For the past two weeks, I have focused on the Sermon on the Mount in light of the Capitol Breach and the heated rhetoric coming from many followers of Jesus. Particularly, how the Beatitudes serve as the launching point for the Sermon, and how the Sermon is the foundation for all that Jesus taught during his earthly ministry.
Although the Inauguration is behind us, it is clear there is still passionate division about the direction of this nation. Within hours of President Biden taking the oath of office, some Christians were already decrying what they assume are his plans, accusing him of planning to destroy Christianity, turning our country toward communism and socialism, and calling for his impeachment. And this just within hours of his assuming office.
Of course, the justification will be that is what the Dems did to Trump. And going a bit further back, the Dems can accuse the Repubs of doing it to Obama. Still further back, the Repubs can accuse the Dems of doing it to Bush. On and on it goes, like a family feud, or the ancient animosity between Shia and Sunni Islam, or between Israel and the Palestinians. Each side blames the other and excuses themselves from blame. Thus, there is never any peace or reconciliation.
Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Yet, there is a reason that this Beatitude is lower on the list, not because it is less important, but because one cannot be a peacemaker without first having self-control. “Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth.”
I think what often comes to mind when we think of meek is weakness or timidity, neither of which in our western minds are positive attributes. But there it is. Being meek, Jesus promises, will produce blissfulness within us and lead us to significant stature in our world.
So what does meekness look like? I hinted at it above. The essence of meekness is having power under control. Jesus said of himself in Matthew 11:29, “I am meek.” (Note: the NIV uses the same Greek word here as in the Beatitude, but translates it “gentle.” Go figure.) There is no question that Jesus had self-control. He exhibited it in the Garden of Gethsemane during his arrest. He had the power to summon legions of angels, but chose not to. This was also the focus of Satan’s first temptation—getting Jesus to use his power to turn rock into bread.
Jesus did use his power to heal and to feed others, but he never used it to benefit himself. And he did have the power to destroy, but he used it to give an illustration, never to hurt people. That is the very essence of meekness, having power, which is under control and used to serve others, not ourselves.
You may be asking what power you have, given you are not the Son of God. What we each have is the power to do good and to do harm to others. We see it sometimes in parents who become angry and take it out on their children. We see it in bureaucrats who impede things just because they have the power to do so. We see it in acts of rape and incest. We see it in penitentiaries among both guards and inmates. We see it in dictators. We even see it sometimes in those who are responsible for the new church kitchen! They have power, but they use it for their own ends and gratifications at the expense of others. This is true today and it was true in the 1st Century.
So in this context, Jesus was teaching those who desired to follow him that they were to be very different. As we have already learned, they were to recognize their own spiritual bankruptcy and mourn over it, as well as over the bankruptcy of others. The invitation to become citizens of his Kingdom was open to anyone because the Father loved them all. And now he is calling them to use the power they inherently have as humans to do good toward others rather than harm, and to work on the behalf of others for their good.
When we are meek, then, in this modern day, we are thoughtful about what we say or post. Will it hurt others or inflame situations? If so, then we control those impulses so as not to cause harm or discord. For example, is it necessary or helpful to belittle politicians, who regardless of their political views, are created in the image of God? Jesus warns us that words of anger can be equated with murder. Might meekness be demonstrated by taking your anger to the Lord in prayer and leaving it there?
If we are in the position of authority to help others, to be meek is using that authority to actually help them. If we are in position to assist others financially or emotionally, even if it is a sacrifice or inconvenient, we do it.
The key to meekness is trust in the Lord. Do we really trust him? Jesus trusted the Father to provide bread when he was hungry. He trusted him when the religious leaders were persecuting him. He trusted him when the jealousy and rage of those leaders led him to a Roman cross. So much of the unbridled anger and rage in our nation, at its root, is fear. People are afraid they are losing the country that they love, while others are afraid that the country will never be what they hope for. So both sides grapple for control, treating the opposite side as enemies. I understand this is what the world does; what it has always done. But the follower of Jesus is called to a different path—one of trust which can then lead to meekness, because we live life unafraid of not being in control. We know we serve the God who is in control. Thus, we can be generous with our words, our time, and our resources—our power—to make our world better, to help people see glimpses of the Kingdom by putting our light where they can see it, and to help them be reconciled to God and each other.
This is the call of the Sermon on the Mount—to be different because the Kingdom is different. We may experience brief moments of happiness in letting loose our impulses, but this is not what will bring us true joy. That can only be found in having the same priorities as Jesus. And we will never have a powerful witness to the world unless we are different from it.
© Jim Musser 2021 All Scripture references are from the New International Version, 2011.