REFLECTIONS & ENCOURAGEMENTS: understanding and growing through the covid-19 challenge.
Bishop Peter Brain Reflection 67: Meekness.
The pandemic is one of those events that can cause us either to be sour with God or grateful to Him for the way it evokes from us an acceptance that He can be trusted. This is where the personal characteristic of meekness comes into its own. Meekness is part of the fruit of Christ-like character produced only by the Spirit [Gal 5:23]. The meek do not resent adversity because they accept everything as being the effect of God’s wise and loving purpose for them, so that they accept injuries from men also…knowing that these are permitted by God for their ultimate good [cf 2 Sam 16:11]. J C Connell. NBD. IVP 1970 p.804
Our Lord, himself was both gentle and meek [Matt 11:29, 2 Cor 10:1]. He pronounced a blessing upon all who are meek [Matt 5:5] adding the remarkable counter- cultural promise, for they shall inherit the earth. It is counter-cultural since meekness neither comes naturally to us, nor is it the kind of characteristic that we would expect any earthly regime to prize or reward. This is why we find great relief that not only is it a characteristic that our Lord and Saviour exemplified and commends, but it is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. What we cannot produce ourselves, the Holy Spirit will accomplish. This particular characteristic speaks to us of how we might respond to unhappy sets of circumstances and difficult and angry people. It is therefore like all fruit, the product of what is going on inside of us. It speaks of a choice in terms of our response, but also of the choices we make in ordinary times, so to speak, as to what we store in our hearts. For this reason Gal 6:7-8 is vital. The more active we are in sowing to please the Spirit [6:8b], the more the fruit of meekness will be quietly maturing in us and displayed when the occasion demands.
The fruits of the Spirit are set forth very deliberately by the apostle Paul, in contrast to the works of the sinful nature [Gal 5:19-21]. One of these is variously described as fits of rage [NIV], fits of anger [ESV], outbursts of rage [NASV] and anger [RSV/NRSV]. Outbursts are best countered by input which, with the help of the Holy Spirit, enables us to act in a self-controlled, Christ-like way. The word meekness is often translated gentleness in our English versions, possibly because gentleness and meekness are related, and perhaps because the word meekness can so easily be misconstrued as a spineless weakness. I once heard a friend quip, ‘blessed are the meek, if that’s alright with you!’ He was making the point that meekness is anything other than weakness, even if some might choose to misrepresent it as such.
Moses is described in Numbers 12:3 as very meek, more than all the people who were on the face of the earth. We remember Moses’s aggressive dealing with the Egyptian early in his life, yet many years later he is given this glowing ascription. James M Boice, in his excellent The Life of Moses [R and R Publishing 2018] comments: Moses was not always silent. When God was attacked, Moses spoke up. When the people did wrong, Moses interceded. But when Moses himself was attacked, he was silent. This is the way to respond to personal attacks. You and I do the opposite, don’t we? When the honour of God is attacked, we are silent. When people attack us personally, we get very defensive. Moses had it the right way around [p.302]. Numbers 12:1-3 shows us his meekness when his brother and sister attacked his integrity. Wonderfully, this helps us to see his growth in meekness as he grew older. Meekness in the face of disappointments and slurs on our motives is a winsome testimony to a watching world sick and tired of privileged and proud people exerting, and mostly getting, their own way. Ours is to be different. We see this in our persecuted fellows who often pray for the conversion of their persecutors through their patient calmness. This is what we are taught to do and be, in our interaction with questioners and would-be opponents alike. [1 Peter 3:15, Col 4:6, Luke 12:11-12 where we see the role of the Holy Spirit in standing with us, just when we most need Him]
We see this same characteristic in Jesus who is both gentle and humble in heart [Matt 11:28-30]. He is kind; so kind that he rebukes those who dishonour God and the Gentiles, as he clears out the temple [Mark 11:15-19] and corrects the hard-hearted Pharisees on many occasions [Matt 23:1-36]. Yet this is all out of a broken and weeping heart for what might have been had they heeded Him and His message [Matt 23:37-39, Luke 19:41-44]. It is Jesus who exhorts us to be tougher on ourselves [Lk 11:23] than with others [Lk 9:50]. Both are aspects of meekness: a meekness that grows through wholehearted allegiance to Christ and a commitment to displaying His grace to others.
As in many good gardens where companion planting enhances the resilience and beauty of the other plants, so also with the fruits of the Spirit. My meekness will help yours, just as yours will be an example that helps me. The tougher the circumstances we each bear meekly, in glad submission to our Heavenly Father and His Word [Jam 1:30], and glad support of each other [Jam 3:13], the more the fruits of meekness will mature among and through us. The pandemic enables us to practice being like Jesus by relying on the Holy Spirit. As usual: practice makes permanent.
Peter Brain 16th March, 2021