Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Meek Shall Inherit ...

not published

... well, right now, the meek shall inherit the jokes.  So many jokes about the meek inheriting the earth and not knowing what to do with it once they get it, or after everybody else is through with it, etc.

I guess a lot of folks find those jokes funny because they really don't get what Jesus means when He talks about meekness.  The people who make the jokes equate meekness with mousiness and weakness.  But is that what Jesus meant?  Does He want us to be door-mats and let people walk all over us?
Here are some people who are described in the Bible as meek.  See if they fit the world's definition of meek.  Moses is described as the meekest man on earth.  Jesus is described as meek, as are David, Steven, Paul .  Not one of those guys looks like a pushover to me, what about you? 

Although the folks who painted pictures in the middle ages tended to paint Jesus looking pretty sappy, the Bible tells us that He was not a weakling.  He worked hard as a carpenter for at least fifteen years.  We also  know that neither David or Moses were wimps either.  They both were in charge of lots and lots of people that they had to keep in line.  Weaklings don't handle those types of jobs very well.  A leader on the level of Moses and David has to possess a considerable amount of internal steel.
So how could those guys be considered meek? By anyone's definition!  But check this out: 
“Meekness is defined as 'enduring injury with patience and without resentment.'” 
Ah hah!  That makes a big difference doesn't it!  Meekness isn't standing in the background hoping to be anonymous.  A meek person can do one of the hardest things in the world:  face mental and/or physical pain, torture, unfairness and humiliation patiently and without getting mad. 

In the fifth century, St. Benedict wrote down a guide to becoming humble.  In it he describes the twelve degrees of humility.  The fourth degree of humility is this: '...if hard and distasteful things are commanded, nay, even though injuries are inflicted, he accept them with patience and even temper, and not grow weary or give up…'  But beyond that degree, things take a bit of a turn. 

In the sixth degree, Benedict says this:  '...when a monk is content with the meanest and worst of everything, and in all that is enjoined him holdeth himself as a bad and worthless workman, saying with the Prophet: 'I am brought to nothing and I knew it not; I am become as a beast before Thee, and I am always with Thee.''

Hmmm. Well, I can still see that as part of humility or meekness...but something seems to be missing.  Can you spot what's missing?  Read on...
'The seventh degree of humility is, when, not only with his tongue he declareth, but also in his inmost soul believeth, that he is the lowest and vilest of men, humbling himself and saying with the Prophet: "But I am a worm and no man, the reproach of men and the outcast of the people.'The eighth degree of humility is, when a monk doeth nothing but what is sanctioned by the common rule of the monastery and the example of his elders.'The ninth degree of humility is, when a monk withholdeth his tongue from speaking, and keeping silence doth not speak until he is asked; for the Scripture showeth that 'in a multitude of words there shall not want sin.''The tenth degree of humility is, when a monk is not easily moved and quick for laughter, for it is written: The fool exalteth his voice in laughter.'The eleventh degree of humility is, that, when a monk speaketh, he speak gently and without laughter, humbly and with gravity, with few and sensible words, and that he be not loud of voice, as it is written: 'The wise man is known by the fewness of his words.''The twelfth degree of humility is, when a monk is not only humble of heart, but always letteth it appear also in his whole exterior to all that see him; namely, at the Work of God, in the garden, on a journey, in the field, or wherever he may be, sitting, walking, or standing, let him always have his head bowed down, his eyes fixed on the ground, ever holding himself guilty of his sins, thinking that he is already standing before the dread judgment seat of God, and always saying to himself in his heart what the publican in the Gospel said, with his eyes fixed on the ground: 'Lord, I am a sinner and not worthy to lift up mine eyes to heaven;' and again with the Prophet: 'I am bowed down and humbled exceedingly.''  "The Christian Classics Ethereal Library,"
Were you able to see the flaw in Benedict reasoning?  He concentrates only on our unworthiness without moving into the hope of redemption.  Someone who used Benedict's model for humility would look like a wallflower, somone who is weak.
Let's look back at the Bible figures I mentioned earlier.  Did they walk around with their eyes downcast and their heads bowed?  Truthfully, I can't imagine any of them walking around like that, can you?

So, then I found an essay by Matt Friedeman.  And it really helped me to see the true power of meekness.  Friedeman describes meekness not as weakness or wimpiness; 'not lack[ing] of energy or strength; rather, power under control.'  In fact, he paraphrases the third beatitudes this way; 'Blessed are the meek...for their power is controlled by the Master.'

Friedeman describes meekness in terms of a meek horse and here's how a horse trainer describes what that looks like.
'Once broken, a good horse doesn't require much correction.  He has learned to accept the reins of his master, and a gentle tug is all that is needed to urge him one direction or the other. The process of “breaking” a horse does not 'remove the power and verve that used to make the animal wild; rather it places the energy under control.”  Horse trainers use the phrase 'channel their spirit' and have found that with 'appropriate channeled, the horse is generally able to jump higher, run faster, and even work harder than an uncontrolled animal.'
It gets better. 
'A special relationship develops between the horse and master.  After years of working together, they develop a rapport that becomes second nature to both of them.  Thus trained, a good horse can sense a bad rider and will resist false guidance.'
Wouldn't it be wonderful to have that relationship with God?  To be able to know Him so well, that we can sense false guidance and not be lead down a wrong path?

Friedeman also talks about the partnership between a well trained horse and his rider.
'The horse knows its job and is capable of working even when it doesn't feel the immediate presence of its rider.  They work as a unit, even when physically apart.'
According to Friedeman, 'the meek horse has an elevated sense of loyalty and commitment.'  He goes on to describe horses from the old west and the pony express. 
'The lives of the mail carriers depended upon the horses they rode.  A Pony Express horse needed to be swift and hardy, with a certain measure of grit that enabled it to keep going, no matter what.  Those horses would die in the running if that is what it took.  They were bent upon completing the course.  And despite the heat, the parching thirst, raging storms, Indian attacks, and injury, horses of that caliber never whined or whinnied in protest. Meek horses...have learned the secret of submitting to the control of their master.  They trust that rider enough to follow uncomplainingy wherever he leads them.
And finally, Friedeman reminds us that 'a horse does not become [meek] overnight.  It takes a long, hard period of training.'

What an excellent picture of a meek Christian!  
'Those who have placed the reins of their lives in the guiding hand of the Master may give up control.  But in its stead they will receive the guidance and protection of One whose vision is far higher than theirs.  Instead of spending their energy in frivolous pursuits, their lives will reach their full potential-and they will inherit the earth.'
Meekness is not weakness; it is power under control.  Think about Moses, David, Paul and Jesus.  They weren't wimps.  They were powerful people who allowed God to hold the reins and direct them into their full potential.  I want that kind of meekness, don't you?

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