Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: meekness

Principalities and Powers

Immediately after Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, he disappeared into the wilderness and fasted for forty days. Then Satan came to him and offered to let Jesus rule all the kingdoms of the world if he would acknowledge Satan as supreme. “Just bow down and worship me and you can govern the world as you wish. But in the end the people are still mine.” That would have avoided the necessity of the cross. Some Christians refuse to believe that the kingdoms of the world were Satan’s to offer. But how else would the offer have been a temptation?

Jesus did not come to the world to serve as a viceroy in Satan’s kingdom. He came to overthrow Satan’s kingdom, set people free from bondage to Satan and establish his own kingdom.

In the most stunning reversal of fortune in history, at the moment when Jesus hug dying on the cross and Satan thought he had eliminated Jesus as a threat, Jesus called out to his Father, saying “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Forgiveness! Satan could not have seen that coming. The word is not in his vocabulary, the concept of forgiveness is foreign to him. In that moment Satan was defeated and a new kingdom established.

Nothing has changed for most people in the world. Satan is still the prince of this world, he still rules the kingdoms of this world through unseen principalities and powers. He is doing his utmost to conceal from mankind the fact that a rival kingdom is occupying part of his territory.

Yet everything has changed. Satan is doomed and he knows it. Jesus is offering hope to people who have no hope in the kingdom of Satan. The whole game of Satan now is to take as many people as possible with him to hell. He is out for revenge.

The kingdom of Jesus is a spiritual kingdom; it does not occupy a defined territory on this earth. Any person, anywhere on earth, who willingly submits to the reign of Jesus and is born again, is set free from the rule of Satan and becomes a citizen of Jesus’ kingdom. No earthly nation qualifies as a Christian nation, though it is one of Satan’s snares to think so.

We cannot defeat Satan by political means, or by any other human means. When we involve ourselves in any way with such movements, we are attempting to defeat Satan by using his own tools. That always results in defeat. Even if only our feelings are stirred, we risk making ourselves unfit for working for Jesus.

The tools that are effective against Satan are:

Trust. When we submit to the rule of Jesus we become meek and humble. We have nothing to prove, but trust that victory and vengeance belong to him alone. Satan’s goal is to divide people until each person stands alone and trusts no one else.

Love. Jesus teaches us to love our enemies and enables us to do it, through the power of the Holy Spirit. Yes, the people around us do and say things that are sometimes hurtful Love them anyway. Jesus does.

Forgiveness. It is a given that we are going to get hurt. Satan would like to stir our feelings towards anger, revenge, or at least to demand an apology. If we give in to those feelings, he has won. If we can forgive from our heart, Jesus wins.

Thankfulness. Let’s freely speak of all the good that Jesus has done for us. Being meek and humble should not close our lips, except to any boasting of how good we are..

Prayer. We need to speak often with God, our heavenly Father, in the name of Jesus. That is how we get the strength to do the things listed already. Prayer is also the most powerful thing we can do to positively affect the evils we see around us, in individuals, families, governments.

Meekness

Meekness rhymes with weakness; modern English dictionaries defines it with words that sound like weakness. That is not what the Bible means by meekness.

Meekness is a strength of character that is neither an inherited personality trait nor the work of the human will, but solely a gift of the Holy Spirit. It is an inner strength, founded on trust in God, which enables the child of God to face adversity, opposition and even persecution with assurance and joy rather than resistance or dispute.

The meek do not inherit the earth by strength of will, nor by timid and passive waiting. They proclaim their trust in God, their willingness to suffer injustice for His sake, their refusal to deny God for the sake of temporal safety. They make no counter accusations, but trust that in the end of all things God will judge them and others according to His perfect righteousness.

Are we like oxen?

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(My father broke land with oxen when he homesteaded in southern Saskatchewan a little more than 100 years ago.)

Exodus 32:9 – And the LORD said unto Moses, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people.

Stiffnecked was originally used to describe oxen who would not lower their heads to permit the yoke to be fastened in order for them to pull together. The term was applied to the Israelites a number of times during the Exodus. After forty years, when they crossed the Jordan, they were a united people, able to work together.

Matthew 11:29 – Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

If we are a stiffnecked people, we will resist with all our might having the yoke applied. Thus we will never be able to pull together with fellow believers and never experience the truth of Jesus’ promise.

