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Life Notes

How Did I Miss That?

Part 16: Meekness is not Weakness

 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Matthew 5:5

Among the definitions for the word meek are docile, spiritless, obsolete, and overly submissive or compliant. These do not sound particularly holy, given that Jesus says the meek will inherit the earth. The word meek, however, can also mean humble, gentle, and kind. As we wonder why Jesus held meekness in such high esteem, the latter definitions may lead us to a better answer. Certainly, Jesus modeled these positive characteristics of meekness.

To say that the meek will inherit the earth seems like a paradox of giant proportions. As we look around our world today, we see a small percentage of people controlling the largest share of the earth’s bounty. My perception of the very rich is hardly meek. I see people who are bold, aggressive, assertive, opportunistic, hard-driving risk-takers. While some may be humble, gentle, and kind in their private lives, their public persona is usually very different.

Meekness, in any of its forms, is not particularly encouraged in character development by our current culture. We have popular, anti-meekness bits of folk wisdom like, “Go for the gusto,” or “You only live once,” or “Just do it!” I suspect the type of meekness Jesus advocated for was not the sniveling, whiny, frightened, spiritless, spineless sort we often associate with the word today. Rather, the meek who will inherit the earth are the strong but humble, gentle, and kind people who place other’s needs above their own. These are common traits of women and men who model their lives after Jesus.

The difficulty in understanding this concept is in our understanding of what it means to inherit the earth. If our desired inheritance is one of vast riches, nice homes, fancy cars, lavish clothing, or a private jet, then meekness is not likely to get us there. These riches are transient, in that they do not last in a way that extends beyond our time on earth. There are other riches uniquely of the earth, however, that imprint on our souls and, I believe, shape our existence beyond this life. Enjoying a stunning sunset, watching the full moon rise over a still ocean, experiencing long-term, deeply-loving relationships, making a positive difference in someone else’s life, and working for causes greater than our own. These are opportunities the earth gives that are available to all, but are only sought and valued by those with a propensity towards meekness. Only the meek will inherit these more lasting gifts of the earth – everyone else will forego them for something more material.

The meek will inherit the earth. How did I miss that?

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Life Notes

Strength

Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.  1 Peter 4:11

My father received a book from his home church when he joined the military during World War II. The book contains devotions for each day of the year written by the pastors of churches throughout the United States. Harold Cooke Phillips, from the First Baptist Church in Cleveland, Ohio, wrote the devotion for September 29, titled The Strong Soldier. In part, Reverend Phillips wrote:

There are two types of strength. There is the strength of the wind that sways the mighty oak, and there is the strength of the oak that withstands the power of the wind. There is the strength of the locomotive that pulls the heavy train across the bridge, and there is the strength of the bridge that holds up the weight of the train. One is active strength, the other is passive strength; one is the power to keep going, the other is the power to keep still; one is the strength by which we overcome, the other is the strength by which we endure.

Different situations in life call for different types of strength. Sometimes, our best option is to suffer through a situation with all the patient endurance we can muster. For time-bound suffering – cancer treatments, broken relationships, and grief – healing requires the passage of time, and no amount of active strength is going to hasten the process. Other times we must supply the power to actively move something out of our lives. Often, both types of strength are required at different stages of a life situation.

There are those who confuse the power of endurance with weakness. They feel the need to always be proactive, to fight fire with fire, to enter the fray with every ounce of force they possess. Certainly, some situations call for that sort of determination. Other times, however, such raw and blind power leaves a path of utter destruction in its wake with little to show for the devastation. A bull in a china closet comes to mind.

The author of the first letter of Peter says, “…whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies.” Some days we need to be the train, other days the bridge; one day the wind, the next day the oak. Our challenge is to discern the type of strength required for a given situation and know that God will supply the strength needed.

Come home to church this Sunday. Remain calm and power on.

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