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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Dandelions in the yard at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Nobody wants to kill a pansy

I don’t know when, but something happened in our culture that changed our perspective of what a Christian is supposed to act like. People look at the way someone acts and determines from their behavior that “they’re not very Christian” or they’re not a “good” Christian simply by merit of how they behave, when the truth is that being a Christian has less to do with our behavior and more to do with the state of our heart.

That’s not to say that our actions are meaningless. That’s the not the case at all. The distinction should be made that a Christian never loses his or her temper or never gets angry or never demands anything. The distinction comes with why and how. I’ve heard people say that Christians should never be angry. I’ve heard people say that Christians should never get upset. And part of me agrees with that, especially when you consider the reasons why most people get angry or upset.

Most anger in our world comes from petty unimportant things. We lose our tempers over the smallest problems, issues that don’t mean anything. And as Christians, we shouldn’t. But that doesn’t mean we’re not supposed to be angry about things that are worth it.

Dandelions in the yard at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Dandelions in the yard at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Matthew 21:12-13.

Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out all the people buying and selling animals for sacrifice. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves. He said to them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves!”

This passage out of Matthew is one I’ve turned to many times when I feel angry about something, strangely enough. It reminds me that being angry isn’t a sin, especially when that anger is just. But there’s a lot happening in this passage. This marks a time when Christ returned to Jerusalem, and what He found in the Temple was shocking. Culturally, I’m not sure if we can understand what’s going on here without taking a lot of time to do an in-depth study, but basically what’s happening is that the market people inside the Temple who were supposed to be fair when they sold animals for people to sacrifice were cheating people. That’s probably the easiest way to explain it.

And it made Jesus angry. The Temple was supposed to be a sacred place where people came to worship God, and because of greed and selfishness, people had turned into something it was never meant to be. Notice how He handled His anger, though. He didn’t curse. He didn’t lose control. He didn’t direct His anger at one person. He simply righted the problem, and He backed up His actions with Scripture.

Okay. Throughout the month of May, I’ve been studying the Fruit of the Spirit, as recorded in Galatians 5:22-23 (But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control). The Fruit I’m focusing on today is gentleness (πρᾳότης). But what does that have to do with anger?

The version of the Bible that I learned this passage in didn’t use the term gentleness. It used meekness, which honestly isn’t a term you hear in 21st Century America often. A more accurate definition is: “displaying the right blend of force and reserve, strength in gentleness, avoids unnecessary harshness, yet without compromising or being too slow to use necessary force.”

Meekness is quiet strength. It’s inner calm and humility that doesn’t hesitate to bash skulls when it’s needed. And it absolutely doesn’t mean that you take conflict lying down.

Too many times I think Christians get this idea that being gentle, humble, meek means that we don’t get to stand up for what’s right. Too many times I think we embrace this concept that Jesus was this soft-spoken pansy who never challenged anyone. And anyone who believes that hasn’t read the Gospels. Jesus challenged everyone. He challenged everything. He took the preconceived notions of how life was supposed to be and turned them on their heads. He angered the religious leaders to the point where they conspired to put Him to death.

Let’s face it, folks. Nobody wants to kill a pansy. If anything, people like that are ignored, written off, neglected. They’re easy to push to the sidelines. And nobody was able to do that with Christ.

Christ was a blue-collar worker. A carpenter. An average man like anyone else. Isaiah tells that He wasn’t even handsome, unlike the beautiful glowing portraits people have painted over the years. I guarantee He didn’t look like that.

But He wasn’t a zealot either. Christ is the best example of meekness in Scripture. He’s called the Lamb of God, but He’s also called the Lion of Judah. How can one person be both a lion and a lamb? That’s meekness. Maybe it sounds like a paradox, but it’s not. It’s a Fruit of the Spirit. It’s evidence that God is working in your life.

So what does that mean for us today? How do we demonstrate meekness in our lives? What’s worth getting angry about? And how do you show anger without sin? Because anger on its own isn’t sin, but anger can drive us to sin, and we need to deal with it before it gets to that point.

It comes down to Scripture and having a relationship with Christ. It’s okay to be angry when the church doesn’t line up with Scripture. It’s okay to be angry when God is misused in culture. It’s okay to be angry when Jesus is mocked and openly misrepresented, whether by believers or nonbelievers alike. But our response needs to be Scriptural too. Now, I don’t really think any of us can walk into a materialistic church and start kicking people out and turning over tables. I don’t think that’s necessarily a scriptural response, especially in our culture right now.

But there’s nothing wrong with speaking out. There’s nothing wrong with getting to the bottom of why people are doing what they’re doing. Maybe they’re doing these things out of ignorance, and then it becomes our duty to teach them. But however we choose to deal with a situation that makes us angry, we need to remember meekness. It’s that balance between anger and love. It’s the balance between standing up for what’s right and speaking truth in love, and that’s not something we can do on our own. That’s something God has to do through us. That’s something He has to speak through us.

