I teach the safety classes at my place of business. One class gets more “smirks” than the other classes and I can understand why. It’s called Active Shooter – it’s where we prepare for the unlikely event of a mass shooter invading our company. We use the Department of Homeland Security model of “Run, Hide, Fight,” which stresses that we try to run first – then hide – and if we have no other options, fight back. My co-workers smirk because they probably own more guns per capita than any group on the planet – it’s an obsession! In their minds, that is not how the scenario plays out. All of us have probably imagined a home invasion or an unlikely assault and how we would react in that situation. History shows that our imaginations are generally not very close to how it actually plays out, but we like to think we would be able to control the situation if it happens.
For the past 35 years (my adult life), I have become very proficient at being persistent. I always figured I could overcome my deficiencies by outworking, out-thinking, or outlasting the competition (real or imagined). In my mind, I considered myself to be lacking in a few areas, but that would just cause people to underestimate me. I have been determined to surprise them with my tenacity (otherwise known as stubbornness). I achieved a lot of things, overcame some obstacles, and had some great adventures. However, in retrospect, I now feel that the best things I have accomplished are the things that were not obtained by my might or by my power or determination. The best things in my life have been the things that have come to me by my trust and submission – they were when I was meek.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5)
The age-old question of “Who gets the earth?” probably started with Cain and Abel. As agriculture developed, the need for land increased and battles over what is “mine” (much like two toddlers) caused all kinds of disputes and struggles. Man’s answer to this struggle was to get determined and take by force whatever they felt they had a right to. Since the Israelite’s believed they deserved the promised land, they took it by force. The Romans eventually gobbled up most of the known world only to be imitated by the British in a later era. To one degree or another, all these groups (and there have been many) have believed they had a right to what they were taking. When Americans arrived on this continent, we continued the pattern by annihilating the indigenous and taking what we thought was “ours.” But, is this even close to what God intended – could it be that somewhere along the way, we got it completely backward?
“The land is always inherited; it is not taken. It is not ours to take, but God’s to give. Thus we have no absolute right to it.” Michael H. Crosby, The Spirituality of the Beatitudes
The Native Americans may have understood this better than anyone. The way that seems right to us is to capture what we feel we have a right to. In reality, it is not ours to capture – it is only God’s to give. And who does He give it to? He gives it to the meek. This is the continuation of the forming of the new kingdom.
“The renewal of the earth begins at Golgotha, where the meek one died, and from thence it will spread. When the Kingdom finally comes, the meek shall possess the earth.” Dietrich Bonhoffer, The Cost of Discipleship
Most societies assume that meekness is weakness, but maybe a more accurate description could be “power under control.” Chromatus defines the meek as “those who are gentle, humble and unassuming simple in faith and patient in the face of every affront.” Brian Zahnd, in his book Beauty Will Save the World, restates the beatitude as “Blessed are the quiet and content, the humble and unassuming, the gentle and the trusting who are not grasping or clutching, for God will personally guarantee their share when heaven and earth become one.”
Jesus ideal is certainly counter-intuitive to the way we think. In the United States we almost value paranoia. We have intense anxiety over our security, especially national security. We feel an intense need to get to the top and “claw” our way there, feeling little remorse for the bodies we leave behind. Being the best is not just a hope – it’s a must. We feel we must be the best and almost any means justifies the end. Once we achieve success or acquire what we think we deserve, we believe we must do everything to protect what we have acquired. We then can justify all nature of things because we earned it and it’s our right to defend it. My friends, none of this is what Jesus taught or modeled about how to inherit the earth.
Jesus blessed the meek (Matthew 5:5). As the Roman soldiers (who had already conquered the world) looked on, Jesus told them that’s it’s not them that will ultimately inherit the earth. They may have taken it, but it wasn’t there’s to take. The people they probably never even acknowledged were those who would inherit the earth. Jesus continues his theme of a Kingdom that is not ruled by the powerful or the determined or even the ones with good five-year plans. This counter-cultural ideal certainly must have peaked their curiosity, but probably got the same reaction as when I suggest that Jesus never taught to defend ourselves (at least not violently). I can imagine much of the crowd looking at each other trying to wrap their minds around this idea. “Who is this guy?”
Jesus described himself as meek (Matthew 11:29). The reason Jesus can bring rest to our souls is because He is gentle (meek) and humble in heart. The weary and burdened can come to him and find an “easy yoke” not because he is controlling or needy, but because He is humble and unassuming. This is one of the most powerful statements about Jesus – the One that has all power and every right to demand and control and coerce chooses to be quiet and non-controlling – His power asserts itself in meekness. This is so powerful and challenging to me!
Jesus demonstrated meekness (Matthew 21:5). It is telling to look at the events of Passover at the end Jesus’ life. Pilot entered Jerusalem surrounded by soldiers, relying of the military strength of the empire. Jesus entered the city “humble (meek) and mounted on a donkey,” surrounded by normal people. The soldiers were probably snickering again at this counter-cultural display of meekness vs power. Years later, we now realize that the powerful empire of Rome is all but non-existent and the Kingdom of Christ (inaugurated by a guy on a donkey) continues to spread across the globe. Jesus didn’t use power to control, even though what He did was captivating. Jesus didn’t use power to impress, even though what He did was impressive. In a way, He channeled His power into being meek.
Meekness is not a lack of power, but it is focusing the power we have in the right direction. Our typical behavior says to control our circumstances, situations, and outcomes. Jesus challenges us to control ourselves by channeling all that power He supplies into a gentleness that is under control not in control. This gentle, unassuming power is what Jesus says inherits the earth.
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