Friday, March 27, 2009

What Does "Blessed Are the Meek" Mean?

For the recent weeks, Erwin McManus has been talking about the "Beattitudes" of Jesus. Jesus talks about the life He calls us to which can be tricky because He was consistently counter intuitive. Remember that the disciples didn't have all the information that we have in knowing that Jesus would be crucified and that he would rise from the dead. This was their first opportunity to wrap their arms around who He really was, where His Kingdom would be, how He would rule His Kingdom and what it would be like to be His followers. They also wanted to know who would be qualified to be His followers.

Jesus, right off the bat, starts with an extraordinary broad stroke that wipes out everyone who thought they were a sure "in" and gives hope to everyone who thought they were eliminated from the picture; "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven." But if that weren't strange enough, He moves quickly to "Blessed are those who mourn." So, right away, He paints two pictures of things that we seek to avoid in life. We don't want to be poor or miserable and often we go to God to get rid of these things. But Jesus frames these attributes up as being the realities of life.

Reading Matthew 5:1-10, Erwin reminds us of all the beattitudes. We focus today, though, on the 3rd attribute, "Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth". Do any of us really believe this one? There is no practical evidence that Jesus is right on this. Rarely do we even use the word "meek" and we associate it with the word "weak".

Years ago, Erwin rode "open jumpers", doing fox hunting with no foxes. He jumped over obstacles and rode through a course. "Popcorn" (he was a good jumper) was the horse he often rode. "One of the things I learned was that the word 'meek' was part of the horse vernacular." Imagine these stallions bucking and snorting and defiantly daring handlers to try and ride them. When the horse was finally "broken", it wasn't that the horse was weak, it just meant that the horse now had "controlled strength". So, whatever it means to be blessed to be meek, it DOESN'T mean blessed are the weak. It addresses us in our harnessed strength.

When Jesus says, "blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth", we don't believe that for a second. Who do we think gets the "earth"? The powerful, the wealthy and those with authority, right? So, we often discount these words as being what happens when it is all over as in when life is extinct. The meek might inherit the earth, but up until then we have to be powerful. Isn't that what we really believe? We doubt Jesus' words because they are "out of touch with reality". In life, we try to leverage power, because, after all, power gets us the earth (in our minds). If we wrote the Bible, we might say "blessed are the powerful". Few of us live lives of meekness. But meekness is Jesus' strategic process of inheriting the earth.

On Friday night, Erwin was coming back from a Lakers game and his family was going towards an interstate, which was jam packed. As they were going through a green light, a truck raced past his red light right in front of Erwin's car, nearly hitting any one of the cars. He did it only because he could! But most of us always stop at a red light right. Have you ever stopped at a light and you were convinced that the light was broken? Then, have you been at a long light and another car went right through the light, leaving you there wanting to run the light? Well, when you didn't, you were demonstrating "meekness". What would happen if everyone ran red lights? It would be chaos and people would die! Ironically, our entire traffic control system is based on the concept of meekness! It's waiting for our turn. We are able to go throught the light, but we yield our rights for the good of others.

For the last 50 years, there is no way that the Christian church has demonstrated meekness to society. It doesn't seem to be the posture of the church sometimes. To be meek, you have to have strength! In order to have controlled strength, you have to have strength, right?

There are a couple of controversial passages on this subject. In 2 Kings 2, Elisha is a disciple of Elijah. Elijah was pretty cool. He prayed fire from heaven one time and another time, he outran a chariot. Elisha followed him around and asked God for a double portion of Elijah's power. In this passage, Elisha went up to Bethel and some youths came out jeering at him and making fun of his bald head. Elisha looked at them and called a curse from God on them. Suddenly, two bears came out and malled 42 of these kids! Elisha then went on his way to Mt. Carmel as if nothing happened. What is that all about? What kind of lesson is learned here? "Don't trust power to a bald man" kids Erwin. Elisha had been trusted with all this power, but didn't have the character to manage this power. This was a brutal act of violence by the prophet! "Don't tell me Elisha was a good guy!"

Another place in the Bible are the tales of Sampson. He wasn't the brightest in the world and, at the end of his story, he is imprisoned, his eyes are gauged out and he dies a horrible death. But there is a place in his story where he has good reason to be angry. In 1 Judges 15:3, Sampson is mad because the Philistines have given away his wife to a friend. So, he goes out and gets 300 foxes, ties them together two-by-two, attaches torches to each pair and releases them to run out and set fires to all the crops of the people. He used his power to overpower rather than to empower. He lived a life of uncontrolled strength; a true tragedy. (Artwork courtesy of

Calling up two volunteers, Elisa and Chris, Erwin asks them to go through an exercise (that is supposed to work, but it doesn't- pretty funny) that demonstrates how, at different angles, we can be stronger or weaker base on our position. Jesus teaches us to take a posture of strength, not of weakness. The word meek is derived from means "liquid, fluid, adaptable". What is the most fragile thing we think of? Maybe an egg? We can crush the shell of an egg, but we actually cannot crush the egg itself, right? The egg is fluid and adaptable. Another point is, what do we have to have in order to inherit something? We have to have the right to inherit the earth. Jesus is saying, "these are the ones who will inherit". Have you ever inherited anything? There are different things we have the right to inherit.

Not to long ago, Erwin was part of a DNA project, "23 and Me". It was a good experience for him being a guinea pig, "a little bit of spit and a lot of information". It told him where his ancestors were from all around the globe. Other information he was going to learn was that Erwin was in the highest category prone to have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or ADD, but in the lowest category for heroine addiction. There are a lot of things we do inherit from our parents. Jesus tells us that God is looking for those He can entrust with His earth. If the meek controlled Wall Street and the banking industry, wouldn't we be in better shape today? Wouldn't there be fewer broken families and stronger parent/child relationships if fathers were meek? Is it possible for each one of us to choose meekness and not weakness to impact this world?

Matthew 26:47 demonstrates one of the greatest acts of meekness in the Bible. Judas approaches Jesus and kisses Him, essentially betraying Him. Peter grabs a sword and swings at a guard, cutting off his ear. Jesus stops Peter and asks him if he doesn't realize that Jesus could pray to His Father and have legions of angels wipe the guards out if He chose. Not only does He exercise controlled strength, but He even replaces the guard's ear. Erwin says, "wouldn't it have been cooler if Peter had cut off his head so Jesus could replace it? :) " In 2 Corinthians 10, Paul says we should take on the meekness of Jesus. So, grow in strength and become a powerful person, BUT use it to EMPOWER.

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