And so when you get angry, first make sure it’s not coming from some unresolved issue in your own heart. And then, when you choose to act, make sure you ask the Holy Spirit to help you. Because while anger is a useful tool, it has done more damage in the church and in lives and in relationships than anything else. When we turn our anger over to God, He’ll take care of it, and when we trust our actions to the Holy Spirit, He’ll help us say what we need to say and do what we need to do.

Pink roses in the Rose Garden at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

It’s the quiet ones you’ve got to watch out for

I get tired of taking things sitting down, you know? There are some days when I want to stand up and fight. I want to argue. I want to lash out at all these people who have taken the important things in life and dragged them through the mud. But if there’s one thing I’ve noticed it’s that people don’t usually respond well to strong opinions, especially if they don’t agree with you anyway.

In any situation, a loud answer rarely satisfies the question and usually only draws more loud opinions. And it just gets worse and worse until someone backs down.

Don’t misunderstand. There are some things definitely worth fighting for, but how are we supposed to fight?

Pink roses in the Rose Garden at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Pink roses in the Rose Garden at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verse is Matthew 5:5.

God blesses those who are humble,
    for they will inherit the whole earth.

So what does humility have to do with fighting, you may ask? Well for that answer, we need to check the Amplified Version. It will clear this up a bit:

Blessed (happy, blithesome, joyous, spiritually prosperous—with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions) are the meek (the mild, patient, long-suffering), for they shall inherit the earth!

In the Amplified Version, the word is actually meek rather than humble. And while humility and fighting are somewhat related, meekness and fighting go hand in hand–or at least they should for a Christ-follower.

Meekness is another form humility can take. Meekness has best been described as quiet strength. It’s confidence and surety so certain that you don’t need to bluster or brag. Jesus was meek. He had every right to show off and demonstrate His power and knowledge, but He didn’t. In fact, the only time He even showed any form of aggression was chasing the money changers out of the temple (Matthew 21:12-17).

Some people portray meekness as weakness. We have this idea that meekness means we need to be pansies, and that’s the opposite of it. Meekness is strength used at the appropriate time. It’s speaking softly and carrying a big stick, to quote Teddy Roosevelt.

If you’re the kind of person who goes off at the drop of a hat, I’m sorry to say that’s not meekness. If you’re the kind of person who gets angry and confrontational about everything, that’s not meekness either. If you’re defensive, if you’re demanding, if you’re difficult–there’s no meekness there. And while the world may consider you a strong person who’s going somewhere, God’s opinion is the opposite.

Meekness matters to God. And according to this verse, it’s not the loud confrontational fighters who are going to be successful in the end. It’s the quiet ones in the back. It’s the soft-spoken ones.

Granted, it’s the soft-spoken people who know where they stand and never compromise. But you don’t have to be a loud-mouthed bully to communicate that. People will know who you are and what you stand for well enough by how you live, by how you treat others, by the choices you make.

Our world reveres people who say what they want to say, no matter how it affects other people. Why do you think “reality” TV is so popular? Our culture idolizes conflict. We set people who tear each other down on pedestals. And the louder you can be about your radical opinions, the more attention you’ll get.

But that’s not how we’re supposed to live. And if you talk to anyone–really talk to them–there is something deep inside them that recognizes the bravado and bluster for what it is: a show. And the moment they really need someone to depend on, they aren’t going to go for the loud-mouthed show offs. They’re going to turn to the rock-solid quiet person who has always been there for them.

Maybe you don’t think that being quiet makes a difference to people, but you’re wrong. Meekness shouts louder than shouting any day, and if you truly focus on maintaining a lifestyle of quiet strength, people will notice. It’s often the things you don’t say that make the most difference. People aren’t stupid. They pick up on more than you realize.

So what does this mean for us today? My life is so busy. And sometimes I feel like I have to shout over the noise in order to be heard. I feel like I have to step up my game and push people out of the way to accomplish the things I want. But that’s not the way I’m supposed to live.

I’m supposed to be meek–to live a life of quiet strength. I’m supposed to be patient. I’m supposed to wait and trust God and if He really has put me where He wants me, He will orchestrate events in His time.

So if you feel the urge to push people around today, even if it’s from a heart with pure intentions, don’t do it. Wait patiently and see what happens. I know it’s a scary thought because the world tells us we’ll be run over if we stand still, and maybe you will. But when has doing what the world says ever been a good idea?

Be quiet today. Not weak. But quiet. Just because you have the strength to do something doesn’t mean you’re supposed to do it.