Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth – Matthew 5 v 5
We talked last time about the need to be aware of the subversive, revolutionary impact of the Beatitudes. According to NT Wright the victory goes not to the wise or the strong but to those who are ‘small’ before God.
But what is Jesus actually saying here? He is clearly not observing things as they are. The meek do not have the earth. It is those who are strong and powerful who are at the top. You would not expect a humble or gentle person to be the Head of the Bank of England, President of the
USA or manager
of Man Utd! There are not many self help books on how to be meek. Just try
searching on Amazon. One title caught my eye – ‘Secret habits of successful
bastards – the self help people for people who are too nice.’ Says it all
Neither is this a fluffy statement about how things will be when we are all plucking our harps in the celestial clouds. Jesus deliberately use the phrase – ‘inherit the earth.’
It is really part of this statement about how things can be in the revolutionary new kingdom that he came to reveal. It is not a vague comfort for natural born Frank Spencers. It is meant for those who choose gentleness and humility because that it the best way to be. Christ himself was the prime example. Paul tells the Philippians that he did not consider equality with God something to be held onto but gave it all away in order to humble himself. That is what he is talking about here.
It is the exercise of power v the gentleness of love.
Martin Luther King once said – ‘Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.
We will never achieve change by coercion. Many religious people have tried to make their world a better place – as they see it – by the exerting of power. To force people into their way of seeing things. They do not see that in doing this they are coming into conflict with Jesus’ message of non violence. We cannot coerce, we can only love. I have heard the American writer and speaker Tony Campolo speak on this topic twice in the last 20 odd years and his message is the same – To love, you have to give up power. In an exploitive relationship the one with power will control the one who loves. Love and power are mutually exclusive.
Blessed are the meek? Why? Because they are the ones who have learned how to love without conditions, without expectations and without imposing their will. So we move from ‘how can I do what is best for me?’ to ‘how can I best serve others?'. From ‘how can I get rich’ to ‘how can I enrich others?’ From being driven by a need to control to a looking for ways to make others feel valued and significant.
It is as we do this that we begin to identify with the poor, the lonely and the sick. Religious people often have a problem with being vulnerable. There is a need to be right, to be strong, to have no doubts. It is not easy to accept that they are not Mary Poppins – practically perfect in every way.
So in our relationships our aim is not to get our way but simply to be there for each other –
‘Piglet sidled up to Pooh
‘Yes’, said Pooh?’‘Nothing’ said Piglet, ‘I just wanted to be sure of you