Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thoughts On Meekness

So I recently started journaling through the "sermon on the mount." I have a nice little Moleskine notebook, and a mechanical pencil with a very useful eraser, and I sit down each morning to think about a passage, and to scribble those thoughts down. I don't say this is all deep and insightful thinking, but I do think the process is very helpful. It's a way, I suppose, of doing this:
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Anyway, I was thinking about meekness this morning, because of course Jesus said the meek are blessed, because they will inherit the earth.

Have you ever thought about that? How utterly nonsensical it sounds! I used to work under a fellow who was aggressively disdainful of Christianity, and his critique ultimately rested right here. He'd say something like this: "Jesus said the meek shall inherit the earth. What could be more ridiculous? The meek will inherit nothing but a boot in the face. This world is for the strong, not the meek."

Well, you'd have to admit, that does seem a little more in accord with reality, does it not? Anyway, here's my own little definition: Meekness is a quiet humility, a willingness to be second, or tenth, or last -- even to be completely overlooked. It is the opposite of self-assertiveness. A meek person may even be willing to endure injustice rather than by his own behavior discredit Jesus and his Gospel of grace or resist the will of God. For example:
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.
Jesus did not choose to defend himself before Pilate. By the same token, he did resist the devil when he was tempted three times in the desert at the start of his ministry. It was in subservience to the will of God, which he knew to be better than any temptation the devil might offer, that he resisted. So you see, meekness isn't always going along. Meekness is really a matter of whom one serves. God, or self.

Meekness was personified by, of all people, a Roman centurion:
"Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, 'Go,' and he goes, and to another, 'Come,' and he comes, and to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it."
You see, ultimately, meekness indicates subservience, and the real question (as I just said) is subservience to whom? The centurion, in understanding the authority of Jesus over sickness, demonstrated his faith in Jesus, of course, but that faith manifested itself in meekness.

Paul, who seems anything but a meek man, was always willing to be last, and his service to the Gospel of Christ was always self-sacrificing. At times certain people wanted to worship him as a god, and that horrified him. He would not allow it. And to the very un-meek Corinthians he described the nature of apostleship:
For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ's sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.
Christian meekness is always associated with service and with endurance. Put aside are self-esteem, self-defense, boasting, jostling for leadership, endless tales of personal triumphs, and the monopolizing of conversation in order to control perception.

Finally, it is in endurance that the diamond at the core of meekness shows itself. Endurance, that is, in the cause of Christ. Even as Jesus said the first shall be last and the last first, the meek exemplify this reality by their willingness to be last, not only once or twice, but as a matter of course. Last, that is, in the world's assessment, last in power, last in status, last in praise, if in so doing they may win one soul for the kingdom. Paul said, "we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ."