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Becoming Meek

We had the presentation on how meekness is connected to the beatitude before and after and how it ties into the holy days, but this is how to acquire meekness.

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Well, we’re doing a part of a series on How to Acquire the Attributes of the Beatitudes. Today’s is called Becoming Meek. We had the one on how meekness is connected to the beatitude before and after and how it ties into the holy days, but this is how to acquire meekness.

Now we’re doing this series because we don’t believe that accepting Jesus Christ’s sacrifice, and then coming under the umbrella of God’s grace exempts us from applying ourselves to the task of spiritual growth. We don’t accept the concept of cheap grace or a Christian life without a commitment to living God’s way. We don’t think God does it all. We believe that once we accept the amazing gift of God, then we’re obligated to live like He lived. We are required, actually, to take action. And we think that that’s what it means to be the bondslave of Jesus Christ.

He told the disciples that, if they wanted anything, all they had to do was ask Him and He would give it to them. But that goes both ways. When God asks us to do something – to be His bondslave – means that we have to do that. So, that said, at the same time we believe these things, we also believe that living for God in the present moment does not remove our past sins. Only Jesus Christ can do that. So we can’t earn our salvation by doing these things. So, if we’re so thankful that Christ washed us from our sins, then we ought to strive with our might not to commit any more and to live like God lives. So, saying that, we’re going to see how to put on the attitude that God calls meekness.

What is meekness? Well, the definition of the Greek, provided for us in the Louw & Nida Domain-Oriented Lexicon, is gentleness of attitude and behavior, in contrast with harshness in one’s dealings with others; gentleness, meekness, mildness. That’s what the word means.

We talked about the poverty of spirit toward God and we understood that means that once we see that we are weak and helpless while God is powerful and perfect, that does something. We begin listening to God and learning, because we know that He knows more than we know. And we begin doing what God tells us to do, instead of stubbornly clinging to our own way. So there is poverty of spirit and what it causes in us.

We know that meekness is toward God, but it is also toward others. That’s how it’s different from poverty of spirit. Instead of thinking that every wrong needs to be righted, that we deserve respect, we need resolution, fair treatment, favor, perks, love, blessings, we realize that we’ve done many wrong things ourselves and have hurt many people, have not functioned wisely, have caused a lot of trouble, and deserve bad things instead of good. Therefore – because of that – we’re willing to consider ourselves on the same level with the people who hurt us, disrespect us, take from us, don’t listen to us, and don’t like us. And we treat them graciously, knowing that we have treated God in all these ways and are still treated graciously by Him. “All you people, who’ve done wrong things and treated Me badly,” God says, “whatever you want, I’ll give it to you.” So that’s where meekness comes in.

There are implications. Once we are on the same level as other people – sinners – then it becomes possible to listen to them, and to learn from them, and to hear them, and consider their point of view. Once we have that empathic view, and we can consider ourselves on the same level with others, and understand the experience that they have – which is that of being a sinner – then once that happens, real communication begins. The other person knows they’re being respected, they’re being heard, they don’t need to be defensive, they can listen without defense.

You’ll remember from the previous presentation on meekness that we examined the life of Moses and saw that Moses never defended himself against others. He defended others, who were unable to defend themselves, and he defended God to the people, but he did not defend himself. We also learned that God did that. He didn’t have to.

Let’s look at some scriptural instructions to the church. It’s in Colossians 3, verse 12 through 15.

Col. 3:12-15 – Therefore, as God’s chosen people – holy and dearly beloved – clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues, put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since, as members of one body, you were called to peace, and be thankful.

So there’s an implication here about the need for meekness, if we’re going to have a body of Christ that is united. Instead of anger and upset, and feeling like others have wronged us, we should be thankful. Thankful for what? Well, that God, instead of giving us what we so richly deserve, has forgiven us our sins. You know, if we have that, it’s all good, isn’t it? If we’re forgiven, isn’t that the most important thing, considering what we’ve done?

That story I told you about, where Moses didn’t have to defend himself, is in Numbers 12, starting about verse 1. I want to read to what The New Bible Dictionary says about that. In meekness, Moses, while maintaining strength of leadership, was ready to accept personal injury without resentment or recrimination. And we know what happened because of that, don’t we. We know that God called Miriam and Aaron out to the tent of meeting with Moses, and He “read them off” for their attitude! So, we can know from this that people who are meek, God works things out for them – that He knows best. And where have we heard that before? Well, that’s poverty of spirit, isn’t it? That’s where that comes from. So poverty of spirit is the first beatitude that underlies all the others.

Let’s go back to this issue of body unity. In Ephesians 4, let’s look there in verse 1. Paul said:

Eph. 4:1 – As a prisoner for the Lord – he was in jail – then I urge to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Oh, Paul didn’t think that all you had to do was accept Christ and then do whatever you wanted! He was not a proponent of cheap grace. He said that we had to live worthy of the sacrifice that’s been given for us. And this is what he said we should do: Be completely humble and gentle. Be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace. So this kind of meekness is something that creates peace among people, where we consider ourselves equal in wrong doing to others. And because we’ve been let off the hook by God, we let other people off the hook, as well. We don’t fix it. We let God take it. Let Him have it.

1 Corinthians 13:3 – some more instruction – talking to this, probably energetic, talented, spiritually immature group of people in Corinth. He said:

1 Cor. 13:3 – Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not envy. It does not boast. It is not proud. It’s not rude. It’s not self-seeking. It’s not easily angered. It’s keeps no record of wrongs.

If somebody does something or says something that hurts us, it’s possible to refrain from action and to give it to God, and still be in the wrong. Because we also have to let go of it and keep no record of wrong. I’m not saying that we need to allow ourselves to be hurt over and over because we foolishly ignore the capacity of others to hurt us. But I am saying that need not take a daily look at God’s hit list – or, at least, what we think it is – where we wait and watch for those who have hurt us to be dealt with – where we get our justice. If that’s the case, what would we be in line for ourselves? That’s right. We would be in line for the same kind of treatment we would wish on other people.

2 Samuel 16:5. This one really helps me understand it – right here.

2 Sam. 16:5 – As king David approached Bahurim, a man from the same clan as Saul’s family…. Do we know who Saul was? Saul was the guy that was the king who had tried to kill David. And David finally wound up taking Saul’s place as king. His name was Shimei, son of Gera, and he cursed as he came out. Cursed, okay? We know what that sounds like – probably not in Hebrew, but we do in English. Right? He pelted David and all the kings officials with stones, though all the troops and the special guards were on David’s right and left. Here’s the – what do they call those guys that protect the President? – the Secret Service. And they’re all around David, and here’s this guy cussing up a storm and throwing rocks at the king. And, as he cursed, Shimei said, “Get out! Get out, you man of blood, you scoundrel. The LORD has repaid you for all the blood you shed in the household of Saul, in whose place you have reigned! The LORD has handed the kingdom over to your son, Absalom! And you have become ruined because you are a man of blood!” He is really letting him have it, isn’t he? Probably all true, too, right? Then Abishai, the son of Zeruiah, said to the king, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over and cut off his head.” That’s what the Secret Service guy wanted to do. But the king said – listen to what he said to his Secret Service agent – “What do you and I have in common, you son of Zeruiah? If he is cursing because the LORD said to him, ‘Curse David,’ who can ask, ‘Why do you do this?’” David then said to Abishai and all his officials, “My son, who is of my own flesh, is trying to take my life, how much more, then, this Benjamite? Leave him alone. Let him curse, for the LORD has told him to. It may be that the LORD will see my distress and repay me with good for the cursing I am receiving today.” So David and his men continued along the road where Shimei was going along the hillside opposite him – so all the way down the road! – cursing as he went and throwing stones at him, and showering him with dirt. The king and all the people with him – it says in verse 14 – arrived at their destination exhausted. And wouldn’t we be? And there he refreshed himself.

