Summary: We tend to think that meekness is for losers, but Jesus teaches that the earth belongs to those who humility and meekness is seen in their trust of Christ.
Blessed are the Meek
May 29, 2005
This is the third sermon on the beatitudes. We have come down to Matthew 5:5. “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.” I have a feeling that we have a problem today as we come to this beatitude on meekness. Meekness doesn’t really seem to fit in with our American ideal. Being meek is for losers, we think. Do you remember the kid you always made fun of in High School because he wore coke-bottle glasses, was on the chess team, wore black socks with his shorts and sneakers in the summer, and was always picked last to be on a team in gym class? We don’t want to be like him. We don’t want to be like the 90 pound weakling who gets sand kicked in his face on the beach. Who would you rather be…Woody Allen or Clint Eastwood? Who would you rather be…Don Knots or John Wayne? Who would you rather be…Jerry Seinfield or Sylvester Stallone?
Shortly after the end of the first gulf war in the early 90’s, I remember reading the autobiographies of both General Norman Schwarzkopf and General Colin Powell…true American heroes, these two. Architects of an almost flawless military strategy and a precision-laced tactical plan, they were the talk of the nation. I am sure that most of us still remember “Stormin” Norman’s press conference after the end of hostilities when he told the reporters about his battle plan. He informed us all about the end run around Iraq’s Republican Guard, about the decoy invasion by sea, and about the allied capability to act with impunity anywhere they desired. We all remember that he said his plan was to surround the serpent, cut its head off, and kill it. We applaud that sort of leadership and decisiveness in times of war.
Here’s our problem. Most of us in this room today, probably all of us, believe in Jesus as the Son of God. We believe that he is the One who came to turn the world upside down and on its ear. We believe that he is the Suffering Servant of whom Isaiah spoke. He is the humble One born in a stable. He stood on a hillside and preached “turn the other cheek and go the extra mile. He is the One who came to show humanity a new way to live. He came to serve and not to be served. He is the One who said that those who live by the sword will die by the sword. He is the One who didn’t accept living on the world’s terms, but showed a new way of Kingdom living. He is the One who instructed us to pray, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
That is the Jesus we believe in. Honestly, we do. But then we run up against competing claims, don’t we? We find the biblical mandate for peace, gentleness, and meekness quite compelling. We long for the time when the wolf shall lie down with the lamb and the leopard with the goat. We wait for the time when the Prince of Peace shall come to rule the nations. We truly believe that the way of peace is better than the way of violence and war.
That is what we want, honestly and sincerely, but our dreams and hopes are tempered by nationalism, patriotism, and devotion to our country; and sometimes our nation resorts to violence and war to further the aims of our international relations. Quite frankly, there are times when Jesus seems a little wimpy for the old Red, White, and Blue as we confront dictators, terrorists, and those who wish us harm.
Turning the other cheek is one thing in Sunday School, but in real life doesn’t always seem realistic. Going the extra mile preaches pretty well, but doesn’t really translate into a strong foreign policy. Somehow I doubt that arguing that the first shall be last is very good dinner conversation over at the Pentagon or State Department or the White House.
If you remember your history classes from High School, you will recall that Julius Caesar was assassinated in March of 44 B.C. In July of that year, a comet became visible in the night skies over Rome, and Caesar’s adopted son and heir to the throne, Octavius, began to promote the idea that this was a sign that the murdered emperor had been given divine status and was on his way to heaven.
Caesar was officially deified by the Roman law in 42 B.C. and so Octavius, who by this time had taken the name Augustus, added the phrase “son of God” to his name. Caesar was viewed as the savior who had brought salvation to the whole world. (For this discussion, I am indebted to John Dart for his article “Up Against Caesar” in “The Christian Century” February 8, 2005).