Meekness vs. Weakness

A fellow blogger believes I am a coward. According to this name-calling, bomb-lobbing sister-in-Christ I am, as she so elegantly phrased it, “a coward for the Lord.”  Apparently because Jesus called the Jewish leadership ‘hypocrite’, ‘den of vipers’, ‘white washed sepulchers of death full of dead men’s bones’, ‘liars’, ‘completely evil’, ‘dunces’ etc, Christians conducting themselves meekly are straying from Jesus’ own example. Because I chose to make my case void of the degrading commentary my fellow Christian so capably spews toward those who were very clearly in the wrong, I am a pathetic doormat. A coward.

To be meek in today’s terms is to be a sissy. Bombastic proclamations and vicious attacks are the currency of our anonymous electronic interludes. Who cares that you would never say such things to someone in person? If it bleeds it leads, right?

Many, including misguided Christians, equate meekness with weakness.  Perhaps the difference is too subtle?  Weakness is an absence of power.  Biblical meekness, on the other hand, is power under control.

Jesus was the consummate example of meekness. Many choose to saddle Jesus with the mantle of a vacuous hippie-type “Hey man, let’s all just be cool” persona. In other words, a spineless, passive, effeminate peacenik.  He was not. Nor was he an obnoxious self-promoter of His divine power.  He chose to display His power only when it furthered the purpose of His first advent: seeking and saving the lost.

In today’s arena you might witness meekness when the passionate, well-educated advocate of the constitution chooses to let slide an embarrassing dinner party proclamation that “separation of church and state is in the constitution.” (Yeah, it ain’t.)  Meekness is allowing your five-year-old to pin you in a wrestling match.  Meekness is Lion lambhaving the ability to eviscerate your opponent, but instead restraining yourself in order to preserve the relationship. Meekness is one who is victorious but allows the victory, instead of touting their prowess, to speak for itself.

You getting the picture? How about having the power to call legions of angels to your side and wipe out your tormentors while hanging on a cross… and choosing not to? What about voluntarily laying aside One’s godhood and taking on the form of a servant, then dying like one?  Meekness never satisfies ego.  Meekness keeps its eye on the end game.

Unfortunately for us “cowards” this necessitates enduring a painful process.

Like so many other Christian virtues, meekness, doesn’t come naturally to me.  Before I am able to formulate a measured reply to an insult, my initial response is to call out, shame and diminish my opponent.  Of course, in this mock scenario, I appear fiercely fabulous to the assembled throngs. As further testimony to my true nature, I enjoy chewing on every potential insulting morsel, every vicious character jab and every cyber smack down.  Then? Thankfully, Christ (usually) grabs hold of me, and a pertinent scriptural directive about how to interact with my enemies springs to mind, and the new, better nature wrestles the old to the ground.

One commentary states: Meekness is a grace which Jesus alone inculcated, and which no ancient philosopher seems to have understood or recommended.

Unless you are living for something greater than yourself, meekness is utterly ridiculous.  It often takes you backward in the social and political systems of our world.  Unless your gaze is fixed on a reward that is beyond the temporal, meekness probably isn’t the strategy for you. But the powerful Author and Perfector of meekness was striving for an eternal and invisible good, which allowed Him to patiently endure slander, torture and the death of a criminal.

And then came the victory.

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20 thoughts on “Meekness vs. Weakness

  1. Askme,

    First, let me say how sorry I am that you were attacked like that by a fellow Christian. Second, I am further saddened that it was a sister. I have a theory as to why we women beat up on each other so much (even Christian women), but that is for another time.

    For the record, I find you to be very gracious and tolerant and especially diplomatic. These are all characteristics of the person from whom we take our name, Christians – that being, Christ. One of the reasons I started blogging was because I was so distressed at what I consider the disturbing mutation of Christianity into something unfamiliar except for bygone eras (thankfully) which I had only heard about in history; like the Crusades or the Inquisition or even the Salem Witch trials. Imagine a shriveled up hand that once belonged to a concert pianist – all the beautiful music created by the hand still reverberates in the concert halls but the hand, itself, is no longer able to create anything of beauty. That’s how the extreme vocal arm of Christianity has become for me and it has started to filter down into the cracks of every church threatening to spoil everything it touches.

