Blessed are the Meek

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”

Matthew 5:5

We are continuing on this journey together as we try to discover how to witness to our yet to believe friends. And the question is really how do we frame the gospel to them in a way that can be impactful? We know the gospel for ourselves, and that is well and good. But how do we articulate it to those who have yet to believe? I find it to be a challenge to evangelize. And I think the difficulty may lie in the fact that we, perhaps are more like our “lost” friends than we realize. In other words, perhaps, we have a difficulty telling people how great the gospel is, because perhaps we don’t really know, or haven’t experienced how great it is for ourselves. For many Christians, sharing the gospel is another task to put on our to do list. Instead, we should live and think so differently, in such a freedom and joy, that we should be able to clearly see the difference between a life in Christ, and a life outside of Christ. In this way, it shouldn’t be so much that we try to shine our light in the darkness, it should naturally just happen, because the way we do life is so different.

Romans 12 tells us to not be conformed to this world, but to be transformed. The reality is that living in this world, it will squeeze you into its mold of conformity. By breathing the same cultural air, we become like everyone else. And slowly and subtly we lose the spark, the fire, the zeal, the joy, we had at the beginning of our Christian journeys, and we become just as blinded by the things of the world, and numbed to the things of God, and we don’t really feel like people need the Gospel. They seem to be living fine, happy, satisfied lives, in fact, maybe even better than ourselves. So who are we to impose our beliefs on them?

In his book, Disruptive Witness, Alan Noble observes that while we may strongly adhere to our beliefs, we may have unconsciously become more like the world that we realize. Specifically, in two areas. The first, is we are just as distracted as the world. We are so busy with seeing, doing, and enjoying the things of this life that we are buffered from the things eternal. He described one man who would wake up with feelings of dread, and even wanting to die. Always and only when he would wake up. And so he would quickly caffeinate himself and get busy doing things until those feelings and thoughts were forgotten. Do we live in much the same way? Could it be that we have unconsciously fallen pray to living and thinking like everybody else? So focused on the immanent, the natural, the technological; our lives are full of so much noise that we aren’t even thinking about God and things eternal most of the day?

He talks about a typical Sunday. While you may go to church and spend a few minutes thinking about God, what about the rest of the day? We drive in cars made by humans, surrounded by stoplights, fire trucks, businesses, freeways, skyscrapers which are also all amazing works of human achievement. And then, how many countless times do we look at our phones to watch media that is also limited to humanity. Not that there’s anything wrong with that in itself, but he says that this buffers us from having to think about the transcendent. Our environment, our culture, naturally distracts us from thinking about God and eternity.

The other area where we have unconsciously become like the world is in its pluralism where every belief is contested, and so everyone has the right to believe whatever they want to believe. We unconsciously imbibe this pill whenever we think, “I don’t want to impose my beliefs upon this person.” Now we don’t want to be imposing, however, very subtly this causes us to lose the urgency of sharing the only way to know the goodness of God, and instead causes us to retreat into our Christians bubbles, where we enjoy our personal beliefs regardless of how it affects anyone else. This is hyper individualism and pluralism. On the contrary, if we have something so good, how could we keep it to ourselves, especially if God has also commanded us to share this good news as an act of love?

Noble’s argument is much more intricate than the way I’m explaining, but basically, he is saying is that we are so distracted and so individualistic that we have not only lost our zeal to share the gospel, people won’t even be able to receive the gospel in an impactful way. Thus, rather than just witnessing, we need to be a disruptive witness that interrupts their normal way of life and to allow the gospel to break into their lived reality. How do we do that? I need to finish the book : )

But one way, is using Ecclesiastes 3:11 which says: God has “put eternity into man’s heart.” This means our evangelistic method can take any given subject or issue, and use that issue to dig into our friend’s hearts until we find eternity there. More specifically, we want to follow the longings of our heart all the way to heaven. That’s the task. Conversing with our friends in such a way, until we are able to uncover their longings, and then to gently guide them to see that these longings can only be ultimately satisfied in heaven. As C.S. Lewis has put it memorably: “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”

So we’re going to attempt to do that with meekness now. As we meditate on meekness, we want it to uncover the desires or longing of our heart, until it leads us all the way to heaven, where Christ is.

