Gentleness or in the older translations ‘meekness’ is not always a quality we necessarily equate with God Almighty. Nor is it a quality that we can easily equate with great political power, certainly not in our world today. We read of Moses however that ‘the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth’. Numbers 12:3. Inspite of that (or may be because of that ?) he was probably one of the greatest leaders there has ever been on earth. He actually ‘led’ without an army or a parliament a nation from slavery to a land of promise, through a wilderness, over a period of forty years, in quite extraordinary circumstances, including criticism and rebellion from the people.
I think that what we have to understand is that ‘meekness is not weakness’ and nor is gentleness. The Greek word is variously translated ‘gentleness, meekness, humility, mild, and longsuffering. I once heard a joke based on a profound misunderstanding of the word meek from Matthew 5:5. It went ‘Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth, if the rest of us will let them’.
What the writers of the joke didn’t realise was that meekness is not about being walked over like a doormat, but it is about not promoting yourself and fighting for your rights, but letting God fight for you, knowing that the things He will fight for are the treasures that are worth keeping. So, like Jesus, meek people don’t need to fight for reputation, or even vindication. They don’t need to fight for their rights or their position. They can behave like Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, Matthew 26:53, or before the Sanhedrin, 26:59 and before Pilot, 27:13. The important thing here is that they could fight but they don’t.
When Jesus said ‘Come unto Me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls, for My yoke is easy and my burden is light,’ Matthew 11:29. I think He was telling us that much of our stress and strain could be about the way we feel the need to fight in life for the things that make us feel O.K. Taking on His yoke of gentleness is restful because we are letting Him take the strain and therefore decide our direction of travel. (See blog 134.) A.W. Tozer writes in his book ‘The Persuit of God’, of the meek man saying ‘The old struggle to defend himself is over. He has found the peace that meekness brings’.
Gentleness or meekness is a beautiful fruit. It is powerful too. We read in Proverbs 15:1 that ‘A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger’. To bear the fruit of gentleness, we also need love, patience, kindness, and faith that the Lord is with us and will fight for us if we need Him to. Tozer also writes ‘The meek man is not a human mouse afflicted with a sense of his own inferiority. Rather he may be in his moral life as bold as a lion and as strong as Samson…….., he knows at the same time that he is in the sight of God of more importance than angels.
So we can be thankful that God is not just giving us an order to ‘keep our mouths shut and roll over’. He is not saying ‘don’t cause trouble and don’t upset anyone’, but He is saying that with meekness and self control combined, we can manifest His character in our lives with boldness and confidence because He is with us and will grace us to ‘walk as Jesus walked’, 1 John 2:6, even when there are things to be challenged.
Let us also thank the Lord for the privilege of representing Him well in our Christian community as the fruit of gentleness grows in our lives. Paul wrote ‘Therefore as God’s chosen people, …..clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.’ Colossians 3:12,13. That sounds to me like a beautiful church community, and it doesn’t mean that we all have to agree about everything.
We can also thank Him for the privilege of letting the world know what He is like, learning this time from Peter’s advice to ‘Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect’. 1 Peter 3:15. This is so different to what the world is teaching us all at the moment, so let us thank God for every opportunity we get to show the world a different way.