Why would God tell Shimei to curse David? Well, you know, I think, maybe, this would only be in the sense that God allowed to happen – maybe for David’s good. And God told him to do it, in that he wasn’t keeping from it. Maybe that’s how it worked. But here’s this guy, being terribly disrespectful – out of control, angry – and also saying things that David saw were true.

Notice what it says in the New Bible Dictionary: In the New Testament, meekness refers to an inward attitude, whereas gentleness is expressed, rather than an outward action. It’s part of the fruit of Christlike character produced only by the Spirit. The meek do not resent adversity, because they accept everything as being the effect of God’s wise and loving purpose for them, so that they accept injuries from men also, as Moses above, knowing that these are permitted by God for their ultimate good.

1 Pt. 1:5 – In this you greatly rejoice, though now, for a little while, you may have to suffer grief and all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes, even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen Him, you love Him. And even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy. For you are receiving the goal of your faith – the salvation of your souls.

So when David was having all this dirt thrown at him, and all the vituperative language directed his way, he was receiving the goal of his faith – the salvation of his soul. You know the stuff that happens to us that we don’t like? That causes us to struggle to be like Christ. If it was a total cake walk, everybody always loved us, everybody always said just what we believe, and we were all in perfect accord, we wouldn’t have any trouble at all getting along. Well, maybe we would, but…. I guess it’s just not like us to get along. But the struggle is what causes us to develop godly character. And why are we struggling again? What’s the end goal? To live forever with God and Christ in the family of God, where we can get along, because we’ve learned how.

So, without these events, we would just drift along in the comfortable delusion that we’re already perfect – all of us together. I had something similar to this happen to me sometime back. I got a phone call from the father of a teenage client. And the child had been taken into protective services from his home, and he was really, really angry. I had nothing to do with that, didn’t know it was going to happen, didn’t think it was the best thing to do. He accused me of being in league with Child Protective Services – poured out a torrent of negative complaints. Totally paranoid. I just wanted to reach through the phone and slap him upside the head, like he had done to his daughter, but I didn’t. But I did understand how it felt if someone took my child without my permission. I was in a position where I had to listen. I did get the opportunity later to explain to Child Protective Services this his daughter, in her current state, is impossible to control and that action needed to be taken to protect both the father and the daughter. So that was somewhat satisfying to me. But we have to have these things happen, from time to time, to us so that we can understand that we do things wrongly, too. And if stuff comes our way that is not pleasant or not good, in one way or another, we deserve it.

Okay, so meekness is a gentle approach that comes from knowing that we deserve harsh treatment and, instead, receive the gentle approach from God. And it’s one other thing, too. What does it say will happen to all who become meek? Do you know what the rest of that verse is? Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. When is that going to happen? In the Kingdom. Yes, when Christ returns to establish His Kingdom, we will be resurrected to participate with Him in setting it up – at least, that’s our hope. So we can call meekness a kingdom skill, can’t we? A kingdom skill.

We read earlier, As prisoner of the Lord, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle. Be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. So unity of the Spirit and bond of peace are terms that are talking about the state that the church should be in. So meekness is the thing that causes the church to be at peace. This is the ability to let go of wounds and, as we do that, we all grow into the unity of Christ.

2 Tim. 2:24 – The Lord’s servant – now we’ve always thought that meant the ministry…. Who’s the Lord’s servant? You all are, aren’t you? We all are – all of us. The Lord’s servant must not quarrel. Instead, he must be kind to everybody, able to teach, not resentful. For those who oppose him, he must gently instruct in the hope that God will grant them repentance, leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive, to do his will.

So think about yourself as the Lord’s servant after the resurrection, when Christ returns. We’ll all be working for Him, helping to make the world a peaceful place. And what is the skill that we will need? Meekness. We will need to learn how to go easy on all these people and to be respectful of them, even if they were Muslims, or Buddhists, or Hindus, or whatever. We won’t have to talk harshly to them, I don’t think, because the evidence of God – what God is doing at that time – will be right in front of everybody’s face. So we will need to be gentle, and patient, and humble, and kind, as well as firm and uncompromising, with God’s way.