I’m going to ask and attempt to answer five questions:

  1. What is meekness?
  2. Is meekness good? (imminence)
  3. Why is meekness hard? (imminence to transcendence)
  4. How does Christ show us the way? (incarnation to justification)
  5. How can I practice meekness? (sanctification)

1. What is meekness?

Jesus says, “Blessed are the meek.” What is meekness? Meekness is not weakness. Rather, it is gentleness towards those who are weak. Some define it as power under control. Augustine says: “Meekness is like a gentle breeze that soothes the soul, bringing peace and serenity to the heart.” Or another church Father, Basil the Great says: “Meekness is like a soft and gentle rain that nourishes the earth, fostering growth and harmony.”

So meekness is related to gentleness, like a gentle breeze or a soft and gentle rain. The opposite of meekness is a person around whom you feel you are walking on egg-shells. Who is very touchy, rough around the edges, and can be easily annoyed.

In the bible, meekness or gentleness is often found in two contexts. The first is in oppression. I think that seems to be especially the focus in these beatitudes. So meekness concerns how we respond in suffering. When you are being oppressed or mistreated, meekness is the ability to respond without anger on the one hand, neither with indifference on the other. So meekness says neither, “How dare you?” nor “Whatever.” Rather, it has a quiet, calm, mild response. The second context is kind of related, it is in situations that require correction. So Galatians 6:1 talks about restoring a person with a spirit of gentleness.

I was reading something by John Chrysostom, one of the ancient church fathers known as the Golden-Mouthed Preacher, and he talked about caring for widows. And he was saying that the person given the responsibility to care for widows not only has to be discerning with finances, he says that those charged with caring for widows also need to be meek. The reason? These widows can be very difficult to deal with. They can annoy you. He describes them this way: they “indulge in unlimited freedom of speech (so I had best call it); and they make an unseasonable clamor and idle complaints and lamentations about matters for which they ought to be grateful, and bring accusations concerning things which they ought contentedly to accept.” In other words, they’re very difficult women. But meekness has the ability to be kind even to difficult people.

Now, it is important to know that meekness is very closely connected with humility. And actually meekness is a product of humility. So in Matthew 11:29, Jesus says we are to learn from him because he is both “gentle (or meek) and lowly in heart, that is humble.” Also, in Matthew 21:5 when Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey, the ESV translates the same Greek word for meekness as humble. Also, in Colossians 3:12 you see that they come together. So meekness and humility are related, and we can say that humility is the inner condition that produces the outer conduct of meekness.1

In other words, in talking about meekness, we’re also talking about humility.

2. Is Meekness Good? (imminence)

So I think we have an idea of what meekness is, can we agree that this is good? Is humility and meekness something that most people would agree is a good thing? I think most people appreciate humility. Especially when you see humility in a person who is very successful or talented, but they are not arrogant or mean, we respect them even more. And then when we see them treated unfairly and to still respond with gentleness and graciousness is even more impressive.

If I were to list out the benefits of humility:

  • It enhances relationships by fostering empathy
  • It promotes learning because it is open to feedback. In other words, humility is not afraid of, nor defensive against criticism.
  • Humility strengthens teamwork by prioritizing group goals over individual goals
  • Reduces conflict by seeking peaceful resolutions
  • Builds trust because a humble person is perceived as approachable
  • It creates a positive and encouraging atmosphere

The goodness of meekness is that it leads to peace and rest. Jesus even said to learn his gentle and humble ways, and you will find rest for your souls (Matthew 11:29). So there is something about humility that is vital for your relational, emotional, and spiritual health. Some even say that meekness and humility is the root of all virtue.2

And so meekness and humility sound like great things until…we’re asked to be meek towards a certain individual who gets under our skin, annoys us, and we just can’t help but give them what we feel they deserve.

3. Why is meekness hard? (imminence to transcendence)

With these people, especially when you feel you are not being treated the way you deserve to be treated, why is it so hard to be meek? Everyone wants to be understanding people who are peacemakers. Especially today, there is so much disagreement and division. And so we like the idea of being able to listen to each other and settle our differences. But instead, we tend to either fight with those who disagree with us, or we cut them off: “How dare you?” or “Whatever, forget you.” Anger or indifference.

