Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Power of Being Meek: How can you threaten to ruin those already in ruins?

Which do you see? Man? Or mouse?
For the first half-hour of the conversation, I felt reasonably certain that I was being lied to. The caller represented himself as having insights and purposes that were at odds with a course of ministry I had pursued. He said that he was aware and actively pursuing a course of action with which my efforts were interfering. He had specific demands of me. But when I asked what goals or outcomes he felt his work was intended to accomplish, he admitted he had no vision for any positive results in the lives of those whom we were discussing. And that’s when the conversation took a turn for the…less-than-pleasant.

I was only reasonably certain that his portrayal was inaccurate, until he offered to lie about me. Of course, it wasn’t an overt threat. “You know, someone could say….” And yes, they could. If they said it to anyone who knows me at all, it’s hard to imagine they could retain any realistic hopes of being taken seriously about that or any other subject in the future. And yet, in discussing the conversation with my wife (who was hearing my half, and most of the other half of the discussion), we realized: similar accusations had ruined others.

And still the threat didn’t concern me. I’ve given significant thought to my reasons why. Here’s what I concluded.

First, I believe that my confidence has nothing to do with being “above reproach.” I am very aware of my fallibility. I could recount many clever and creative ways in which the enemy of our souls seeks and succeeds in tripping me with temptations of both the unexpected and obvious types. I cannot claim that any accusation could be said to be impossible. I could make any number of serious errors, some of which could be devastating to my ministry, my family, and my own walk with Christ. And yet, were that to happen, or if false accusations were made and believed—this is my second conclusion—I believe strongly that they could never ruin me.

"Here I come to save the day?"
On what do I base such an audacious claim? Simply this: I am already ruined. The life I once lived so freely in the flesh is the subject of relentless demolition. It stubbornly resists being razed, but my intent is to have the site as cleared and leveled as possible by the time Christ is done with me. The point of my claim to be “your servant for Jesus’ sake” (II Corinthians 4:5) is to acknowledge that God’s resources and others’ needs require only that I locate myself in the gap between the two. Whatever I may have to offer is only what I have myself received from God. The rest, although not yet perfectly so, I intend to leave in ruins.

What are my hopes in return for these efforts to provide a vacant lot for Jesus’ construction project? Ironically, I find Jesus promising me something that is already relatively in ruins and only becomes more so each day.

Jesus says, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” A friend and colleague recently asked, can you be “meek” without being “weak?”[1] Of course you can. In fact, the very nature of being meek involves a conscious decision to refrain from using one’s natural strength, whether physical, emotional, mental, socio-economic, or even spiritual.

Beware of men in mice's clothing.
Who brings about this restraint? Is it externally enforced? Or is it a self-initiated exercise of personal power to limit or eliminate the use of one’s personal power? Ancient Greek texts use the word “meek” in reference to powerful animals brought under control by a bridle or yoke, but even there the emphasis is on soothing or calming “those that are irritated or excited.”[2] Biblically, the term is used in both testaments to reference those who fulfill a subsidiary role in a household or other relationship—those who know where they fit into the plan and purpose of the whole. Whether as a disciple under a rabbi, or in more modern contexts as a team member under a coach, the sense is of one who understands their place among others, without “being overly impressed by a sense of one’s self-importance.”[3]

I believe that I am privileged to serve a God who is seeking to accomplish His purposes. That He chooses to do so through fallible human beings still amazes me. In fact, I find it a ludicrously inadequate approach to doing business. But that’s all the more reason to tear down the fa├žade, the framework, and the very foundation of anything, or anyone—even myself—that threatens to stand in the way of what God is seeking to do.

[1] This is the subject of a recent post by Paul Louis Metzger. You can find it here.
[2] Kittel, prauV
[3] BDAG, prauV

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