Steel-toed slippers

Non-resistance is one of the prime identification marks of a true Anabaptist.  Many folks take this to mean that we believe it is wrong to put on a uniform and take up arms to defend our country.  What it really means is that we believe in wearing figurative steel-toed slippers so that it never feels like someone is stepping on our toes.  Some jobs require workers to wear steel-toed safety shoes because of dangers in the workplace, but we also need to prevent hurt feelings from arising when we are with family, friends and neighbours.

If we never notice that someone has stepped on our toes, we never feel a need for vengeance.  That is the true essence of non-resistance.  We should have no feelings of bitterness and resentment at the events and circumstances that life brings our way.  The Apostle Paul writes: “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice” (Ephesians 4:31).

Jesus said that the meek will inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5).  If we think that meek rhymes with weak, consider the word used in French: débonnaire.  Don’t be deceived by the English word debonair, the boat carrying it across the English Channel must have capsized, as it became quite a different word upon reaching the shores of England.  The French word means: “having a goodness, or kindness, pushed to the extreme, somewhat weak.”  That doesn’t sound very appealing at first, but consider the promise that is attached to it: such a person shall inherit the earth.

Those who try to stake out their little plot on this earth and defend it with all their might tend to have a miserable life, always on guard lest someone’s toe encroach upon their territory.  There is great peace when we  realize that we are heirs and leave the defending to God.  “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord” (Romans 12:19).

“ Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Romans 13:10).  There is no escape clause here, such as: love worketh no premeditated ill to his neighbour; or love worketh no ill to his neighbour unless he is first inconvenienced by his neighbour.  It is unconditional love that the New Testament teaches, even to the unlovable.  This attitude of unconditional love is a characteristic of those who truly entrust everything they are and have into the hands of a loving and merciful God.

“Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.  But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth.  This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.  For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.  But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.  And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace” (James 2:13-18).

A peace witness in time of war does not mean much if we are not known as peaceable people at other times.  If we claim to be born again and to have the peace of God in our heart, yet show a very touchy and defensive attitude to others, something is not quite right.  Time to put on those steel-toed slippers.

Blessed are the meek

— for they shall inherit the earth.  (Matthew 5:5)

I believe I have located one of the weak points in my faith.  I love the promise in this verse, who wouldn’t?  But I don’t really want to be a poor, timorous, vacillating wimp.

However, the promise is for the meek.  Thus I am faced with a quandary: my faith tells me I must be meek, my flesh says no way.  This is starting to look like pretty familiar territory, the age old battle between the spirit and the flesh.

But what if I’m fighting an imaginary foe on the wrong field?  Maybe I don’t really understand the meaning of meek.

The French word for meek is débonnaire, which le Petit Robert defines as kindness pushed to the extreme, somewhat weak.  Synonyms offered are gentle, peaceful, patient, inoffensive.   I’m not sure if that is much help.

It took a study of the original Greek word and its usage in the New Testament for the light to dawn.  One who is meek does not trust in himself, but in God who has all power.  Meekness is the absence of self-assertion, self-seeking and self-confidence.  In their place there is faith and trust in Almighty God, a love for His kingdom and for all mankind.

Meekness is not a description of a person’s outward behaviour towards others, but of the grace of the Holy Spirit in his heart which enables him to accept God’s will without dispute,  Thus it is not a manifestation of weakness, but a result of confidence in the power of God.

Christians are called to be bold, fearless and meek, and there is no conflict between these attributes since all are founded in a trust in the boundless power of God,  Perhaps the English word debonair (having pleasant manners, carefree, cheerful) is not as far removed from its French parent as I once thought.  Some other parts of the English definition would not fit so well, but to have pleasant manners, be free of cares and cheerful are definitely attractive characteristics, as long as they are built upon trust in God rather than self.

OK, I think I get it.  In order to inherit the earth I need to abandon my timid nature (yeah, I know, I don’t want to be timid, but there it is), abandon my desire to protect myself, and go forth boldly in the service of God.

Here I am again: my flesh is not willing.  But at least I am now facing the real enemy on the right battleground.

The early Christians were no different people than we, in a world even worse than ours. They witnessed boldly and fearlessly, with meekness, knowing that they would face opposition, persecution and martyrdom.  They turned the world upside down.  Our world today needs to be turned upside down.  Trying to do it by political means always fails.  It is people who need to be changed, not governments.  Do we have the faith and courage it will take to be truly meek?

 

 

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