Friday, January 21, 2011

Meakness vs. Weakness

Did you know that there was a difference between meekness and weakness? I didn't. Every time that I have heard the work meek, I associate it with weakness. When I picture someone meek, I picture someone like poor little Melanie Hamilton from Gone With the Wind. Someone who is quiet, reserved, and that the world would gobble up in a single mouthful. Meekness is weakness, in the minds of most people.

The Greek word for meek is praeiv, translated in Strong’s Concordance as: mildness of disposition, gentleness of spirit, meekness. So the idea is that a meek person is someone who is gentle, tolerant, patient, and long suffering, and someone who is submissive to their Lord. Contrary to the way the world would see it, meekness does not equate weakness—in fact it’s the exact opposite. Meekness is being strong yet controlled.

The ancient philosopher Plato used the word meek of the victorious general who spares a conquered people. Socrates described a meek person as one who can argue a matter of utmost importance to him yet do so without losing his temper. Aristotle used the word of the person who is properly angry at injustice and yet whose anger never degenerates into ill-temper or vindictiveness. From these uses of the word, by some of the greatest philosophers of all time, it’s plain that meekness is strength exercised through gentleness.

What does the bible say about meekness?

In 1 Peter 2:21-24 we see that Jesus was being challenged and mocked even though He committed no sin. This is the same Jesus who spoke and the waters were still, commanded demons to depart and the dead to live. Talk about the prime example of power under control! Jesus was totally submitted to the will of His Father. He, after all, was God, too,and could have blasted His way through instead of submitting to the Father's plan.

Tell me, how can meekness be a bad thing if it describes Jesus Christ?

The two key ingredients of meekness are to know yourself, and to be able to say “no” to yourself. Some of us need to say “no” to our strengths, some of us need to say no to our weaknesses. Moses knew that he didn’t have what it took to be the savior of the Israelites. He needed major assurances from God. Now, back in the early days, when he was a prince of Egypt, he did think he could fix things on his own, he killed a man and wound up having to flee for his life. 40 years later, he knew himself and his limitations and yet, he said no to himself, his fears, and he submitted to God's will.

Meekness is not a natural quality. A person who finds it natural or easy to submit will not have the strength to stand up for God’s truth, to persevere against opposition, to fight the good fight or finish the race.

Moses was said to be the meekest person in the Old Testament. Think about all the things he accomplished by submitting to God's direction! He performed miracle after miracle for the benefit of a people who continually rebelled against their God. But think about it, Moses wasn’t exactly easily imposed on; he put up a pretty good fight before he agreed to what God wanted from him. And when he was leading the Israelites around in the wilderness, he didn’t put up with any nonsense from them either. So perhaps meekness doesn’t mean weakness after all.

Scripture speaks of situations when we are called on to be meek. One situation is where someone has to be corrected. Paul writes to the church in Galatia , “if someone in your congregation is detected in some sin, you who are spiritually sensitive should set him right. But do it meekly, gently.” As much as we all need to be corrected, we definitely want to be corrected gently.

How effective correction is depends on how it is administered. Anger ends in a defensiveness and a fight. No one is moved to a fresh start by having to defend himself where he’s indefensible. You and I will be corrected only if we are addressed gently. Our Lord was never gentler than he was the day he spared the life of a guilty woman about to be stoned, and then put her on her feet saying, “I’m not going to condemn you. You shouldn’t do it again.”

Another situation where scripture urges meekness is in our witness as Christians. The apostle Peter writes, “Be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you. But do it meekly.” We Christians ought to be able to say something when we are asked about the faith that possesses us. We must both have something to say and say it gently.

Lastly, we must consider the matter of leadership. Moses is said to be the meekest man on earth. (Numbers 12:3) Is Moses ineffective? a pushover? spineless? or voiceless? No, Moses is the single most telling figure in Israel ’s history. Moses is a very influential, he is the leader of the entire Israel nation, but he doesn’t coerce, he doesn’t tyrannize, he doesn’t stand above his people when they sin, and he doesn’t stand apart from them when they meander in the wilderness. He remains remains with his people, among his people, and even stands up for them to God himself. Moses was the both the meekest and the most effective.

So, do you still think of meekness as weakness? I don't. Meekness is actually great strength, but it is also the wisdom to control it. It is knowing yourself, your strengths and weaknesses and saying no to yourself. Being meek involves submission, but not to the detriment of yourself, but to the benefit of God.

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