Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. [Matthew 5:5 ESV]
Every group has its jargon, words with specific meanings for specific purposes used by the group to communicate quickly. Often these words or phrases only to the group speaking and hearing. Even within the group assumptions are made all know what is being said. Often what is being said carries undefined or even unexplainable assumptions. At other times words used carry meaning which has changed over time and with use. Meekness is one such word, viewed as a negative, undesirable personality flaw in the modern world. Meekness is equated with weakness, being spineless, not sticking up for oneself, being a door-mat. There is no passion in the word but mild acquiescence to uncontrollable circumstances. When Jesus is called “meek” or “gentle” He is seen in a negative light. This gives an inaccurate description of who He is and how He lived His life. There is nothing weak about Jesus. His gentleness comes from His compassion and mercy but there is a sword in His mouth. Our definition of meekness does not accurately describe the person who carries that personality trait.
Let’s find another example of Christian jargon, a phrase misunderstood and misused. In Luke 14 Jesus declares the motivations of those who would follow Him.
If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. … So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. [Luke 14:26-27, 33 ESV]
What does Jesus mean by picking up “his own cross?” How have you used this phrase? In what context? What were the circumstances, the experiences? Were you or a loved one faced with a minor thorn in the flesh, something which, in the cosmic eternal scheme of things, has no value? Were you or a loved one having to endure some kind of suffering because of sin, disease, accident or “act of God”?” Were you facing “persecution?”
When many Christians use this phrase or a derivative are they facing death? I have never heard an adequate explanation of what it means to “bear my own cross.” Am I able to die for my own sins and be justified before God because of my suffering, whether justified or caused by another? Other Christians were crucified because of their relationship with Christ, suffering for righteousness’ sake because they refused to not identify with Christ. In the last century, and the coming century, more people have been and will be persecuted because they are Christians, because of their stance before the world as a citizen of the kingdom of heaven than in the previous 19 centuries. They are identified with Christ because He first identified Himself with them. On the cross Jesus fulfilled the justified sentence of death for sin so those who are His would receive the grace of God’s righteousness. Only one person can die for the sins of all. That person is the sinless Christ.
Our cross is His cross. Listen to what Paul states in a passage every Christian should memories and repeat often. “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” [Galatians 2:20 ESV]. Have you been crucified for yourself, bearing your own sins? We may not say so, even denying with words what actually lurks in our hearts. We want to think our suffering, no matter the circumstance, has some bearing on what God thinks of us and may even induce Him to act in our favor. Knowing the hearts of men because his own heart exposed the corruption of thinking twisted by sin, Paul continues “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose” [Galatians 2:21 ESV]. Christ has done everything and we have done nothing. If we are righteous before God it is by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and His eternal favor.
Does the word “meek” as used by the world describe Jesus who endured the cross?
We must change the way we think. Jesus demanded we think differently, not like the world, whose mind and emotions are corrupted by sin. We must relearn how to think in a manner originally determined by God. This has been a foundational principal of the Sermon on the Mount and the description of the Christian contained therein. Even though we are only at the third statement in the Sermon all of Jesus’ words, all of His teaching, challenge our misconception of what it means to be a human created in God’s image, saved by grace and in process and preparation for eternity.
God is not weak. Nothing in His creation is supposed to be weak. Since Man is stamped with His image, no one is supposed to be weak. Since there is weakness in people, perceived and real, the weakness is a result of the corruption of sin. Corruption weakens everything touches, including our witness when we use words and phrases which mean something to us but we know not what, and mean nothing to those in the world.
Jesus continues giving a list of those characteristics, personality traits, which describe the citizen of the kingdom of heaven. This is the third statement. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” [Matthew 5:5 ESV]. He is deliberate in His descriptions. First, the citizen is poor in spirit. They are not self-righteous but recognize their sin and hate it. Second, they mourn. After seeing their sin they realize the consequences. We are not what God originally intended. We do not fulfill the purpose He gave when He put His image in man, because of sin. Recognizing sin brings a deep, emotional grief. His third statement brings the element of decision to His description of the Christian. Christians recognize sin and mourn over the consequences of sin. Now, something must done.
Let me be absolutely clear, if I can. Nothing anyone does is enough to right a relationship destroyed by sin. Let me be equally clear. Obedience to God carries no merit before God. I will develop this in future essays. Let me continue being clear. We, you and I must still do something, must make a decision demanded by God. We must decide to obey Him. Any other decision we make is disobedience. God demands we exercise our wills in obedience to Him. When Jesus tells us what it takes to be His disciple He is demanding absolute, unqualified obedience. We cannot be obedient independent from Him any more than we can pick up a cross which He has not already carried.
Here is another element of the image of God in Man. That element is our volition, our wills. This element works in conjunction with all the other elements we carry within the image of God given us. He gave us a mind, the intellect. With it we recognize the fact of sin. He gave us emotions, the means of interpreting His moral code. We mourn with our emotions over the realization of the consequences of sin, of the violation of God’s moral code. Now, we confront the will, our volition, in doing exactly what God commands we do. Here is the turning point. We will do what our mind and emotions tells us to do. We do not have the option of living dishonest lives described by undefined words and phrases which carry hollow meaning designed only to make us feel good.
Will we do what God tells us to do showing ourselves, not Him for He knows, we are His disciples?