Continuing with Jesus’ Beatitudes we read: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5).
We may be offended when we first read this. To say someone is meek implies they are weak or wishy-washy, timid or indecisive. Does Jesus really mean this? No! The meekness Jesus is speaking about here is not describing someone who is weak. Nor is it to be confused with affability – someone who is just naturally nice and easy-going. Meekness in the Bible goes much deeper. It is a controlled desire to see the interests of others advanced ahead of our own.
We see it, for example, in Abraham’s decision to give Lot first choice in deciding where he would settle his family – on the infertile highlands or the fertile plains. This is the meekness Jesus is speaking about.
TRUE EXAMPLES OF MEEKNESS IN THE BIBLE
Numbers 12:3 tells us Moses was the meekest man who ever lived. In Numbers 12 we read that when his authority was under attack he refused to defend himself. He remained firm in his commitment to the Lord, waiting for Him to act. You may want to read Numbers 12.
But it is Jesus Christ himself who is the supreme example of meekness. Consider the scene when he was put to death. He was naked, exposed to the vulgar frivolity of the crowd. The soldiers taunted him: “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.” The scene was vicious and degrading. Yet the extraordinary thing is we don’t hear any vindictive cursing from Jesus. Instead he prays: “Father forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing” (Luke 23:34).
The New Testament continues to stress and exemplify meekness. In 2 Corinthians 10:1 Paul the Apostle uses the example of the meekness and gentleness of Christ to explain the way he endeavored to conduct his ministry. The Corinthians had accused him of being bold in his letters, but weak and timid when he was with them. In their mind he was a weak leader.
HOW SHOULD WE RESPOND?
It’s never easy to address personal accusations without playing into the hands of critics. Whatever tone you adopt, they twist it to their own advantage. If you play it strong or weak, they will only say that you are proving their point. Paul, for his part, responded by appealing to the example of Jesus. ‘My leadership model,’ he said, ‘is the meekness and gentleness of Christ’. The timidity they accused him of was his attempt to emulate the graciousness of Christ. But this didn’t mean he didn’t say some tough things in public and on paper.
If we allow ourselves to feel the impact of all this, it is the more appalling that meekness does not characterize more of us who claim to be Christians. Too often we are more concerned with justifying ourselves than building up one another in our relationship with the Lord Jesus. And at church, we are often more committed to giving our opinion about church or its ministry than we are at reaching others with the good news of God’s gospel. Tragically, meekness has not been a mark of many of God’s people for a very long time.
If, of course, we do try to live out this quality of meekness, our highly secularized and individualistic culture laughs. Society says, ‘Get what you can: You’re a fool if you don’t!’ We’ve created a culture where every individual thinks they are at the center of the universe. This affects how we relate to the seven billion others who operate under a similar delusion.
True meekness. The truly meek see life and relationships through a new lens. ‘Poor in spirit’ they do not think more highly of themselves that they ought to, for they see themselves and everyone else as under God. When, by the grace of God we learn to think this way, we are able to relate more honorably and graciously with others around us.