Over the past year, the Holy Spirit keeps bringing me back to the Beatitudes from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-12). The Beatitudes are essentially the character resume for every single Christian and follower of Jesus. Often these 8 Beatitudes are approached as a buffet of potential character qualities for the believer, but wrongly so. They are, in fact, a package deal. Granted, they might not always be reflected in our lives as we continue to struggle with sin, but Jesus sets a high bar for His followers (see Matt 5:20). 8 character requirements, with 8 accompanying precious promises, and the overarching reality that this is where true “happiness” is found (blessed can be translated happy here). So why does God continue to impress these upon my heart in this season? I have identified a few likely reasons for this after much reflection, but the most glaring seems to be found in v. 5:
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
What comes to mind when you see that word, “meek?’ My concern is that often meekness is thought of as synonymous to weakness. It is not a word that is frequently used in our culture, and certainly not in the upper-tier hierarchies of our society. How often have you heard a political candidate praised for their meekness? A tremendously successful CEO? A stand-out athlete? Unfortunately, meekness as a character descriptor seems to be mostly obsolete. And yet, it stands as written in the authoritative Word of God as a forever marker of followers of Jesus, and it’s return to the forefront of what we aspire to and what is seen as admirable is crucial to the wellbeing of our society. As long as Jesus’ disciples are on the earth, they are to be marked by meekness.
What is meekness, then? Contrary to what is often thought, meekness is nowhere near weakness. In fact, there is an implicit acknowledgement of strength in meekness. Meekness is the laying aside of one’s own strength, desires, or rights, in order to serve another. Jesus not only teaches us about and commands meekness, He modeled it perfectly:
“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:5-8).
Here, then, we find two important truths for the Christian to grasp in our journey to understand and incarnate meekness: We must take an active role in our pursuit of meekness (“Have this mind among yourselves”), and Jesus has given us everything we need for meekness (“which is yours in Christ Jesus”). Elsewhere, we are called to renew our minds from a worldly perspective to that of our heavenly reality (Romans 12:2), and meekness certainly calls us to task in this way. Move away from self-reliance. From self-gratification. From self-promotion. From self-defense. None of these are consistent with our new identity in Jesus. Move toward self-forgetfulness. Toward selfless sacrifice. Toward honoring the other. If this sounds rightfully challenging, then you are in good company!
Meekness does not always come naturally for me, which is why I am grateful the first 2 Beatitudes give powerful aide in the necessary shaping of our character to more accurately reflect Jesus in this world. Perhaps you have not noticed before, but the Beatitudes have a progressive nature, reflecting our ongoing growth as followers of Jesus. The first of which is “blessed are the poor in spirit” (Matt 5:3). “Poor in spirit” is the self-aware state of the Christian at conversion. It is because we have seen our own spiritual poverty and come to Jesus with a knowledge that we could never offer him anything worth his life that delights him to freely give it. In an instant, the poor in spirit become the rich in Christ by grace through faith (2 Corinthians 8:9). Our soul’s condition goes from spiritually dead to vibrantly and eternally alive in Jesus. He trades his immeasurable riches of righteousness for our messy shambles of sin and shame. There is no graduating to meekness by going around poorness of spirit. The gospel and life with Christ start here.
Naturally following, those who are poor in spirit will become mourners (Matt 5:4). As we look into the depths of our spiritual poverty and the hopelessness of never being able to earn God’s favor, a heart convicted by the Spirit of God will mourn this devastating reality. To know whose image you were made in, and see that unrepairable separation is the greatest tragedy and grief of all. Once again, this is where the gospel breaks through and brings tremendous blessing and “happiness” to the believer. Jesus comforts those who, though impoverished and grieved, come to him with open arms (see Isaiah 61). By grace, through faith, Jesus trades our mourning for dancing, and the dawn of joy has risen after an endless night of grief (Psalm 30). Again, there is no ascending (or descending rather!) to meekness, apart from poorness of spirit and mourning.
Christians are those who continually recognize their need, repent and mourn over sin still present in and around their lives, and who then move toward others in the spirit of meekness. This is so counter-cultural to everything we are taught brings success, power, and fulfillment. So, while in the throes of another tumultuous ending to an election cycle and many other difficult things, when we are tempted and encouraged from seemingly every side to slander, to belittle, to dishonor, to “fight for our rights,” to shut out the others around us who we deem our enemies, may the Lord make us meek! If you are in Christ, these are blood-bought characteristics of yours and part of your glorious inheritance. Only by embracing who were truly made to be can we live lives of salt and light when darkness and bitterness abound. So, let us go back to the Beatitudes. To our Christ-given character. Let us rewrap ourselves in each reality, trusting through embracing each one that God will make us and keep us truly “happy.” And when the world tempts you to believe success and happiness are found by asserting yourself and your ideals with all your strength, may we remember Jesus’ simple rebuke:
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5).
Lord, make us meek!
Questions for Discussion/Reflection:
- How have you misunderstood or ignored the Christian attribute of meekness?
- In what areas of your life do you notice the need for meekness?
- How would embracing meekness change the way you responded when your desires felt threatened?
- How could meekness free you up from frequent conflict starters in your closest relationships?
- Have you noticed the progressive nature of the Beatitudes? Consider making these memory verses and points of prayer this month.