Few passages in Scripture are used to share the teaching of Jesus as often as the Sermon on the Mount. Matthew 5 opens the scene for us. Great crowds of people had followed Jesus from all around Galilee. As He saw them, He moved up into the mountain with his disciples and began to teach them. (The location of this passage is believed to be a hill in northern Israel in the Korazim Plateau.)
The teaching goes on through the seventh chapter of Matthew, but the teaching begins with what is called “the beatitudes.” They contain the essence of the Lord’s teaching, seemingly simple lessons to help us live a good life as his disciples that would lead us into everlasting life with Him.
Reading these verses reveals how difficult they are to accomplish − impossible for us − unless He is at work within us. Each “blessed” highlights the hope we have in the Lord to work in and through us if we welcome Him into our lives. Apart from that hope they also point to our fallen nature and inability to attain them.
At a time when wealth and power were in the hands of a few, the beatitudes reflect the paradox often found in the teachings of Jesus. The very qualities not revered in the current society or cultures are the ones that would result in the blessing of God.
The first of those listed − blessed are the meek − is one of the ones we fail to understand most often. The word ‘meek’ is not one often used in modern language today and when we look up the definition we see words like ‘quiet, gentle, submissive’ and unconsciously we add ‘weak’ as a descriptor in the list.
Presuming weakness is synonymous with meekness can tempt us to a lack of enthusiasm for its pursuit. Strength is a virtue we look for in others and ourselves and our faulty understanding of meekness doesn’t put it on our list of things we most desire despite it being one of the Lord’s attributes.
Meekness means laying aside striving, a stubborn refusal to accept a path we did not choose, not insisting on our own way, letting go of the imagined sense of control we have over so much of our lives.
A few weeks ago as we attended the college baccalaureate of our oldest grandson. The title of the sermon for this service was “The Might of Meekness.” I cannot recall a more significant sermon on this topic as the speaker challenged the graduating class and their families to look at meekness through a more accurate lens.
The impression of the message lingers on, but one sentence punctuates the theme and continues to echo in my thoughts:
“Meekness is the acceptance of the Master’s hands on the reins without fighting.”
Rev. Rufus Smith IV
Rev. Smith repeated this sentence throughout the sermon and emphasized those last two words, “without fighting.”
How often do we finally relent and yield to a path we did not choose? Even if we do, I suspect few of us (me included) do so “without fighting.” Instead there are more often black heel marks for a long stretch as we resist the unchosen path before us.
That struggle exposes how tenuous our trust is. Letting go is not easy, but as I was reading something by Lisa Wingate recently, she pointed to the value of learning to do so:
“The most important skill in life is to learn the acceptance of that which you have not planned for yourself. Discontent, if watered even the slightest bit, spreads like choke weed. It will smother the garden if you let it.”
Lisa Wingate in The Sea Keeper’s Daughter
Accepting what we did not plan for ourselves is how we operationalize what the pastor said − …”the acceptance of the Master’s hands on the reins without fighting” − and helps us cross the finish line.