Summary: 1. Meekness means we do not retaliate. 2. Meekness means we live without fear. 3. Meekness comes with a blessing.
The famous atheist Frederick Nietzsche, who coined the phrase “God is dead,” once said, “Assert yourself. Care for nothing except yourself. The only vice is weakness and the only virtue is strength. Be strong. Be a superman. The world is yours if you work hard enough for it!” Hitler read Nietzsche and decided to become that “superman,” and we all know how that turned out. Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5). Two very different ideas. Although the first words are from an atheist, and the last quote from the teaching of Jesus, it often seems that Christians go by Nietzsche’s philosophy rather than Jesus’ teaching. Many Christians live as though the only virtue is strength. Jesus never talked about strength, but he often spoke of meekness.
I looked up the definition of meekness in the dictionary, and one of the definitions was: “deficient in spirit and courage.” That is not Jesus’ idea of meekness. It is not about being weak, it is about not reacting with aggressiveness and malice. The other definition I found comes closer. It was, “enduring injury with patience and without resentment.” Patience is not something I am very good at. But I really came up short when I looked up the definition in a Greek-English lexicon which defined meekness as: “gentleness of attitude and behavior, in contrast with harshness in one’s dealings with others.” I’ve never been good at the gentle thing either. That’s not an excuse, it is a confession.
It is very difficult to follow the teachings of Jesus, but this is also what makes him so attractive to me. What a challenge to work toward being transformed into the image of Christ. It takes humility and surrender to the will and heart of God on a moment by moment basis. We value strength and dignity, Jesus values meekness and humility.
On the Thursday of Holy Week this year, the queen of England will preside over the Royal Maundy Service at Guildford Cathedral. It is a service held each year on the Thursday before Easter, and the British monarch presents gifts of money to the poor. The royal website says, “The tradition of the Sovereign giving money to the poor dates from the 13th century. The Sovereign also used to give food and clothing (later changed to a gift of money), and even washed the recipients’ feet — this varied from Sovereign to Sovereign, the last Monarch to do so was James II.” It must have been quite a site to see royalty in the humbling posture of foot washing. It is not surprising that this element of the ceremony was dropped several hundred years ago. Although now the Queen would not risk much except her dignity by washing the feet of the poor, in more politically charged times even the smallest display of meekness and humility could place one’s political power in jeopardy. It is unfortunate that we sometimes see meekness as weakness and consider it a disposable quality, but we seldom see power as disposable. The Bible says, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12). This is to be a character quality of Christians because we follow the model of Christ. Jesus said, “I am gentle and humble in heart.”