How do we become this way? None of us is naturally this way, because this is a fruit of the Spirit, not of the flesh. How does one become this way? Well, in explaining what meekness is in the other series, we also explained how we do it. It comes from putting on the previous beatitudes. But how do we do that?

The thing I want to mention, first of all, is mindfulness. You know, so many of us are just in “free float,” and we’re not mindful of the things of the Spirit. We’re mindful of our own stuff. And our mind just wanders from soap opera to evening television to sports event to the latest computer virus to what we’re eating for dinner. And we’re not mindful of the spiritual life.

So when somebody is in our face, telling us that we are in league with Child Protective Services in taking away his daughter, what we need to think, instead of wanting to slap somebody upside the head, is, here is an opportunity to be meek. “So this is what it feels like when the other person is not meek. I need to remember not to be like that.” That way, when God sends somebody into our lives to throw rocks and dirt at us, we know what to do about it. Instead of allowing ourselves to be taken captive by the devil, we put on meekness. So mindfulness – that’s the first thing.

The second thing is study. That section of the Bible about David and Shimei…if I hadn’t read my Bible a bunch of times, I wouldn’t know about that, would I? I wouldn’t have that story to go back to. So reading about meekness exemplified in the lives others, and reading the biblical definition of what meekness and other virtues are, is essential for us. If we’re going to be like God, we have got to read about the people that already were – at least, some of the time.

Thirdly – prayer. We need to remember that the characteristic of meekness, while it’s admired by people in and out of the church, is not natural to humans. It comes from God. And we need to ask God to give that to us – to activate the Spirit in our lives – and to give us the strength to remain mindful and to study about these things.

Then, the fourth thing I wanted to mention is, that the bedrock foundation for this kind of gentleness is the second beatitude, which is mourning. That’s the previous beatitude, isn’t it? Here’s how it works. First, we become poor in spirit – that is, God teaches us that we are weak and helpless without Him – that He knows everything, we know nothing – and only by following His lead, can we know what we need to know to be successful with God. And then, once we understand that, we have an accurate comparison between ourselves and God. What is next needed is an accurate comparison between ourselves and other people. So, once we realize that we are nothing, and that we’ve caused a lot of trouble – because of our wrongdoing in the past – we feel regret. And that is the attitude which is mourning. Then, the next thing to realize is that all people who hurt us are just like we are, and we are just like them – no better, no worse. We all hurt each other. And it makes it so much easier to go easier on others when we know that we are desperately in need of someone to go easy on us. And that is what God has done for us. He’s gone easy on us. We’re still breathing. That’s the proof that He’s gone easy on us. “Oh, but my life is so terrible!” And who caused that? Not God. And, as we surrender ourselves to Jesus Christ for the perfecting of our character, through whatever experiences He brings upon us and those He sends to us for our own good, we develop the attitude of meekness.

Rom. 6:6 – For we know that our old self was crucified with Him, so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin. That’s why we have to be crucified with Christ – so that the body of sin can be done away with – so that we won’t be slaves to it anymore.

Paul also tells us that Jesus Christ is the captain of our salvation – the architect of it. He has a plan for each one of us. And He is busy working it out. And part of that plan includes suffering, so that we can learn, just as He did. All the things that happen to us – the good stuff, the bad stuff, all the interactions – all part of a plan so that we can learn how to be like Jesus Christ.

So, with God, even when it feels bad – even if it’s dirt…. It probably got in their eyes, you know. They were sweaty. It’s hot over there, you know – probably sticking to their skin. They were probably dirty when they got there and dusty. Even when it feels bad, with God, it’s all good in the end.

Okay, that’s scratching a bit of the surface on how to become meek. God does it, but we must go with it. And so the next time, we’ll learn how to hunger for righteousness, which is the fourth beatitude. Of course, that doesn’t apply here, because we’re going to go back in line and start where we left off before.