Since it’s been nearly 3 months since the last post on the topic, here’s a review of the series on meekness so far. The first two posts contrasted two characters from the movie The Matrix, Agent Smith and Neo, to Jesus. Agent Smith was the “Malevolent Incarnation,” who used and enforced rules to keep people in their place. Smith can’t stand the stink of humanity and just wants to be free of it. Neo, the hero of the Matrix series, is the “Ambivalent Incarnation” who wants to free mankind from rules, but otherwise wants to let them be as they are. However, under Neo’s no-rules philosophy of “everyone should do what they want,” there is no foundation from which to object to anything someone else does, including brutal oppression. Any objection is also an objection to the same philosophy Neo claims to hold, and “no city or house divided against itself will stand.”
Jesus, contrasted to these, is the “Benevolent Incarnation.” Jesus is more aware of the problems that make Agent Smith repulsed by us and that make him want to control us, but He also does not leave us alone with no way to overcome our problems. He rules us for our good, and because we cannot meet His perfect standard, He lived it in our place, then died to cover the cost of our failure. He wants to fix our stink, not because He hates us as Agent Smith does, but because He loves us in spite of our stink. He refuses to allow us to stink forever, as Neo would. He is benevolent, not malevolent or ambivalent.
Meekness is the third step in the Beatitudes, an intentionally sequential series of statements that describe what’s involved in following God, like gears in a machine: “First, being poor in spirit means that we have emptied ourselves of all illusions that our plans are better than God’s. Second, mourning the state of ourselves and our world means we are emotionally engaged. That we care. In the third Beatitude, being meek is where we begin to engage our will, submitting it to God as our benevolent Lord.”
He wants us to also be benevolent incarnations, however we often don’t want to engage the third gear of meekness, where “the rubber meets the road” so to speak. But if we don’t embrace it “the first two Beatitudes alone can leave us in a place where we’re a mess and the world is a terrible place and there’s nothing we can do about any of it. It can be a place of depression and despair.”
Martha almost found herself stuck in this place when Jesus returned to Bethany after the death of Lazarus, her brother. Jesus found the family mourning, then: “Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’ Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, ‘Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” (John 11:39). Jesus intended to raise Lazarus from the dead, but for Martha the stink was all she could think of. Patently, Jesus encouraged her, the stone covering the entrance to the tomb was moved, and Lazarus walked out of the grave alive!
Don’t Let the Stink Stop You
Does the stench of sin keep us from being meek? Do we, like Agent Smith, just want people to behave so we can go about our way? Or does our obedience come first? Jesus wants us to live as He lived, but we only can if we accept His righteousness and become invested in it at all levels of our being. If we are truly poor in spirit and mourn our sin, what’s stopping us?
God won’t tell us to move the stone from Lazarus’ grave – that was Martha’s task. It also was not Jesus’ task. We don’t do what Jesus would do, but what He would have us do. He could have moved the stone Himself, but He wanted Martha to participate in His work, but to do that she had to be willing to be uncomfortable.
We all are often in Martha’s place, struggling with what Jesus wants us to do. He asks us to do things that don’t make sense to us, that don’t make sense to the world, and sometimes it stinks (sometimes literally). Jesus wants to bring His people to life, as He did with Lazarus, but there may be a stone He wants you to move, and it will only move if you have faith in Him stronger than the stink involved.
Meekness is the Cross
Meekness means carrying the cross the Father assigns to us. For Jesus it was taking on all the sin of the world, not just by His death on a literal cross, but also by proactively taking on the consequences of it for the benefit of others. We stink but He did not leave us alone. For us, carrying the cross involves taking on some of the stink of the world, stepping into the suffering of others and offering the life that only Jesus can give. What an amazing contrast this is to what’s so common today: pointing out sin everywhere and demanding those “other sinners” pay the price, or demanding that government solve the problem somehow, or withdrawing from problems that seem too big to do anything about.
Is there a stinky situation you’re aware of, but avoiding? Being meek toward Jesus means we’re on board with His plan of salvation and willing to do our part, whatever that is. Sometimes all that’s needed to bring someone life is moving a stone and enduring the odor. While the smell was enough for Martha to hesitate, to Jesus it was part of the cost of living and dying for us. He was willing to bear it, and if we meekly move the stone, Jesus will do the rest.
Sometimes I put off writing thinking the time is better spent on the people and situations right in front of me. Is hiding behind a screen and keyboard just an avoidance tactic? At other times I know that each person’s meekness includes a response to their own calling and use of their specific gifts: “if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching.” (Romans 12:7). Meekness is difficult, and I pray we all find better balance as we grow in Christ. Do the things God calls you to, even if it stinks sometimes!