MEEKNESS: WHAT IS IT?
We often hear that the Christian ought to be different from people in the world. This is true. The difference that Christ makes in our lives should be very noticeable. But, it is not that the person who is in Christ has to walk around in a suit and tie or that the Christian woman has to only use homemade clothes or wear her hair in a certain way. These things are exterior; that is, superficial (on the surface). Jesus said that the difference between his follower and a person of the world is in his inner person, his character. What the world should see when they look at the life of a Christian is exactly the inner, spiritual expressions of humility, compassion, meekness, righteousness, mercy, purity, peace and faithfulness. When we begin to manifest these qualities, the world will clearly see, the Lord will be glorified and more people will be drawn toward the Way.
One of the least sought attributes is meekness. Someone once said, "If all God's attributes were offered at auction, the last one to be sold would be meekness." Few people understand what it is and fewer still value this quality that so characterizes the Lord Jesus.
"Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth", Jesus said in Matthew 5:5. What does it mean to be meek? According to our dictionary, to be meek means you are "showing patience and humility, gentleness ... easily imposed upon, submissive". The meek one doesn't throw fits or fly off the handle under pressure. A good synonym is "gentle". A meek person is under control.
To be meek does not mean to be weak. A horse, before it is tamed, is strong but, being wild, is useless to man. After being tamed it does not lose its strength. It just becomes tamed, controlled and useful. A good definition for meekness is "strength under control".
Rome conquered the world but the Christians conquered the Roman Empire. Nero tossed and turned in his bed in the royal palace while the Christians slept peacefully in their prison cells. They found the victory in their redemption and their courage was a result of their conviction. They gained patience in their sufferings. Those primitive Christians acquired spiritual strength, based in the truth, tempered in persecution and which reflected the image of the nature of Christ. Let's examine this attribute that is so very essential in the Christian life: meekness.
JESUS IS OUR EXAMPLE OF MEEKNESS
Perhaps the most misunderstood quality of the life of Christ is his gentleness or meekness. He wasn't weak but strong. Remember how he was arrested, beaten with rods, scourged with a whip, spit on and mocked. The multitude called for his death and he was nailed to a Roman cross. The crowd challenged him, "If you are the Son of God, come down!"
Now consider what he could have done. He could control the tempest with a word, walk on the water, feed 5,000 people with a few loaves and fishes and even raise the dead. On the cross he could have called 10,000 angels to set him free and destroy that ungrateful generation. But he didn't do it. Jesus, "committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth … when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously" (1 Peter 2:22,23). Listen to what he did say on that cross: "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do." Now that is meekness, properly defined as strength under control, calmness in the midst of trials and tranquility of soul even in difficult circumstances.
The meekness of the Messiah was the subject of prophecy in the Old Testament. or tell of the characteristics of this person of whom Jehovah said: "Behold! My Servant whom I uphold, My Elect One in whom My soul delights! He will not cry out, nor raise His voice, nor cause His voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed He will not break and smoking flax He will not quench." Jesus did not stand in the streets, shouting, with his face red from anger, trying to convince the unbelievers of the errors of their ways. Jesus, according to this prophecy, did not destroy a broken reed or snuff out a smoldering candlewick.
Think about these two expressions: Back then, a reed or small rod was used like either a ruler or walking cane. If you broke it, it became useless. This broken reed represents a weak, fragile person. How did Jesus look at weak, frail people? He did not despise them. Jesus, among the weak, despised or outcasts, showed patience and sympathy. He identified with them, treated them with respect and lifted them to a higher plane. He didn't discard them; rather, he treated them with greater care. He was gentle.
The smoldering wick was similar to this. When a candle or oil lamp goes out, the wick begins to smolder and smoke. That could be irritating to the eyes so the easiest thing to do was to reach over and pinch the wick. It quickly goes out. That smoldering wick represents an irritating, inconvenient person. How did Jesus treat that kind of person? He put up with them! Instead of getting rid of them, he took care of them. Jesus did not stomp on weak, obnoxious, problematic, immature people!
Jesus did not promote weakness but tolerance and so was able to help the weak become strong. He did not load them down with burdens too heavy for them to bear. He always called people to behave well and to be of good character but, at the same time, he understood and put up with the silliness and immaturities of the weak. Jesus was on the side of the weak. He never stopped being gentle.
It may seem strange to say but Jesus did not leave his meekness when he expelled the moneychangers from the temple. He was not out of control. Rather, he knew exactly what he was doing. He didn't stop being meek in Matthew 23 when he denounced the hypocrites: "Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?" Nor will he cease to be meek when, one day, he "is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ." (2 Thessalonians 1:7, 8). To be meek doesn't mean you don't fight against evil, rebuke the sinner or try to correct an injustice. Some times force must be used. We must take action, speak out, resist, but we just do it the right way, Jesus' way, the controlled way.
Meekness is in the list of attributes the Spirit produces in the life of the Christian . This means that, when the Spirit of God is controlling our lives, we will not have that desire to return evil for evil toward that person that provokes us. When criticized, we will not explode in anger. When we are mistreated, we are able to forgive the one who hurt us. This is meekness.
To be meek does not mean that we give in to all evil desires or injustices of others. False doctrine has to be corrected. Sin must be rejected; Oppression and injustice must be fought, but always in a controlled manner. Our opposition to wrongdoing must be without bitterness, nastiness or disequilibrium.
We ought to treat people with respect . We should correct the brethren with care and delicately. Being meek, gentle people, we can treat people like packages labeled with signs that say, "FRAGILE, HANDLE WITH CARE". Human beings are frail. Let's be careful not to hurt them with our words of resentment or with rough handling. Let's treat people with great care and tenderness, especially those who are far away from God.
The Bible speaks about gentleness especially with respect to women. Our society, with advertising, films, soap operas, books and magazines, is constantly deceiving women. They hear on every hand that, to be popular and attractive, they have to be "sexy" and sensual. They are constantly bombarded with the lie that beauty is the result of physical characteristics and that a little botox injected in the lips, a thinner nose or bigger bust makes them beautiful. That is one of Satan's lies. The Bible emphasizes that inner qualities make a woman beautiful and attractive. 1 Peter 3:3, 4 says "Do not let your adornment be merely outward; arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel; rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God."
It is not a sin to be pretty. In fact, God created the woman to be attractive and pleasing to the man. God doesn't condemn the woman who is outwardly pretty. There is no virtue in purposefully dressing shabbily. The Bible says there is something much more important and basic that attracts and impresses the man. It is purity, reverence; it is a gentle, quiet spirit that can influence the man for good. With time, the physical body loses its shape, the face gets lines and blemishes but the gentle spirit gets more beautiful every day. "Growing old gracefully" is better than growing old disgracefully.
SELF-EXAMINATION: Answer these questions in order to measure your own level of meekness:
1. Do you holler at family or colleagues?
2. When falsely accused, do you defend yourself with excessive vehemence?
3. Do you insist in having the last word in a discussion?
4. Would your associates be astonished if you became enraged at someone?
5. Do you have the reputation as a person who remains calm in the middle of a tempest?
6. Do you try to choose words that will not hurt someone's feelings?
7. Do you try to get even with the person who hurts you?
8. Do you want to fight with the person who breaks in front of you in line?
9. When you rebuke someone, does it make you feel good to see them embarrassed or angry?
10. Are you able to remain kind, gentle and submissive when you are fighting against some injustice?