When all the people were baptized, Jesus also was baptized. As He was praying, heaven opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on Him in a physical appearance like a dove… (Luke 3:21-22a).
The fact that the Holy Spirit is described as a “dove” speaks volumes about the nature of God – including the basic personality of Jesus Himself. In contrast with powerful birds of prey, doves have a meek and gentle quality. They are beautiful, swift-flying birds that are entirely non-threatening.
When speaking to the people generally, Jesus communicated in a similar, non-threatening way since He also instructed His disciples that they should be “harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16). This certainly makes sense in light of the fact that he called two of them, James and John, “Sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17). Other scriptures make it clear that the Twelve had a lot to learn about interpersonal relationships.
When the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost, these men were transformed. Later, Paul – who had been very hostile toward Christians – reflected his own transformation when he wrote to the Thessalonians:
Although we could have been a burden as Christ’s apostles, instead we were gentle among you, as a nursing mother nurtures her own children
(1 Thessalonians 2:7).
Centuries before, Solomon captured this same truth:
A gentle answer turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath. The tongue of the wise makes knowledge attractive, but the mouth of fools blurts out foolishness (Proverbs 15:1-2).
In my Life Essentials Study Bible, Principle #28, page 855 in Proverbs I identify this kind of gentle behavior as an enduring truth:
We are to control what we say so that we can be peacemakers rather than those who create chaos and confusion.
Today, because a number of factors are elevating tensions between people it is easy to yield to negative emotions. When we’re tempted to use harsh language or display negative emotions, let’s remember the example of Jesus who taught us to “be as shrewd as serpents and as harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16).