake of anger is not going to produce good results, but the opportunity to live in a space of gentleness and knowing how to properly voice your frustrations would be very helpful. I am also learning that knowing when not to express your anger is very important.
The other definition of the word Praus that we translate to gentleness or meekness is important as well.
Here are Barclay’s words again (page 162)
Praus is the Greek word for an animal which has been trained to obey the reins or the word of command, an animal which has been trained and domesticated until it is completely under discipline and under control. Therefore the man who is meek, praus, is the man who has every instinct and every passion, every motion of his mind and heart and tongue and desire under perfect control. It would not be right to say that such a man is entirely and completely self-controlled, for such self-control is beyond human power; but it would be right to say that such a man is God-controlled. He is the man on the tiller of whose life is the hand of God.
What do you think of this definition of gentleness?
Here is what happens when we put them together.
Words are again directly out of William Barclay’s apology I referenced earlier. (Page 162)
Here then is the second great Christian virtue, the second great characteristic of the true member of the Church. He is the man who is so God- controlled that he is always angry at the right time, but never angry at the wrong time; he is a man in whom self has died and whose whole life is directed and controlled by God. “
As coaches following Jesus, we need to understand the virtue of gentleness as we deny ourselves and pick up our crosses on a daily basis. We need to trust the complete humility, complete gentleness, patience, and love as we make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace in the Body of Christ.
We need to remember Jesus is bigger than any sport we might ever play or coach and we need to set our priorities accordingly. Advocating humility, gentleness, patience, and love is a good place to start.