Much has been written about the biblical concept of “meekness.” Many have pointed out that of all the attributes God expects of us, and of all the attributes so wonderfully displayed in Christ, none is so rare as this. Yet perhaps no attribute is quite so difficult to define. What, then, is meekness?
In some ways meekness is best defined by what it is not. Meekness is the opposite of self-assertion, the opposite of acting as if my will should triumph over God’s or even that my will should necessarily triumph over any man’s. It is the opposite of insisting that this world would be a better place if God and man alike just did things my way. Therefore, it is the opposite of grumbling against God’s providence as it’s expressed through circumstances or even through the hands of men.
When Jesus said “blessed are the meek,” he carefully placed this beatitude after two others—after “blessed are those who are poor in spirit” and “blessed are those who mourn.” God’s blessings are upon those who come to him with empty hands—with an awareness that they are fully dependent upon God’s grace. And God’s blessings are upon those who come to him with broken hearts—with deep sorrow over their sin and sinfulness. People who come to God in this way will naturally relate to him with a quiet spirit—with what we know as meekness. And such quietness before God will express itself in kindness and gentleness toward men.
The meek person, then, remembers that he came to God with empty hands; he remembers that he stands before God with a broken heart; and so he has a quiet spirit. He is submissive before God and gentle toward others, especially in sorrows, especially in losses, especially when he’s being led through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. The meek person is gentle toward others even when insulted by them, even when scorned by them, even when harmed by them. He trusts that even if he is distressed and bewildered today, God will eventually make his purpose clear and then he, like God, will judge it all so very good, all so very necessary, all so very wise.
A forest fire rages in Northern Ontario and we see the smoke of it blanket the sun even here in the city. It passes through the trees and seems to have left the land completely devoid of life. But no sooner has the fire gone out and the ground cooled, that new sprouts begin to push up from the ground. There’s life and beauty even amidst the ashes. That’s you and me, Christian, when it seems that God’s providence has scorched and burned us. We submit to him, we submit to his purposes, and we display fresh evidences of his grace even in our sorrow, even with shattered hearts. We act in meekness.
In the orchards outside my city the apple trees are bearing their fruit. And in these weeks of harvest, people like you and me go out into the orchards and ravage those trees. We pick them bare. Does the tree give up? Does it shrivel up and die? No, it just begins the process again so that at next year’s harvest it will once again be full of fruit. That’s you and me, Christian, when people hurt us and harm us and take advantage of us. Even then we display the fruit of the spirit. Even then—especially then—we act in meekness.
It may well be true that no attribute of the Christian is more rare than meekness, but perhaps that is only because no attribute is more precious—and no attribute more consistent with the character of Jesus who is himself the very picture of meekness—who is “gentle and lowly in heart” and who offers precious rest for our souls.