Friday, March 21, 2014

Blessed Are the Meek

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately, specifically about Jesus and The Bible.  I've been pondering the problems of translation and the thousands of years that have passed culturally between us and the Words of Christ.  I've also been reading Rob Bell's series on The Bible (you can find it here) and I've decided to invite you to come with me on a bit of a series study focusing on Jesus and the things that he said.

I'm starting with the Beatitudes, which is sort of a cheesy word Christians invented about general introduction to The Sermon on the Mount, a title we also invented about a huge gathering of humans on the side of a hill to hear the greatest teacher of all time speaking without amplification.

Here's the actual setting for the "sermon":

You can see the Sea of Galilee in the distance.  Imagine you're sitting on the hill.

The water and the natural acoustics of the hillside allow for amplification over the crowd.

The New Living Translation says this (Matthew 5: 3 - 10):

"God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.

God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth.

God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied.

God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God.

God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called Children of God.

God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs."

I'm not necessarily going to address these in order, because specific things have been laid on my heart.  I'm actually going to start with verse 5:  "God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth."

The verse many of us are more familiar with is the King James version:  "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth."

When I think of meekness I always think of that scene in The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy and her friends are meeting the wizard, and she introduces herself as "...Dorothy, the small and meek."  I always wondered why she would introduce herself in that way.  It made me feel a little afraid for her.  I always associated meekness with weakness, cowardice, and bowing down before an enemy instead of standing and fighting or behaving in any noble way whatsoever.

We don't use that word, meek, a whole lot anymore.

When I looked it up with Webster I got this:

quiet, gentle, and easily imposed on; submissive.

"I used to call her Miss Mouse because she was so meek and mild"
synonyms:submissive, yielding, obedient, compliant, tame, biddable, tractable, acquiescent, humble, deferential, timid, unprotesting, unresisting, like a lamb to the slaughter;
quiet, mild, gentle, docile, lamblike, shy, diffident, unassuming, self-effacing

It bothered me because I don't think that's what Jesus meant.

Maybe that's all taken care of with the "humble" replacement in the NLT, but humility is something we don't really get either.  I think we put it right down next to meek when we think it through, especially in the "self effacing" sense of the word.

While Jesus went "like a lamb to the slaughter" when he went to the cross, he was not compliant.  He was not timid.  He was not submissive.  Even like a lamb to the slaughter Jesus exuded power and strength.  He was more like a lion who had bowed his head and said "Go ahead and kill me - but don't forget that at any time I choose, I can wipe you clear off the planet".  He is not shy.  He is absolutely not "tame".

While the dictionary definition includes those things, I find it sad that we have made many of those virtues into Christian ideals.  It leaves us as things to be victimized.  It leaves us as allowing atrocity and watching from the sidelines as we and those around us are bullied.

Jesus said to "turn the other cheek", but that was so that his enemy was forced to look him in the eye.

I think that when Jesus talks about this "meekness" he means meek and knowing.  Meek and wise.  To be humble in knowing that all of your power comes from the King of the Universe - but to stand up tall knowing that the King of the Universe has your back.

We are children of great power and authority.  We are children of might and valor.  Jesus shakes his fist in the face of the entire Roman Empire as he rides into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey.  Humble, but not weak.  Meek, but not tame.

Jesus is truly the Third Way of doing things.

He does not teach compliance.  He stands up for the rights of the poor, needy, sick, hungry, lame, afflicted, and sinful.  He says it to the face of the Pharisees.  He calls them "whitewashed tombs".  He doesn't hide behind his friends or gossip behind their backs.  He confronts them with themselves on a regular basis.  He walks into the Temple during the week of Passover, when it will be most crowded, and he chases out the money changers in front of the all the mightiest Jews in the world.  The fig tree is cursed as a symbol of the false teaching of the "church" of the time - lots of show and display but no fruit.  No actual understanding.

No - Jesus is not timid and biddable.  Jesus is mighty.  Wise as a serpent.  Gentle as a dove.  Unless people are being cheated, robbed, and blinded by those in authority.

Our meekness should not imitate weakness.

We are not put on this earth to be trod upon.

We are to stand up for righteousness.  If we are caught, tortured, and put to death for it, we are to die with dignity and strength.  Not bleating helplessly, but with our heads up as princesses.  Though we bleed, still we minister, even unto death, as Jesus to the thieves on the cross.


He allowed them to kill him.

But not tame.

Now that I think about it, maybe I shouldn't have been afraid for Dorothy, after all.  While her friends cowered in the background, she stepped forward and spoke with authority.  She understood the true meaning of the word.  I, as a young girl, did not.

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