    You have to have a certain kind of personality and skin (thick) to swim against the stream. It is easy to chuck spears with the natives; much harder to dodge them and remain unscathed. The fact that your walk with Jesus can be labeled – what was that – cowardly, shows just how warped our view of Christianity has become.

    I am saying a prayer for you right now that you will not let those hurtful words change who you are or what you think about yourself.

    • Hi Cindy. Thanks for your kind words. This interaction happened a couple weeks ago, and while I was initially burning with anger, that new nature and the methods that accompany God’s Spirit proved itself superior. Not flashy or exciting by any means, but quietly and persistently presenting one’s convictions will triumph in the eyes of those who are grounded in truth. Through that experience, God proved again that His ways are trustworthy, right, and radiant and they can even make wise the simple. (Ps 19:7-11).

      I think I reacted to her heated rhetoric because, unlike you and Tisha, my interactions with fiery Christians have been limited. I suspect this is because I live in an area where there is very little external benefit to labeling yourself as a Christian, so the only people who do it are those who are serious about following Him. So when I do encounter a believer who is going the fire-and-brimstone route it’s surprisingly out of the ordinary for me.

      In terms of the Crusades and Spanish Inquisitions, the chapters on those two church history “stains” in the book “The Triumph of Christianity” were a real eye-opener. Not what I had always been taught that they were!

      I once heard a missionary talk about walking through the trials of life. She said “I want to be strong, not tough.” That’s how I feel about blogging- I want to be strong enough to stand my ground (on theology as well as methodology) but not “tough” in the sense that I become unfeeling. God was gracious to give me a glimpse into her world and that brought me genuine love and empathy for this fellow blogger.

      Thanks for all your comments!

  2. cindy0803 said it perfectly; she is totally correct! I see this in my church as well as in the church(es) of my family members. I share the instinctive “lob it back bigger and harder” instinct with you and it is very difficult to resist sometimes (especially having grown up in an environment where jabs and comebacks were a fact of life), but I try. I will use your example to help me to remember to think first, post later.

    Thanks for a timely and important reminder 🙂

      • amen. I usually hit delete on my first draft (which is full of all of the emotion and rage whatever set it off has incited) entirely and start over, having blown off some internal steam.

        With regard to the rest, that line that Jesus walked is one of the hardest aspects of His life that I can find to mimic (aside from the whole perfection thing, which is hopeless). How do you speak truth in love in a given circumstance? Why was it okay for him to call Pharisees a brood of vipers and when (if ever) is it okay for me to do the same? What responses are correct, measured, forceful but gracefilled when a brother or sister in Christ is in error? And how do you respond to a brother or sister calls you out in that fashion?

        I know a fair number of left leaning Christians (and most of them I think have a genuine relationship with Christ) who think gay marriage is okay, abortion is okay and so forth. I struggle with how to challenge their beliefs without being unkind. I also know a man who is gay, who tried for more than a decade to live as a married man with family and is so exhausted by the struggle he has drifted away from God. I wrote him a lengthy letter when he and his wife separated in which I tried to communicate the love I have for him, the love God has for him, while remaining true to Scripture. He responded once and since then nothing and I wonder whether I said too much or not enough.

        I say all this to say I appreciate the difficulty, and that I respect and applaud what you have done here. I want to encourage you to continue as you have begun. God bless.

        • Thanks Man. I concur about wondering “Did I say too much? Not enough?” The only remedy I can find is to abide in Christ constantly, so that I am seeking to please Him above the throng. Sometimes that means shutting my mouth. Other times speaking up when I don’t want to. The Spirit alone can tell me which is which. There are times, though rare, when it seems that more force is needed, but usually only after the initial gentle rebuke. My challenge is not to confuse explosiveness with firmness.