Everyone loves the idea of peace, until you have to make peace with an enemy. If peace through meekness is such a goodness thing, why is it so hard? Some people seem to be more naturally gifted with humility. But even the best of us, struggle to be meek with certain people. And this is where we need Christ to expose the darkness that has poisoned our hearts.

4. How does Christ show us the way? (imminence to transcendence)

I think most people would agree that there was never a more loving, gentle, humble person than Jesus Christ. His meekness is on fully display even in a situation where most people would excuse him for being annoyed. He’s in the process of being crucified by his enemies when he prays for them asking, “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) How was Jesus so meek and humble?

1. How He related to the Father

Jesus is the way. While Jesus was fully God, it’s important to recognize that he was fully human. He was pure light. That means, he showed us the way to be fully human. And so when we compare ourselves to him, his pure light can show us the darkness in our hearts, and then lead us to the light. When it comes to meekness, the place to begin, is Jesus’ own relationship with his heavenly Father. As a human, he showed us how to relate to God the Father. So how did he?

Listen to how he spoke of his relationship with God the Father:

  • “The Son can do nothing of his own accord” (John 5:19).
  • “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will” (John 5:30).
  • “I do not receive glory from people” (John 5:41). In other words, he only received glory from the Father.
  • “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will” (John 6:38).
  • “My teaching is not mine” (John 7:16).
  • “I have not come of my own accord” (John 7:28).
  • “I do nothing on my own authority” (John 8:28).
  • “I came not of my own accord, but he sent me” (John 8:42).
  • “Yet I do not seek my own glory” (John 8:50).
  • “The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority” (John 14:10).
  • “The word that you hear is not mine” (John 14:24).3

Notice how often he says nothing or not. Basically, he recognizes that he would be nothing apart from God. Instead of trying to puff himself up, he empties himself. He says I’m nothing. But being nothing, he allows God to be everything.

In this, Jesus shows us the way to humility and meekness. And this also really gets to the root of sin. Which is what? It is thinking in even the smallest way that you deserve something. In other words, sin begins whenever you have the slightest thought that you don’t need to say, “Thank you” to God for anything. Are you successful? Thank God. Are you good looking? Thank God. Are you talented? Thank God. How often do you do that? Maybe you thank God before a meal. But every single blessing in our lives comes from God. And without God, we are nothing. Which then makes God everything. This is reality. We are creatures, and both our creation, and our continuing existence is entirely dependent upon the grace of God.

You can say this is the givenness of our existence. That everything we have and everything that we are that is good has been given to us by grace, so that we are what we are, only by the grace of God. This comes from the simple fact that we are creatures. Being created, we live owe our very existence and thus everything to God. And so we need the grace of God not only for our salvation from sin, but we need the grace of God even to exist. If you think about Jesus, Jesus had no sin. And yet, as a human he was completely dependent upon the Father where he even said, I can do nothing on my own. This is the root of humility. Every moment of our lives, to say, “I can do nothing on my own.” And in this you make God everything.

When we depart from this in even the slightest way, then we begin to think that people owe us something. And when we don’t get the treatment we think we deserve, we lose our meekness.

2. How He related to us

So Jesus related to the Father in total dependence. How did Christ relate to us? Jesus’ meekness and humility is summed up in the image of a lamb. Jesus was the Lamb of God. What does that mean? The lamb of God means two things. First, as the lamb of God, he was meek and mild. Lambs are not ferocious animals, they are gentle creatures. But secondly, being the lamb of God means death. In particular, it means substitutionary death. Jesus died in our place. Isaiah 53 says he was like a lamb led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. As the lamb of God he willingly, humbly, quietly, died in our place in order to bear our sins and make us right with God.

How could he do such a thing? Because his ego was completely satisfied and filled with God. Because he had completely emptied himself, so that he was completely filled with the grace of God, he didn’t need anything from us. And so he could give, and give, and give, until he gave his entire life away dying in our place. The only sinless perfect human being, the most meek person ever to live, the only person who truly didn’t deserve to be treated the way he was, willingly gave himself up to our sin. Why? He took our sin, in order to free us from it.

And then what happened? There’s more. Jesus’ story doesn’t end in a cruel and pointless torture and death. No, because Jesus humbled himself like a lamb, the Father exalted him to the highest place, where the angels in heaven sing, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Rev 5:12) And this corresponds with the rest of the beatitude, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” Jesus has inherited the earth (all of it!), and for all who follow him in his meekness, they are co-heirs with Christ to receive that glorious inheritance.

