Meek, not Weak

We’ve been working through the Beatitudes, as you know, and this time around we’re looking at the one most people think of. Here goes:

Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5, NASB)

I’m not sure what Bible translation you’re used to. There’s a reasonable chance you were expecting a different word in there somewhere. That word, the "M" word, might be the reason this particular Beatitude gets so much press. I’m certain that it’s why the passage, and by extension the Christian message itself, is so often misunderstood. Let’s talk about the word itself in a minute. For now, I just want to point out that the word might not be so theologically significant if Bible scholars can’t even agree that Jesus said it in the first place.

Actually, that’s a bit of an exaggeration.  We know He didn’t say it. As it turns out, exactly none of the Bible was written in English. Most of it wasn’t written at all until many years, sometimes dozens or even hundreds of years, after the events took place. After that, what was finally put to paper was translated, edited, and so on. The Bible we read and love is the result of a very long game of telephone, and on that basis I’d argue that a strictly literal interpretation of Scripture is impossible. Everybody’s doing a little bit of allegory.

I do believe that the events described in the Bible actually took place. I believe that Jesus really did the things that the Bible said He did, for example. But I also know that Scripture is not a podcast. We don’t have the audio. And, while I’m grateful that scholars are still working on better translations, our goal is to get a true meaning rather than accurate words.

That said, I don’t have a problem with the word meek. I know that the word doesn’t have to mean what people often think it means. I don’t have a problem with the word. I have a problem with Christian doormatism. It doesn’t match the life or the teachings of Jesus Christ, and it doesn’t match the calling of our hearts.

Yes, Jesus taught nonviolence and forgiveness. His example is one of radical love and outrageous mercy. But He also rode into Jesusalem on Palm Sunday. He cleansed the temple. Over and over again, He stood up for what was right, often in the face of incredible adversity. He spoke Truth to power. He calls us to do the same. Check out Acts 4:23-31. When faced with persecution, the Apostles didn’t pray for escape, or ease, or even understanding. They pray for boldness. Let that be our prayer, too.

No more silence in the face of dysfunction. No more victim-blaming in the name of spirituality. Love stands up. When somebody points out something that has to be fixed, they remind us that growing has to happen; they pull us out of ego stagnation. But that’s the point.

So where does being meek or gentle come in, then? Here’s the formula: bold with people, meek with God. My goal is not to impose my will upon the Lord. It’s also not to try and hold still. Instead, it’s about getting out of God’s way and letting His will be done. There’s a prayer about that. Let it be done, and let it begin with me. Somebody ought to write a song.

But this is not just advice for pleasant living, although that happens too. This is about inheriting the earth. Here’s the seeming paradox: if you stop trying to conquer the world, you’ll find the sum total of all manifestation rolling at your feet.