Meek is defined in the original Greek as gentle, forgiving, benevolent - with benevolent defined as kindly generous. Initially, I saw these as three distinct aspects of meekness, but as I thought more about it I realized that they simply are different manifestations that lead to the same thing.
I was participating in a discussion thread on a large group blog a few years ago that was getting fairly polarized, particularly between a couple of commenters. I identified immediately with one of those commenters, and I was about to respond to something the other one said, something with which I disagreed. Suddenly, it hit me, right out of the blue:
I could be gentle in my response, by softening what I felt like saying; I could be forgiving in my response, by not taking his comments personally, which would lead me to be less harsh and more gentle in my response and softening what I felt like saying; I could be benevolent (kindly generous) in my response, by pausing before I responded and really thinking about if there was something of value in his comments – something I could compliment or from which I could learn – which would cause me to be less harsh and more gentle and soften what I felt like saying. Any one of these initial efforts would lead automatically to the other two, making my response, if I chose to pursue it in that manner, more gentle, forgiving and benevolent: making me more meek in my response.
What struck me as I thought about that experience later is that meekness is not an action; it is a way of seeing things: a viewpoint, a perspective, an outlook, an attitude. We don’t act meekly; we are meek. In other words: actions don’t bring meekness; meekness inspires actions.
It is fascinating to me that as I study the characteristics listed in the Sermon on the Mount more deeply, I have come to a stronger conviction that spiritual poverty, mourning with those who mourn (and comforting those who stand in need of comfort), and meekness all are characteristics that bring forth fruits meet for repentance – that change how I act – that are NOT the result of my actions.
I think we need to stop trying so hard to DO and focus instead on BECOMING. The do will happen as a direct result of the becoming, but what we do will be His fruits rather than our works, and I believe that distinction is at the heart of real meekness.
Rather than asking, “What would Jesus do?” perhaps we should be asking,
Truly, He was gentle, forgiving, and benevolent. He was meek. My responsibility is to look actively for ways to be meek in the way that He was meek.
Image credit: Dey, Kumbhalgarh Fort
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