17.6.13

Really meek?


Dr Luke shows us how Jesus asks us to become like little children so that we might inherit the kingdom of God. 

St Paul describes Jesus emptying himself of God-power and the gospels do indeed reveal a Jesus who grew tired like we do, hungry as we become, and who took breaks from the work God called him to. Jesus reveals to us what it looks like when God-power denies itself to the fullest extent, to death, even death on a cross.

And we explore 'gentleness,' as we proceed with our focus on the beatitudes... and yet we don't! 'Gentleness' is such a loaded word. It does little to help us understand what God is calling us to. It is the eighth fruit of the Spirit but because Paul tells us we develop these attitudes as we become more and more conformed into the likeness of our Saviour, then our understanding of gentleness has to begin there.

We become gentle by looking to Jesus.

In Jesus' many statements about Himself, one he makes is that he is "gentle and lowly in heart." Matthew 11:28-30. Matthew uses it again to describe Jesus who on Palm Sunday is 'gentle' – because he is a King and yet coming to us on a mere donkey.

Gentleness in the Bible has nothing to do with being weak or lacking strength. And this is where our English word does not help us. God is certainly not weak. In Greek, the word is used to describe a wild animal that had been tamed, often a wild horse that is broken in to be harnessed to a plough or for use in war. 

The donkey was perhaps, in this way, a suitable animal for Jesus's triumphal entry! 

Meekness then is about power being controlled for a purpose.
Meekness is about giving over your will to God.
Meekness is yours when you operate out of your dependence upon God. Meekness is about being submissive..... but to God .....so that then, you have an appropriate attitude, to the people around you.

By the Spirit, we are given an inner strength in Christ that enables us, in the certainty of our status in him, not to have to resort to dominating or domineering, to forcing our way or point of view. But neither does Christian  gentleness mean that we allow ourselves to be pushed around, abused or manipulated. Christ teaches us not to 'Lord it over one another' but he never asks us to compromise the truth. Let that equip you for learning gentleness.

One of the most famous people exemplifying meekness was Moses. 'Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth" (Num. 12:3 ). Meekness then belongs to a man who defied Pharoah, quarrelled with God and became so enraged by his people turning away from God to worship the golden calf, that he ground their statue down and made them drink it. Moses was anything but gentle in the modern sense of the word.

Meekness then is perhaps not what you thought it might be. After all we see gentleness modelled by the one who is both the lion and the lamb and that is why we mustn't confuse gentleness with being passive or nice. There is an important distinction between these attitudes and the 'be-attitudes.' Niceness often emphases manners over real substance because the fear of rejection or people-pleasing controls us. Niceness accomplishes only a peaceful life for the person practising it.

Being passive similarly protects yourself from a troubled life but doesn't achieve much either... and did you notice the defining point there - being nice and being passive secure something for ourselves, biblical meekness, on the other hand, is never self-seeking. It seeks instead the glory of God.

It is for that reason that it does not come easily to us. 

When we are told in Matthew's gospel that the meek will inherit the earth, this inheritance is something given to them, not something they take by force. Become like children, Jesus tells us, it is to these the Kingdom belongs. It is not taken. It is not earned. It already belongs. Jesus's disciples then and now are slow to understand such things.

They expected Jesus to overturn the political powers with might, instead he died on a cross. He did not see his equality with God as something to be exploited but is instead broken, just like that powerful horse, tamed to the plough, so that he might harvest a rich crop for God. 

Jesus emptied himself of power to concentrate on the building-up of others. 

Jesus became broken not so that we become so gentle and passive and nice that others break us and cycles of oppression continue, no, Jesus came to attune us to the meek all around us so that we could help establish the Kingdom of God there and reverse cycles of oppression.

The children whom the disciples would turn away are the first to receive the Kingdom of God.

The women with their undignified and lavish displays of perfume and tears are lifted up.

The hungry and dependent crowds who should sort themselves out are in Jesus welcomed and fed.


We must not be brainwashed with the image of gentle Jesus, meek and mild. 

Jesus chooses to give up his power but when power is taken away from others, Jesus is rightly angry about it and calls you to do something about it too. 

To be gentle, if it to reflect the character of God, then, is to love to the point of action – to stand up against those who dominate and domineer.

To be gentle like Jesus is about bringing in a new way that requires great self-control, a harnessed power like that of the tamed horse so that your inner strength and power can be used to the glory of God. 

Moses' people turn away from God and make a god of and for themselves, they then drink this down like a poison and suffer. 

Jesus asks that we worship God, submit ourselves to him and he drinks the cup for our having turned away and suffers on our behalf. He begins there on that night in the garden of Gethsemane, when he gives up his power to swallow the wrath-cup of God, a new world order, in which harnessed power reigns, submission to God's will triumphs over all earthly power and love really does become our most powerful weapon. 

Meekness then is when your power is tamed but you yourself are anything but tame!

In your Christian gentleness, Jesus calls you to action on behalf of the oppressed, to speak into your culture when it creates its own gods and to champion the cause of the other over yourself often in ways that are anything but nice. 

Amen


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