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Can you be courageously meek?

By Ross Reitz

Possibly the craziest teaching of Jesus is “The meek shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5). When we hear the word “meek,” we often think of someone who is so timid and so ineffectual that they cannot possibly hurt another human being — or even stand up to be heard. However, the Bible is quite hard on people who lack courage, so being meek must mean something different than being quiet and afraid.

The Greek word in the New Testament simply means “humble” or “gentle.” It does not mean powerless. Jesus was quite clear that He had the power to start a war with heavenly angels to defend Him (Matthew 26:53). But while Jesus had power, He used His power to teach and serve others through love. In fact, He taught, “The greatest among you shall be your servant” (Matthew 23:11).

When we stand up against what is wrong and selfish, but do so with love and clear teaching, we allow the Holy Spirit to work in the lives of others. The Holy Spirit, then, works beyond even what we say and do to change human hearts, and even entire societal and governmental situations. But when we resort to labeling people as groups, name calling, and even condoning violence, we defy the teaching of Jesus Christ and remove the ability of God to work through us. When we stand up for what we believe, but we do it by attacking those who are already hurting and at risk, we clearly are not acting like Christ.

When I think of people who were courageously meek, I think of Martin Luther King Jr. and King David. Many people were scared of Martin Luther King Jr., because he clearly had such eloquence and charisma that he could have started a war. Yet, because of his faith in Christ and his willingness to act like Christ, he was meek. He showed true power to confront sin, yet true self-control to avoid violence. While Dr. King was martyred in his service to Christ, he clearly did inherit the earth. No one else so clearly brought about Christ-like change in both white and black communities.

Likewise, David in the Bible was courageous, willing to face wild animals and even enemy soldiers with more skill and more physical prowess (I Samuel 16). As a leader, he grew more and more popular with the Israelite crowds, and as a result, became feared by King Saul. Even though he had been anointed by the prophet Samuel and promised that he would be the next king of the Israelites, he refused to attack Saul — or even speak against him — even when Saul was hunting him down to kill him.

How can anyone be so courageous, yet so loving? How can anyone hold on to that much power, and yet use it without selfish gain? I would say that balance only comes through God. The book of 2 Timothy ties this all together when it says, “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power, of love, and of self-discipline” (1:7).

Lately, we have seen a rise in anger and violence, supposedly in the defense of liberty. But instead of giving up hope or giving into fear, we need to remember that God promises to give all the earth to the meek.

 

Ross Reitz has been a Suffolk resident since 2009. Prior to that, he taught the Bible in Africa for two years and spent six years as a teacher at a Christian school in Philadelphia, Pa.