Meekness takes more courage than meanness

Imagine you’re sitting around in someone’s living room, chatting about general things, and somebody asks you a question about a topic that makes you uncomfortable. Maybe they ask you if you think marijuana should be legalized. Maybe they ask you about marriage rights for gay couples. What do you tell them? How do you respond in that circumstance?

I’ve seen folks react in a couple of ways. Some gracefully change the subject. Some use it as an opportunity to get on a soapbox (liberal or conservative, both are similar in many ways). Most hem and haw and awkwardly give a noncommittal answer that could be taken as either positive or negative, depending on how you look at it. I’m afraid I have to admit to being in that third category most of the time.

I’m a feeler. An introvert. I don’t like conflict or controversy. I want everyone to get along, and–most importantly–I want everybody to like me. So in those circumstances, I generally try to change the subject.

Why? Well, honestly, it depends on the arena. Are you in someone’s home talking pleasantly with people you don’t really know? Or are you hanging out with someone you know well? Are you in a classroom at school where the point is to listen to a teacher? Or are you in a small group environment where you’re encouraged to share your opinions?

I think arena has a lot to do with it, but when you get right down to it, if someone asks you for your opinion, shouldn’t you tell the truth? Shouldn’t you be honest about what you believe and why, regardless of how people react? Or is telling the truth too dangerous to risk all the time?

mouse_10Today’s verses are Acts 24:14-16.

But I admit that I follow the Way, which they call a cult. I worship the God of our ancestors, and I firmly believe the Jewish law and everything written in the prophets. I have the same hope in God that these men have, that he will raise both the righteous and the unrighteous. Because of this, I always try to maintain a clear conscience before God and all people.

This passage comes from one of the history books of the Bible, Acts, the early history of the Church. Paul has been arrested and brought to trial, accused of troublemaking and stirring up riots. If you’ve got a bit, you should read the whole chapter.

A group of men are accusing Paul of things they can’t prove–untrue things. Paul’s defense is simple, calm, and composed. Not angry. He doesn’t rant or rave. He doesn’t make it about himself. He just states the facts.

Regardless of our environment, I truly believe that as Christ-followers we are called to be truthful in all our dealings. If someone asks us to weigh in, we need to be honest.

If you know someone is in a relationship that isn’t pleasing to the Lord, and one of the people involved asks you for your opinion, you have the duty to be honest with them in the name of Christ.

If there’s a situation where you work that you’ve been asked to give your perspective on, you are responsible as a follower of Christ to speak truth.

Don’t lie and say nothing is wrong when something is. That’s the easy way out. That’s the coward’s way out. Christ-followers are not called to be cowards. We are called to be bold and courageous, fearless and strong. But don’t get the idea that gives us the right to be bullies either.

In all things, we are to be Christ like, and that means meekness. Quiet strength. Speak truth, yes, but speak it in love. Don’t tear people down. Don’t rip people apart. Don’t pin blame. Don’t use your words to hurt others.

Maybe you want to. Maybe you even feel justified. Maybe everyone around you would even tell you that you’re justified. But you’re not. Nothing gives you the right to tear another person down with your words. If you are a Christ follower, no matter what anyone does to you, your job is to forgive them and love them. Period. God will handle the justice.

I think Paul understood that. His comment about trying to live with a clear conscience before God and all people? That’s how I want to live. I don’t want to live with regrets because I said something I shouldn’t have. But I don’t want to live with regrets that I didn’t speak up when I should have either.

So if you’re called to speak, be honest. Just remember it takes more courage to be meek than it does to be mean. Speak truth in love. Don’t make allowances for wrongdoing or injustice because you’re afraid of repercussions. Don’t take the coward’s way out. Stand firm, be gentle, be honest.

Your conscience will be clear because you will have honored God with your words and your actions and demonstrated that you love the people around you the same way.

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Grasshopper on a windowscreen at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

What kind of life do you want to live?

I’d like to think I’m a fairly patient person, but the people who know me best know that I’m not really. I can be patient if I try really really hard, but most of the time it takes so much effort that I’d rather just run around like an idiot until something happens that I can exert some kind of control over. Even though I accomplish absolutely nothing, running around like a madwoman at least makes me feel like I can change things that are beyond me. Anyone else ever feel like that?

Well, you’re not alone. And neither am I. I’m willing to bet everyone has been there and done that at some point in their lives, but that’s not the way we’re commanded to live. We aren’t supposed to plow through life, running over anything and anyone who gets in our way.

Grasshopper on a windowscreen at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Grasshopper on a windowscreen at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Ephesians 4:2.

Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.

Ouch. Anyone else hear my toes crunching as that verse hops all over them?

I think it’s really interesting that we’re commanded to be humble and gentle all the time, followed by being patient with each other. Haven’t you noticed that impatient people usually aren’t very humble or gentle? And the opposite is true too. The proud and cruel aren’t very patient. I think these are three character qualities that go hand in hand (or hand in hand in hand).

I hate being interrupted, especially when I’m in “the zone” at work or at my home office. But that’s part of my everyday life. So I have to get used to it, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it. And I honestly do fight the urge to snap at people when they interrupt me because I don’t think they understand exactly how difficult it is to get to a point where I’m being productive only to have them drag me out of it to answer their question.

But since when is my work about me? My work is about my company and doing the best job I can for them. Even my personal writing exists to glorify God. But that’s what that attitude says. “You shouldn’t interrupt me because what I’m doing is more important than what you need.” Yeah? How humble is that?

And once I’m all stirred up, it’s just a short hop and a jump away before I get snappy and mean. And then I turn into a very un-gentle person. But I can’t tell you if this stems from my impatience or if my impatience comes about because of my lack of humility and gentleness. What I do know for sure is that all three of those characteristics—impatience, pride, and meanness—don’t represent the kind of life I want to live. And they sure don’t represent the life a Christian should be living, no matter who you are or what kind of situation you’re in.

The best thing we can do for ourselves and for the people around us is learning to recognize those traits and doing something to stop them. Maybe you don’t mean to feel one or all of them once, but that doesn’t mean you have to keep feeling them. And you certainly don’t have to base your life around them.

Always be humble. Think about what you do before you do it. Don’t automatically assume that people owe you something just by virtue of who you are. And even if they do, think twice before demanding they give it to you.

Always be gentle. There’s never a call for cruelty. There’s never a reason to be mean. There’s never a purpose for tearing people down with your words or your actions. This is one I have to watch because I have a sarcastic streak a mile wide, and sometimes my sarcasm gets the better of me. It’s one thing to tease; it’s something else to hurt. Think about what you say before you say it. You might save yourself and someone else a lot of pain.

And be patient. Just because you know something is true or right doesn’t mean other people have had the same opportunities to learn that you have. Just because your life experiences have taught you valuable wisdom doesn’t mean that other people are stupid because they don’t know the same thing. And just because someone is getting on your nerves doesn’t mean they’re doing it on purpose. Maybe they’re trying to help you. They might be trying to help you into a nervous breakdown, but at least their intentions are good. Chill out. Back off. Calm down. Take a minute or two to refocus and try again.

Maybe we don’t know what causes pride, meanness, or impatience (other than our own sin nature), but there’s plenty of explanation about what encourages patience, humility, and gentleness.

Love.

Seems to be a running theme in the Bible, doesn’t it?

Be humble. Be gentle. Be patient. Why? Because we love each other. And we love each other because Jesus loved us first.

It’s not easy. Oh boy, it’s not easy. But I guarantee life is so much better if you listen.