A Sourdough Lesson in Gentleness

But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. (1 Peter 3:14–16)

I’ve been experimenting with sourdough baking for the past few months. Having baked with commercial yeast for years with regular success, I was intrigued by the idea of capturing some wild yeast and creating my own starter.

I found instructions online for a homemade sourdough starter, succeeded in getting it started, and kept my new “pet” well-fed and happy on my kitchen countertop. But my first attempt (as well as my second, third, and fourth attempts) at actually baking a loaf of delicious, crusty bread was a failure. While the dough smelled lovely and brought back fond memories of my family’s favorite neighborhood bakery in San Francisco, the loaves were flat, dense bricks, almost impossible to slice. All I could do was take a long, frustrated sniff of the deliciously sour, yeasty smell ... and then toss them into the compost bin.

It wasn’t until I spent a few hours with an experienced sourdough baker that I began to fully understand how the process worked. It turned out I was being too rough with my sourdough. More accustomed to commercial yeast, which was a guaranteed success no matter how I handled the dough, I was kneading too long and too aggressively. It took a more gentle approach to let the sourdough slowly rise and grow, creating the longed-for airy texture and open crumb.

A Knead to be Gentle

Gentleness. It’s a lesson I often need to revisit as I teach my children and talk with my spouse, as I interact with fellow church members, and as I reach out in conversation and friendship to the people I meet each day in person and on social media.

Too often I forge ahead, convinced of my own rightness and assured of my own methods for getting my point across. “It’s my way or the highway!” But self-justification can make for a long and lonely journey.

Gentleness and respect. Saint Peter says they’re must-haves when it comes to sharing our faith in Jesus Christ and being able to “give a reason for the hope that is in you.” Because how often do we forge ahead with the right answers to others’ spiritual questions but then prevent those answers from actually making a difference because our own pride, self-righteousness, or the manner in which we answer gets in the way?

Gently Sharing the Faith

The gentle hand it takes to make my sourdough bread rise into a soft, airy loaf is a good image for me to keep in mind as I practice sharing my faith with others.

My children at home and the young people in our congregation need that gentle hand as they try, fail, learn, grow, and seek forgiveness each day. My co-workers, friends, and online acquaintances need that gentleness and respect each day in a world that seems increasingly quarrelsome and combative over even the most minor things. My husband needs that gentleness as we seek to build our family’s life on the peace of Jesus Christ and the power of repentance and reconciliation.

Do you need some of that gentleness, too?

The good news is that Jesus Christ is our gentle Savior who lived, died, and rose again so that our brash self-justifications could be put to death once and for all. Our good conscience comes from His holiness alone. As we daily honor Christ as Lord, we are free to live gently in this world, respecting all whom we come across, and placing our hope in Jesus Christ alone—not in our own wisdom or in others’ perceptions.

Sourdough bread is still a challenge I’ll have to master over time. So is having an attitude of gentleness and respect in my daily conversations, as I embrace the freedom Christ has won for me on the cross, and as I remain prepared to give a reason for the hope that is in me.

May God bless your conversations this month with gentleness and respect as well! And may your answers to others’ spiritual questions always point to Christ our Lord, and Him alone!

To practice learning gentleness in service, along with faithfulness and self-control, try this digital Bible study below. 

Download Faithfulness, Gentleness, Self-Control 

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Written by

Caitlin Dinger

Caitlin is a director of Christian education with twenty years of experience in congregational and outdoor ministries. She is wife to a pastor and mom to three little boys. Caitlin enjoys gardening, home preserving, Jane Austen, and photography. Her life is powered by a lot of forgiveness and a lot of coffee.

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