Wednesday, December 13, 2017

A Strong Defensive Wall

Now I Paul myself beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ, who in presence am base among you, but being absent am bold toward you: II Corinthians 10:1

Godly meekness cannot be divorced from its association with gentleness. However, this gentleness is not usually seen in the situations where the Bible's writers use meekness. Notice what Apostle Paul states:

"Now I, Paul, myself am pleading with you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—who in presence am lowly among you, but being absent am bold toward you."  II Corinthians 10:1: 

Here, meekness appears with gentleness, as though a similarity exists alongside a specific difference.

The reason for this is that Apostle Paul is dealing with conflict. To the church at Corinth, Apostle Paul begins a defense of his apostolic authority, showing that he had a right to regard himself as sent from God. 

But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel:  Acts 9:15

He begins his argument by appealing to the gentleness and meekness of Christ to vindicate his own evenhanded approach, entreating them not to give him occasion to display the boldness and severity that he could also use. He had no wish to be so bold and severe in his discipline of them. The contrast between meekness and severity shows starkly here. Meekness is a specific virtue, tool, way or fruit of the spirit that is excellent in dealing with conflict or potential conflict within relationships.

Some, who had invaded the congregation and claimed to be apostles, accused Apostle Paul of being courageous and bold when writing letters from a distance, but timid and weak-kneed when personally present. They were, in effect, accusing him of being all bark and no bite. They had badly misjudged him through a combination of his gentle and reasoned approach when founding the congregation and, apparently, what they considered his weak physical appearance and plain, uncultured speaking. But Apostle Paul, though he may have appeared weak to them, was in reality meek, not weak. He was prepared to fight this poisonous, destructive evil within the congregation with all his spiritual power—which was, as the Bible shows, considerable.

Apostle Paul did not seek to show himself to the congregation as a flamboyant, charismatic personality. He was not there to showcase himself. He and his presentation were not the centerpiece and spiritual strength of the church. The Father, Jesus Christ and the gospel of the Kingdom were Apostle Paul's focus, and he wanted the people to focus their lives there as well. Thus, he presented them in the manner he did.

He is an excellent example of a truly meek Christian. The meek person 

√   has ceased to think or care about himself. 
   His pride and self-will have been crucified. 
√   He does not measure the importance of events by their relation to his personal comfort or what he will gain from them. 
√   He sees everything from God's perspective, seeking only to serve His purpose in the situations life imposes.

Meek, Yet Stern as Steel:  This does not mean the meek will take any and everything "lying down." Notice Moses, who was the meekest man of his time. He did not hesitate to order the execution of about three thousand of the idolaters who worshiped the golden calf while he was with God on the mountain: 

And when Moses saw that the people were naked; (for Aaron had made them naked unto their shame among their enemies:) Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on the Lord's side? let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him. And he said unto them, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour. And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses: and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men.  (Exodus 32:25-28)

Against evil this meek man was as stern as steel. How a meek man reacts depends upon what he discerns God's will is for him within that circumstance. Because the meek man sets his mind on God's purpose and not his own comfort, ambition or reputation, he will offer implacable resistance to evil in defense of God yet react with patience, kindness and gentleness when others attack him.

Jesus set a clear example of this pattern of reaction too. He made a whip of rope, and with stern and vehement energy, overturned the tables and drove the livestock, their sellers and moneychangers from the Temple because they had turned God's house into a common bazaar by their sacrilege. With simple, forthright, firm instructive answers and incisive questions, He met the twisted, intellectual, carnal reasoning of the scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees.  

He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets.  A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory.  Matthew 12:19-20

For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: "who committed no sin, nor was guile found in His mouth"; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously. (I Peter 2:21-23)

The follower of Jesus will feel the wrong done against him and feel it bitterly. But because he is not thinking of himself, his meekness does not allow his spirit to give vent to a hateful, savage and vindictive anger that seeks to "get even." He will instead be full of pity for the damaged character, attitudes and blindness of the perpetrator. From the cross Jesus uttered, 

"Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do" (Luke 23:34)

This virtue is a strong defensive wall against self-righteousness and intolerant and critical judgment of others. Yet neither does it excuse or condone sin. Rather, a meek person understands it more clearly, thus his judgment is tempered, avoiding reacting more harshly than is necessary.

Apostle Paul instructs, 

Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work,  To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men.   Titus 3:1-2

The possibility of conflict is inherent where the subject includes our relationship with governments; it is quite easy to have conflict with those in authority over us. Some in positions of authority take pleasure in wielding their power, as Jesus notes: 

"You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them."  
Matthew 20:25

On the flip side are those under authority, and this is where Apostle Paul's main emphasis is placed in Titus 3. Humans, by nature, tend to be very sensitive, critical and harsh in their judgments of those over them. It frequently results in slanderous attacks and quarrels against those in authority—sometimes even in revolutions. Apostle Paul advises us to be non-belligerent, considerate, unassertive and meek. If the fruit of meekness has been produced in either or both parties, peace and unity are more possible because a major tool is in place to allow both to perform their responsibilities within the relationship correctly.

A Natural Meekness.  What has gradually emerged from these many elements is that meekness is what results when one's spiritual knowledge, understanding and passions are in right balance. A carnal or natural meekness exists, but it is born from a person simply not wanting to become involved, from not understanding what is happening or from a lack of firmness. It is usually timid, conforms readily, and is easily deterred from doing good and persuaded to do evil. It sometimes forms the great defect in religious people's character, as in the cases of Eli and Jehoshaphat.

Eli's spirit should have burned with righteous indignation over the abominations his sons flagrantly committed, but he could not bring himself to correct them:  The Lord said to Samuel: 

"Behold, I will do something in Israel at which both ears of everyone who hears it will tingle. In that day I will perform against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. For I have told him that I will judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knows, because his sons made themselves vile, and he did not restrain them. And therefore I have sworn to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli's house shall not be atoned for by sacrifice or offering forever." (I Samuel 3:11-14)

Jehoshaphat's, the king of Judah, downfall was in his relationship with Ahab, king of Israel, who greatly sinned against God.  King Jehoshaphat allied himself with King Ahab through marriage. At one point King Ahab proposed a military alliance with Judah to defeat the Syrians. King Jehoshaphat was reluctant and requested that they consult a prophet of God. The prophet Micaiah was brought before them, and he made it perfectly clear that the purpose of the alliance was not of God and they would lose the battle. However, King Jehoshaphat lacked the will to withdraw his support and went into the battle anyway. King Ahab perished, and King Jehoshaphat lived only because God intervened.  This was not the end of the matter:

And Jehu the son of Hanani the seer went out to meet him, and said to King Jehoshaphat, "Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord? Therefore the wrath of the Lord is upon you. Nevertheless good things are found in you, in that you have removed the wooden images from the land, and have prepared your heart to seek God."   II Chronicles 19:2-3 

Both Eli and Jehoshaphat were what we would call "good men." They were religious, pious men who sought God within the framework of their own interests. God reveals, though, that they also had a serious character weakness that kept them from glorifying God to their highest potential and caused serious punishments and even curses to come upon them.  This is not the type of meekness that God requires of us!  Our meekness is derived through our faith in Christ Jesus and His Holy Spirit residing within us which gives us absolute power under the perfect control of our Lord and Savior!

God desires more of us: 

"Now the just shall live by faith; but if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him"
 (Hebrews 10:38)

Faith—confidence—is part of meekness, and thus the meek are not timid. Notice Apostle Paul's encouragement to Timothy: 

"Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind"
(II Timothy 1:6-7)

(Biblical Studies)



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