In 1960, on a crisp April morning, wide-eyed journalists watched as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. plucked the charred remains of a burnt cross from his lawn. More startling than the malicious token itself, however, was King’s peaceful disposition–not even annoyance could be discerned on the preacher’s face.
Dr. King’s giftedness in the areas of writing, oration, and influence was indisputable, but on that otherwise average Spring morning, the zenith of his virtues was on full display. King was meek.
For many of us, to be meek is akin to something of a conflict-averting pushover--spiritless. But when Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” (Matt. 5:5 NIV), He certainly did not have spiritless in mind. What, then, does it mean to be meek? Why is it desirable? And how do we grow in it?
As we explore those questions, it’s helpful to recognize that in Matthew 5, Jesus is speaking the language of the Psalms. In a literary technique theologians call metalepsis, Jesus’ paraphrase of Psalm 37:11 (“But the meek will inherit the land” (NIV)), functions as an instruction to view Matthew 5:5 through the lens of Psalm 37. In this Psalm of David, the reader is told three times, do not charah, which is, do not fret or get heated up. In verses one and two, we are encouraged not to fret on account of those who do evil, for they will not last. In verse seven, we are reminded not to fret when schemers succeed in their ways but, instead, to wait patiently on the Lord. And in verse eight, we are warned: “Do not fret because its path leads to evil” (NIV).
The person who does not fret is called meek. Her soul is quiet. She is not easily offended, nor does her mind swirl with defensive one-liners. Her speech is not sharp or cruel. She is content–unbound by the pressure to achieve or measure up. Her shortfalls do not war inside her. Regret does not haunt her, and fear is far from her.
For many of us, to live in such a reality feels like little more than a pipedream. But verse three of our Psalm lets loose the secret: “Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness” (NASB). The directive to cultivate is the call to shepherd. That is, we are to shepherd our faith. We do this when we fall before the Father in prayer, when we study His Word and meditate on His precepts. We do this when we remind one another of God’s loving-kindness, when we worship, and when we celebrate the blossoming of the Spirit’s gifts within the lives of God’s people.
As we consider what it means to be meek in our cultural moment, it seems appropriate to identify the impact of modernity on our aversion to words like meek and submission. But in reality, we have been offended by these for as long as Genesis 3, when the desire to be like gods were baked into the stuff of humans. To be meek is to come to the end of ourselves, release autonomy, and seek refuge within the arms of the Father. She who abides there by shepherding her faith has learned the source of composure--true inner peace that lives and thrives untethered to external circumstances.
Lauren Botts is the Women's Minister at Severns Valley Baptist Church, where her husband, Andy, also serves as the Worship Pastor. She is the mom of two awesome kids, Ashton (11), and Cooper (9), and a student at the School of Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. In her free time, she loves completing house projects with Andy and volunteering with the Severns Valley Worship Arts and College Ministries.