Meekness in the Beatitudes
Meekness isn’t a quality I’m familiar with, but I know it was a character trait that Jesus commended in the beatitudes (see Matthew 5:5). The beatitudes are a portrait of what a godly person looks like – the word “blessed” at the beginning of each phrase literally means “happy, content”. And one peculiar type of person He called blessed was the meek person.
Looking to our current culture for clues on what it means to be meek is futile, since culture lives and breathes a recycled self-exalting pride – completely opposed to the exaltation of anyone or anything else, let alone a holy God. But Christians are called to a proper, sober self-reflection and to a character mirroring that of our Lord. Jesus was the perfect man – holy in every way, He lived the kind of life that God had intended for man in the beginning – in completely perfect relationship with God, devoted in love, worship and holiness. He was the perfect example of what it means to be godly, and so is the best example to look to for meekness.
Meekness in the Bible
In my search for learning what exactly what meekness was, I came across a sermon by John Piper, called Blessed Are The Meek. Although it was preached nearly 30 years ago, it held such compelling weight and truth (as his sermons often do), and couldn’t be more relevant or applicable for where I am right now. One of the ‘marks’ of a meek person that really stood out to me, as noted by Piper, was that in the face of insult, accusation or criticism, they are able to refrain from revenge, defense or response – even if it is not wrong to do so. He used a great example from Numbers 12 to illustrate this:
“Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married, for he had married a Cushite woman; and they said, “Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?” And the Lord heard it. Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all men that were on the face of the earth. And suddenly the Lord said to Moses and to Aaron and Miriam, “Come out, you three, to the tent of meeting.”
After this, the Lord severely rebuked Miriam and Aaron, and came to Moses’ defense.
Meekness in Righteous Restraint
Moses had every right to defend himself. He was a prophet of the Lord, able to meet Him in person, chosen specifically to deliver and lead the Lord’s people. But in the face of accusation and insult, he said nothing – instead patiently waiting on the One he knows will bring justice for his cause. Like a punching bag made out of sand, rather than porcelain, meek people are powerful to absorb adversity – rather than lashing back – patiently leaving their justice to God, whom they trust.
Meekness in the Modern Christian
Since listening to the sermon, I haven’t yet come across a situation that held opportunity to put this into practice. Although I’m sure that in the face of unjust accusation or criticism, restraining from rightly defending myself for the sake of my pride and image in order to give way to trusting in the Lord for justice and grace will prove extremely difficult – if not at times impossible – given the tug in the direction of self-exaltation from both sin and our pride-ridden culture. But I’m going to pray, and I’m going to try.
What about you? When people insult, accuse, criticise or persecute you – whether rightfully or wrongfully – what is your response? Are you prone to correcting others? Or defending your cause? How important is your image to others, as opposed to your relationship with God? What fruit would you bear if you instead gave way to trusting in the Lord, having patience, and leaving justice to Him?
For Prayer and Meditation: Read Matthew 5:5 and Numbers 12. Pray and ask God for humility, meekness, gentleness, a quiet spirit, removal of the need to correct or defend, an increase in patience and trust in God’s faithfulness and justice; being thankful that these things are not only our calling but our privilege as God’s children in Christ.