Editors note: This is the third in an Adult Forum series on the Beatitudes, a class with Pastor David E. Mueller. We meet at 10 a.m. on Sunday (between the 9 a.m. service and the 11 a.m. service) through mid-December and then again after the holidays. Join us in the Great Room for the class and check out the text on our website if you miss any sessions.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5)
A series allows us to dig deeper and look closer at a section of Scripture than is otherwise possible. I have taught on the Beatitudes as a whole, but eight lessons are more instructive and inspirational if the listeners and (or) readers keep up. Each Beatitude leads into the next one. We need to grasp grace in each and all of them.
We started out “poor in spirit” that we might become enriched. We then mourned the loss of whatever spiritual baggage we had left behind. While the mood was somber, we heard Jesus say: “Happy/blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.”
Today the mood is restful, relatively relaxed, tranquil. This is what often follows mourning. Once grief and loss are adequately attended to, there is a sense of calm. The wind and rain come and batter our spirits and then the sun shines again. If you appreciate the calm, then hear Jesus: “Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth.”
We climb higher today. When we reach the top in a few weeks, we will be higher than Mount Everest. Yet we need no ropes, pulleys, hammers and spikes. Those of all ages and physical capacities can make this exciting climb as we are all God-led and lifted, God fed and filled. Today, those who truly desire spiritual wholeness and are willing to trust will be separated from those who are playing spiritual games and cannot last.
I readily admit to having my own difficulties being genuinely meek while trying to preach and teach about being meek.
Meekness is presented by Jesus as a blessing against the background of all its opposites in the world at any given time: wars, skirmishes, conflicts, tensions, sin.
MEEKNESS, PLEASE NOTE RIGHT NOW, IS NOT WEAKNESS.
Weak and not meek men harm their wives. Meek men die for their wives, while weak men kill. (See Ephesians 5:21ff.) The weak and not meek harm children. The tranquility of meekness is contrasted with the tension of weakness. The militancy of the moment, horror of the hour, however constituted, is contrasted with genuine meekness. Why? Because the earth belongs to the meek. Their names are on the deed. We simply do not have to fight and scrap, cheat and steal, for that which is already ours. That changes everything!
The world context in which Jesus speaks is a context of war and human passion for fighting where strength is thought to be in iron: spears, arrows, chariots. Humanity, by our time, has advanced within the realm of iron to tanks and missiles but not beyond it. Iron is still used far too often to destroy.
Meekness in Matthew and Paul (Mark and Luke do not use the word) is to be viewed as gentleness. Paul asked the Corinthians: “What would you prefer? Am I to come to you with a stick, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?” (1 Corinthians 4:21) Here “gentleness and meekness” is the same word. Weakness is not implied in either case. We might think of meekness as “quiet strength.” It is active and not passive, deliberate and not reluctant, acceptance even of seeming injustice or harsh reality. Again, why? Because the earth is the Lord’s (Psalm 24) and He has promised it to the meek.
Decades ago, one commentator, whose name escapes me, thought of meekness as descriptive of the frontal of a war chariot, which, even if decorated, needed to pass the 25 mph crash test, withstand battering of all sorts and protect the rider. It was not a moving but strong and stable part of the chariot. It was neither fancy nor noisy. Meekness is quiet and gentle strength. Weakness is the squeaky wheel or the noisy or broken part.
People not on this holy hike with us may think of us as tetched, just as those who are perishing see the Cross of Christ as foolishness (2 Corinthians 4:1-5). In his letter, the Apostle James (1:21) wrote: “Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word which has the power to save your souls.” To keep the wickedness is to welcome the weakness.
Faith is seasoned here with redeemed intelligence. Why participate in the craziness of the world’s way of doing things, warring, wickedness, wantonness, worry, and the like, when it is all going to be ours in the end anyway? We are far enough up the mountain to be able to notice below the fruitlessness or utter failure of so much back down there. Isaiah (29:19) reminded his hearers: “The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the Lord and the neediest of people shall exalt in the Holy One of Israel.”
This also means that the meek are free to be generous of themselves and their resources. If we are not expending energy and effort to keep what we have or to gain even more, we are free to give all the more. Giving is living; taking is fooling, forsaking and killing self.
When it comes to banks, Wall Street and other institutions economic, where is the meekness? There is none! Should there be? Or is that which masks and presents itself as success weakness or worse? “Woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.” (Luke 6:24). “At the end of the day” (I hate this overused expression), it all belongs to the meek.
It is an extremely unfortunate reality in our day that there is so much non-meekness, to put it kindly, utter weakness, to put it honestly, masked as righteousness. Those who, for instance, are either for or against war or corruption or greed can both be utterly secular even if they employ religious language to state their case. Look for meekness.
We will be speaking to genuine peace-making in a Beatitude on our way back down the other side of the Mountain. In the meantime, when it comes to meekness as blessed/happy, we are called upon by the Son of God, whose word, way and will neither I nor you can discount, to refuse to let temporal circumstances define us or tempt us away from our walk/climb. One of the great and grave dangers for Christians these days is falling into the trap of becoming like those who hate us. Hate militant Muslims, even if they hate us, and we lose!
None of this, for holy hikers, precludes the support of their Nation, when for just reasons, it goes to war. Nor does war for us, dilute our meekness. The more significant war we must wage is a spiritual one. It is with spiritual and not iron weaponry that we fight it.
I sensed last week a breeze, a holy breeze, holy wind, Holy Spirit. It is fascinating that the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) is: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness (MEEKNESS), self-control.” This is to be contrasted with the “works of the flesh” (Galatians 5:19-21), which include such things as: “… enmities, strifes … quarrels, dissensions, factions….”
Is a Holy or unholy wind directing us? Meekness is fruit of the former; may the latter not be happening among us! The Earth belongs to those who preserve it, not those who destroy it! It belongs to those who live for each other and not to those who kill each other. It belongs to those who believe in Jesus, yet those who believe in Jesus will be patient and meek with those who do not.
A few years back, Bill Moyer, commentator and ordained Christian minister, offered the baccalaureate address at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York. He shared the Jewish tale of Shalom Aleichem, who lived the “Jobian” life of misfortune and tragedy, but who always went about returning good for evil. He died and even the angels of heaven rejoiced to see him. The Lord told him he could have any special favor he wished. He asked only that each day could begin with a hot buttered roll. Then, even the Lord wept! (The Christian Century, June 13, 2006). I am humbled profoundly that this was published on the 35th anniversary of my ordination. I have not become that meek. I, like you, have a long way to yet climb.
In Luke’s Sermon (6:17-49), we are reminded (commanded?) to “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also….” (6:27-29a) Tough stuff? For the weak, yes; for the meek, no! For, indeed, we have a Holy Wind directing and empowering us and the love of Jesus forgiving us.
“Blessed/happy are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”