by Patrick Lafferty
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Some virtues on their face readily inspire emulation just by hearing them. Love, courage, fortitude—stories and images of their expression immediately spring to mind, stoking our souls to stand against all that impedes their expression in us. It’s like those virtues come with a built-in soundtrack—something John Williams might compose—whose rises, falls, and flourishes ignite passion and establish the intrinsic majesty of hallowed character.
But as for meekness—I’d bet our first thoughts about the word are far less impressive. If we associate it with a song at all, it’s likely a muted song. We tend to associate it with jittery church mice or the decrepit. Our truncated view of meekness, encrusted with decades if not centuries of misunderstanding, relegates the idea to some second-tier (or lower) status.
Yet, Jesus makes meekness no less a virtue. It is a mark of character firmly laid in the path to maturity in God paved by each of His Beatitudes. That path begins with the contrite awareness of how far we are from it, and how convinced we’ve been in the path we’d chosen. That’s the poverty of spirit. In the awareness of how misled we’ve been by our own path comes the mournfulness.
But as we’ve said last week, blessedness abounds to those with a mournful awareness of their spiritual impoverishment because only then do they know how much they’re loved and what all they’ve gained. As our pastor explained this last Sunday, meekness is merely the natural consequence of being raised from the ashes of our own spiritual self-immolation. Now we see ourselves and the world differently because of what we see in Him who both made us, and now remakes us, because of and for His love. Now we are, as Martyn Lloyd Jones puts it, “amazed that God and man can think of him as well as they do and treat him as well as they do.” From that amazement comes meekness.
So meekness, far from an insipidness or flaccidity of soul, might be summarized as an inner contentment that manifests in unpretentious, self-effacing gentleness. Meekness sees no need to continually claw for new attention, respect, or material possession. It does not react to slights with scorn. Deferring to others is more a rule of its nature than an exception. It eschews vengeance, and doesn’t even demand justice, credit, or fulfillment of all that one might receive. How can all that emerge from meekness? Because one who sees so well into his heart of darkness only to find it then beautified by the light of God’s kindness in Christ—to him comes an unshakableness that squelches the insecurity fueling self-assertion and takes pleasure in yielding to the requirements of others.
How then do we aspire to this often undervalued virtue? The same way we’ll be conformed more into every feature of the image of Christ. By considering Him—His word and way; letting the context of prayer be the canvas upon which He brushes understanding, appreciation, and grace into us; and then practicing the dance of meekness until its steps become more instinctual and graceful.
Some of the most profound music is found in the most muted melodies. Through our meekness God works mightily in our understated grace notes.