…the fruit of the [Holy] Spirit is…gentleness (or meekness) Galatians 5:23
HAVING SPECIFIED THE LINK OF fidelity or faithfulness between the three private or inward fruit (love, joy and peace) and the three public or outward fruit (long-suffering, kindness and goodness), Paul concludes with two requirements of order, viz. meekness and self-control. The sinful ‘works of the flesh’ (v. 22) always produce pride and confusion in human life. Meekness (or gentleness) is the first antidote to the destructive disorder of human sin.
Paul reminds us that only God can deliver us from ourselves. Meekness is a fruit of the Holy Spirit not something natural. Pride is our great enemy and yet how blind we are to its influence! Indeed, the great achievers of this world—in sport, politics and business—are usually strong-minded, assertive people. They are ‘pushy’ and ambitious. They manipulate or ‘push around’ other people to get their own way. Such people always ‘aim for the top’, for wealth, power, and importance. They get talked about and become famous. Meekness is never commended by pagan Greek and Roman writers who always preferred the self-confident, assertive kind of man. Ever since God was dethroned in the human soul, we all have the tendency to become tyrants.
THE MEANING OF MEEKNESS
Our meek Redeemer says meekness is a primary quality of a true Christian (Matt. 5: 5). Without it, the proud and the powerful will lose everything they ever possessed. With it, Christians will ‘inherit the earth’. If meekness is too rare, it is also rarely understood correctly. It does not describe a retiring, quiet kind of individual. Being ‘meek’ is not being casual, easy- going and ‘laid back’. Neither does it mean being pleasant and ‘nice’. It certainly doesn’t describe people of weak personality or character. Moses was a man of great strength but he is described as ‘meek’ (Numb. 12: 3). Was the ‘meek’ (Matt. 11: 29) Lord Jesus Christ weak (Jn. 2: 15)? Someone has written: ‘if you think meekness is weakness then try being meek for a week!’
Meekness may be defined as having a quiet, humble, dependent and teachable spirit, with total trust in God (Matt. 6: 33) despite all unpleasant and irritating provocations (Matt. 5: 44). Christ’s true disciples meekly accept His word (Jn. 14: 23). In the Old Testament, ‘meekness’ basically means a state of poverty and affliction from which the idea of patient submission is derived (Ps. 10: 12-18). In the New Testament, ‘meekness’ is an inward attitude implying a gentle and non-aggressive disposition, seen especially in CHRIST (2 Cor. 10: 1).
THE MANNER OF MEEKNESS
Meekness may be viewed from three aspects:
A. With reference to God, meekness is ‘resignation and submission’:
- We become amazed that God is so gracious to us (Eph. 2: 1-5).
- We are patient under trials as Job was: ‘The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away’ (Job. 1: 21).
- We realise that we are always in God’s debt (Matt. 6: 12). He owes us nothing.
B. With reference to others, meekness is ‘mildness and gentleness’:
- We regard ourselves as less worthy than others (Phil. 2: 3b).
- We are not proud and boastful (1 Cor. 13: 4; Phil. 2: 3a).
- We are not sensitive and defensive (1 Cor. 13: 5; Jas. 3: 17).
- We are not inclined to retaliate under criticism (1 Pet. 2: 23).
- We are amazed when others think well of us (2 Sam. 9: 8).
C. With reference to ourselves, meekness means ‘patience and contentment’:
- We are content and satisfied with God’s provision and dealings with us (Phil. 4: 11).
- We realise that future glory outweighs present trials and deprivations (2 Cor. 4: 16-18).
MEN OF MEEKNESS
How do our lives reflect the spiritual quality of meekness? Abstract characteristics are better portrayed in living examples. Moses (Numb. 12: 1-3) and David (2 Sam. 16: 11) were submissive to God while under criticism. Paul urges meekness in rebuking an erring brother (2 Tim. 2: 25). He patterned his own behaviour with the Corinthian church on Christ’s meekness (2 Cor. 10: 1-18). Peter urges meekness in arguing with unbelievers (1 Pet. 3: 15). The supreme example is therefore the Lord Jesus Himself. He was meekness without parallel before His accusers (1 Pet. 2: 21-3)
THE MAKING OF MEEKNESS
How can we become meek? God’s word directs us accordingly:
- Only by His grace. It is a spiritual grace (Gal. 5: 23) not a natural art.
- Only by personal union with Christ. He teaches us in the course of a life-long personal relationship with Him (see Matt. 11: 28-30). ‘Yoked together’ with Him, he alone can subdue our turbulent, restless self will.
- Only by regular, daily repentance and faith. Our spiritual warfare is a succession of failure, recovery, pardon and gradual progress (2 Pet. 3: 18). The ultimate victory is certain (see Jude 24-5).
Total surrender to God’s grace and power will ensure meekness. Resistance and rebellion can only hinder it. Relying upon Christ, the ‘root’ will produce the ‘fruit’. May we always be rooted in Him (Jn. 15: 1-8).
Aim always to be like Christ (see 1 Jn. 2:6). That said, being Christ-like is challenging in every respect, not least where meekness is concerned. Remembering Charles Wesley’s children’s hymn, ‘Gentle Jesus, meek and mild’, we must avoid a sentimental misunderstanding. Was our Saviour always ‘mild’? No, so ‘meekness’ never means we simply put up with everything, any more than Jesus, whose cleansing of the Temple was quite violent (see Matt. 21: 12-13; Jn. 2: 13-17). However, His ‘righteous anger’ was controlled righteous anger. He did not lose His temper. He was the only perfect example of ‘being angry without sin’ (see Ps. 4: 4).
Beware of Satan’s influence. When he quotes this verse (see Eph. 4: 26-7), the Apostle Paul warns us that the devil is not far away. Our enemy can ‘push us over the edge’ into uncontrolled, unsanctified anger, if we are not careful. Even meek Moses lost his temper on possibly two occasions (see Ex. 32: 19-22 and Num. 20: 7-12). Even though he was clearly moved with righteous anger against idolatrous Israel, did he have to smash the Tablets of the Law? We know that his anger at Kadesh cost him his personal entry into the promised land—not that his eternal salvation was ever in doubt. Yet God charged His servant with unbelief, in going beyond God’s specific command. The LORD told Moses to ‘speak’ to the rock (v. 8). Sadly, Moses ‘struck’ it twice with his rod (v. 11).
Know your limitations. If possible, avoid circumstances that could test you excessively. Beware of overtiredness. Our Lord’s prayerful guidance is relevant here: ‘Lead us not into temptation’ (Matt. 6: 13) is clearly related to our personal weakness.
Through prayer and dependence on the Holy Spirit, aim to be ‘full of faith’. In unbelief, Moses momentarily forgot that God was in charge. His lapse of faith had serious results. Since the antidote to ‘unbelief’ is ‘faith’, a calm confidence in God is the answer. Thus equipped, we can face anything by His power, to His glory!