  3. The concept of the separation of church and state is expressed in the first amendment to the US constitution. To my mind, and the minds of many other citizens, and the judgments of many supreme court justices, it is in the constitution.

    • Hi Keith! Thanks for your comments. Great to “see” you on here again.

      I have found this video to be helpful in understanding how religion is portrayed in the constitution, the first amendment, and throughout court decisions:

    • Keith,

      It is funny, but I was saving that for another time to “take up” with Askme. But here it is. You’ve delved into the can of worms, so I’ll bait a hook.

      I have always believed that the Founding Fathers indeed did mean to keep religion and politics separate. Of course, it goes without saying that you can’t take the religion out of the politician, but you can seek to keep politicians from enacting laws that would serve primarily just their own religion’s agenda or force people of other religions (or without religion) to adhere to a specific religion’s tenets. With the U.S. becoming more and more a melting pot over the years, it is highly logical that what we once took for granted (being more religiously homogeneous in the early stages of our country’s development) would evolve into something that looked a lot different than what existed when the FFs took quill to parchment.

      Which is exactly why the narrator (author?) of the video that Askme linked to was a little too dismissive of the letter that President Thomas Jefferson sent to the Danbury Baptists. Here is the letter as it appears on the Library of Congress’ website (you can also see the original if you want to search for it):

      “To messers. Nehemiah Dodge, Ephraim Robbins, & Stephen S. Nelson, a committee of the Danbury Baptist association in the state of Connecticut.

      Gentlemen

      The affectionate sentiments of esteem and approbation which you are so good as to express towards me, on behalf of the Danbury Baptist association, give me the highest satisfaction. my duties dictate a faithful and zealous pursuit of the interests of my constituents, & in proportion as they are persuaded of my fidelity to those duties, the discharge of them becomes more and more pleasing.

      Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.

      I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection & blessing of the common father and creator of man, and tender you for yourselves & your religious association, assurances of my high respect & esteem.

      Th Jefferson
      Jan. 1. 1802.”

      Mr. Jefferson mentions the first amendment and then proceeds to explain that its intent by the “whole American people” was to “build a wall of separation between Church and State” and that this was the “supreme will of the nation”. Mr. Madison, himself, the “Father of the Constitution” had some things to say about this separation as well:

      “Union of Religious Sentiments begets a surprizing confidence and Ecclesiastical Establishments tend to great ignorance and Corruption all of which facilitate the Execution of mischievous Projects.”

      “Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprize every expanded prospect.”

      “We maintain therefore that in matters of Religion, no man’s right is abridged by the institution of Civil Society and that Religion is wholly exempt from its cognizance. True it is, that no other rule exists, by which any question which may divide a Society, can be ultimately determined, but the will of the majority; but it is also true that the majority may trespass on the rights of the minority.”

      “We revere this lesson too much soon to forget it. Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Relgions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other Sects? that the same authority which can force a citizen to contribute three pence only of his property for the support of any one establishment, may force him to conform to any other establishment in all cases whatsoever?”

      “Whilst we assert for ourselves a freedom to embrace, to profess and to observe the Religion which we believe to be of divine origin, we cannot deny an equal freedom to those whose minds have not yet yielded to the evidence which has convinced us. If this freedom be abused, it is an offence against God, not against man: To God, therefore, not to man, must an account of it be rendered.”

      “Because the Bill implies either that the Civil Magistrate is a competent Judge of Religious Truth; or that he may employ Religion as an engine of Civil policy. The first is an arrogant pretension falsified by the contradictory opinions of Rulers in all ages, and throughout the world: the second an unhallowed perversion of the means of salvation.”

      “If Religion be not within the cognizance of Civil Government how can its legal establishment be necessary to Civil Government? What influence in fact have ecclesiastical establishments had on Civil Society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the Civil authority; in many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny; in no instance have they been seen the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wished to subvert the public liberty, may have found an established Clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just Government instituted to secure and perpetuate it needs them not.”

      “Strongly guarded as is the separation between Religion and Government in the Constitution of the United States the danger of encroachment by Ecclesiastical Bodies, may be illustrated by precedents already furnished in their short history.”