And this is where transcendence comes in. This teaches us to see beyond the moment. See beyond the moment of frustration where you are not being treated the way you think you deserve, and instead think ahead to eternity. Actually, you just have to think ahead a few years. A few years, after your momentary life passes away, you will die, but then you will enter into an eternity where you receive what you do not deserve. You receive an inheritance that goes beyond your wildest imagination. You don’t just inherit a large estate on the countryside. You inherit the entire earth! You become a co-heir and co-ruler with Christ where you will reign with him in perfect peace forever and ever (Rom 8:17; Rev 3:21).

The fact that this is an inheritance is important. It brings us back to grace. It is not something that we have earned, rather it is something that is given to us. Christ earned it, but we inherit it. So we should be doubly humbled by creation and salvation. First, everything in this life has been given to us by God the Father. And then second, everything in the life to come will be given to us from the Son of God. And so our existence continues to be a givenness, it is only by grace, and apart from grace, we are nothing. And what this means is that in any given moment, no matter how people may be treating us, we always have a reason to be grateful, peaceful, joyful. Because just as Christ was mistreated for a moment, but now is in eternal peace, so one day, we will share in that experience with him no matter how much we may be mistreated in this momentary life.

5. How can I practice meekness?

Now, how can we actually practice meekness? We can sum with these two phrases: I can do nothing. I can do all things.

Jesus says in John 15:5 “apart from me you can do nothing.” So in the same way that Jesus related to the Father, we need to relate to Jesus. Apart from Jesus, I can do nothing. This means that everything we do, we can only do by grace. This is a transcendent mentality. In any given moment, you feel your nothingness apart from Christ. But sensing that nothingness, you can then quickly move on to the next statement: I can do all things. This comes from Philippians 4:13, I can do all things through him who strengthens me. So apart from Christ you can do nothing, however when you are in Christ, you can do all things. And interestingly, in the context of Phil 4, Paul by all things, he means all things difficult, so that you can be content in any circumstance. So this is meekness: it is the combination of nothingness and everythingness. I can do nothing and at the same time I can do all things, but it is only through Christ. Only when Christ is my everything can I do all things like being gentle and humble when I would usually get annoyed.

So I can do nothing. And I can do all things. And really it comes down to the grace of Jesus Christ. This is the key to the Christian life. That’s why the book of Philippians ends, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.” And also in the well known benediction, “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ” (2Cor 13:14). This is the air we need to breath every single moment. That we are what we are only by grace. When we drink from the fountain of grace, and with our souls satisfied in. him, we can be humble and meek.

Let me give you some practices to help reinforce this:

  1. Silence. Our lives are filled with so much noise, especially media. Turn it off. And think about the grace of Christ filling all aspects of your life. This is a big reason why we try to practice Sabbath. It is a day to shut down the immanence and focus on the transcendence of the grace of God.
  2. Gratitude. Knowing his grace should lead you to give thanks in all circumstances
  3. Serving the undeserving. There is an ancient text that says: “Let it not grieve thee to bow down thine ear to the poor, and give him a friendly answer with meekness.”4 Make it a habit, a practice in your life, to be gentle, kind, meek to people you might naturally think you owe nothing. This requires you to humble yourself to serve them, even as Christ humbled himself to serve us when we were so undeserving of it. In this way you become more lamblike, sacrificially dying for the sins of others. Apart from Christ you can do nothing. But in Christ you can do all things.

Prayer: Lord, we thank you showing us the way to humility and meekness. Thank you for your continual and unending grace to us. Thank you for showing us the reality, that we are nothing apart from you. But when we have you, we have everything. Would you show us more of Christ’s way, that we can follow him all the way home to glory in your presence? And in the mean time, make us more humble and meek like him, that we would give ourselves like lambs for the sake of others. In Jesus Name, Amen.

  1. I got this idea from John Piper in This Momentary Marriage which is the book I always use in pre-marital counseling. ↩︎
  2. John Chrysostom: “Meekness is the foundation of all virtues. It makes men masters of themselves and keeps them unruffled in the face of trials and injuries.” ↩︎
  3. For more on this, see Humility by Andrew Murray ↩︎
  4. Ecclesiasticus 4:8 ↩︎

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