What then is meekness?
The answer seems complicated, perhaps because the simple meaning of the word, the meaning we all know, is one we recoil from. It does not seem like a virtue, something to be extolled or sought after. I have heard people try to substitute some more desirable trait in order to make meekness acceptable. “Meekness is courage,” they say, though clearly that is not the meaning of the word. No one, apparently, wants to be meek.
The dictionary says, “humbly patient or quiet in nature, as under provocation from others.”
So patience under provocation gives us a good handle. And the world is a provocating place, right? How patient under provocation will I be today? I’m less than optimistic! Provocation, in fact, is always our ready excuse. “You provoked me!”
Meekness is the opposite of assertiveness. Maybe a meek person doesn’t stand up for his rights and so he gets walked over by many. A meek person does not kick against the goads or rage maniacally against the dying of the light. Meek can seem weak, and maybe a recognition of our weakness lies behind meekness. The meek do not jockey for position, assume they deserve the honored seat at the table, or (alternatively) whine because they weren’t invited to the soiree.
Ambition does not reside well with meekness. When ambition comes into the presence of meekness it is chastened, even embarrassed, and seeks a way out. The meek are not scrappers, strivers, or warriors. The meek do not envy the powerful or yearn for their power. The meek are not going to be in the vanguard of anyone’s revolution. The meek did not attend the January 6 rally in Washington or run through the streets of Portland tossing Molotovs. Neither are many of them fighting in anyone’s army. In a world run by the meek, there would never be war.
And finally, it is well to remember that the world will more often than not make doormats of the meek. The meek, it seems, are always the losers. And that’s why it’s so strikingly counter-intuitive, so shocking, when Jesus says, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
That’s just seems like pure nonsense. Either that or it’s the power of God in Christ. So when Jesus says, “The first shall be last and the last first,” it would not be wrong to think of these “last” as the meek. The ones who chose the lowest place at the table, the ones who the world scoffs at as wimps.
It’s the strong that inherit stuff, not the meek. It’s the go-getter, the assertive types, staking their claim and defending their turf, who come out on top. That’s our way of thinking. But to all this Jesus shrugs and says, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.”
True repentance = true meekness.