      Askme, I could go on, but I already lean toward long-windedness. However, it is abundantly clear to me that the FFs truly did advocate an absolute separation of Church and State (religion is NOT WITHIN THE COGNIZANCE of civil government); and for the good of both. We must remember that We the People of the 21st Century have never been under the influence of a Church State and, therefore, cannot truly understand what that means. The fact that our founders HAD and looked to set up a new form of government which separated these entities, despite the fact that the majority of them were Christians, really should instruct and warn us against trying to impose religion onto government.

      • Thanks for all the great quotes Cindy. My point was that “separation of church and state” is not in the constitution. The role of religion in the political and governmental spheres is one that is not as clear-cut as some secularists would like to make it, especially given that our Founding Fathers grounded all of our “inalienable rights” in the reality of a Creator. It deserves the discussion and the situation-specific examination that is reflected in your, Keith’s and Beth’s comments.

  4. Really???!!!  There is nothing ‘cowardly’ in your writing…Nothing weak…Hopefully your sister-in-Christ  was having a very bad day, thinks it over, and apologizes.   Keep at it my friend.  You speak the truth in grace.  Love, Vicki

  5. Presumably you’ve already been attacked – by people who aren’t Christians – for being a bigot. And now for being a coward. “We played the flute and you didn’t dance; we sang a dirge and you didn’t mourn.” There will always be extreme responses to most topics. In this case, it’s _her_ response. It says more about her than it does about you.

    If my memory serves me, Martin Luther called John Calvin something like “a child of the devil” or “a snake” or something equally friendly. Calvin replied, “Let Luther call me what he will. For my part, I will consider him a dear brother in Christ.” For my part, I probably would have called Luther an extremist, ungracious, foul-mouthed twerp; who often disgraced the Gospel by his harshness and lack of courtesy.

    The most difficult part, I think, is allowing them to hold their opinion of you without being harsh with them. I wonder that people don’t understand that no one is likely to listen to them when they are insulting you. And secondly, in what ways can we validly imitate Jesus? Jesus was perfect: we aren’t. He also said, “Which of you convicts me of sin?” And they couldn’t. Didn’t Peter say something about “gentleness and respect”?

  6. If I recall properly, I think Aristotle called humility: anger expressed at the right time, at the right person, in the right way, and for the right reason.

    I wonder how many friends this woman has? And how many people she has been instrumental in saving?

  7. Excellent post. There is no weakness in loving one’s enemies. Love cannot be separated from the truth – and that goes both ways.
    To the whole religion/state issue, what bothers me most is that the lines seem to become blurred with regard to what constitutes religious practice vs just basic moral common sense, depending on one’s perspective. There are many things in opposition to my religious beliefs that are also against the law. The state is not “establishing a religion” by enacting and enforcing these laws. Christians often are accused of trying to “impose” their beliefs upon others, and I suppose in some cases this is a fair accusation. But those who push to make animal abuse a felony (which I support) are no less guilty of trying to “impose” their values on the rest of society than those who work to make abortion illegal. Neither constitutes a religious practice, though the inspiration for those values/beliefs may be religious in nature. As Christians, our whole lives should be informed by our faith. I would expect the same from believers of other faiths. If I were not a Christian, I would probably support same-sex marriage. It is my faith that informs me on this issue and helps me to see the bigger picture. But upholding a gender-based definition of marriage is not fundamentally a religious belief. The fact that certain individuals are enlightened by their faith to support (or oppose) certain movements does not necessarily mean that their position is primarily a religious one.

    • Great points. Also, everyone is operating out of a world view, whether or not it is declared. I have friends who religiously advocate for their secular humanistic worldview in nearly every conversation we have- if I were doing that with Christianity, they could rightly label it proselytizing. But because it is “secular” it somehow doesn’t count as religion. But we all are making decisions and promoting ideas that spring from our convictions. Some of those can be labeled as “Christian” or “Muslim”. But to think that those who are “undeclared” are somehow neutral is silly.

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