"Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth." - Matthew 5:5
In Jesus's Sermon on the Mount he begins with three postures of the heart that are to mark his family: a poverty of spirit, a sense of mourning, and a disposition of meekness.
You are not going to find many leadership books that spend serious time discussing the blessing or benefit that comes from these three realities of the heart, but this is how Jesus begins his teaching about the roots of a blessed life, a life that honors God and lives in alignment to the kingdom that is breaking through.
Social and cultural Darwinism, a survival of the fittest mentality remains a "don't say it out loud, but this is how we are actually living" reality for people, including some people who profess to follow Jesus. Today it seems the loudest, wildest, and most divisive voices are ones that win the day or get the most exposure, retweets, and likes. We have seen far too many examples of people who have used their power in a manipulative, exploitative and destructive way.
There have tragically been far too many leaders (and in the church no less!) who have led by the mantra "Blessed are domineering, for they shall get their way and accrue great power." The fallout from this way of leading in our culture has been immense. There is a growing distrust of institutions, of the church, of anyone in authority that has permeated the rising generations. In addition to a rise in distrust of institutions there is this tragic reality too--a rising number of people who have personally encountered people who have used their influence and position of authority to inflict pain, anxiety, and control. Behind the headlines that come from exploitative power and domineering personalities are actual people and the wounds that they forever carry.
There are many possible solutions to this rising crisis, but one I want to highlight comes from an ancient place--a sermon Jesus gave to his disciples on a hill by the Sea of Galilee. In that sermon Jesus speaks of the blessing that comes to the meek. Jesus is asking his disciples to be the "meek ones" and to be characterized by a spirit of meekness in all they do.
What does that mean exactly? And why is that spirit needed even more in our moment?
What Meekness Is
Meekness is not weakness. It is not being a pushover. It is not a bland type of niceness. Meekness is strength under control. It is, in a sense, a combination of self-control and gentleness. The Greek word for meekness was used of a previously wild animal (usually a horse) that been broken and then trained into obedience by its master. That horse is now a meek horse, a horse that has been broken and trained and can channel its innate wildness into control and service for another.
You are that horse. Let's just get right to the point.
To embrace meekness is to embrace joyful submission, the submission that comes from yielding to Jesus's good and gentle rule over your life. To becoming a living sacrifice. It is the death of boasting, of arrogance, of the insidious lie that living for myself and gaining more power brings true freedom and joy. It is a reorientation to the blessing of a life fully submitted to the One who is true freedom and joy. To true gain being found in giving up.
To be marked by meekness is to use our power in a redemptive way, our influence in a way that leads to the flourishing of others, even at the expense of ourselves. It is a culture of our heart, of self-control and gentleness being the means by which we express ourselves to others. It is to see how we respond when someone criticizes us or (in our present moment) how we respond when someone criticizes our preferred political candidate. Do we respond with gentleness? With self-control? It does not mean we DON'T respond, but biblical meekness guides HOW we respond, both in our heart and with our words and deeds.
For me, one of the best ways to check on the level of my meekness is how I drive. Yes, how I drive can be a measure of the meekness of my heart. Am I in a hurry? Am I out of control? Am I in need of getting back at someone who cut me off or cut in line? Is my power under control in my car or out of control? I often still drive like a wild horse! Jesus take the wheel.
The Lord has given each of us a different personality and temperament, and some may find the idea of meekness (in theory) far easier than others. But Jesus doesn't qualify his desire for us to be meek based on our personality type, it is a blessing that is given to everyone who walks in the way of meekness.
Into a culture that is racing too fast, yelling too loudly, arguing too frequently, and becoming increasingly exhausted by faux bravado and domineering power the still, small power of meekness offers a redemptive exodus.
Jesus, as always, is our model here of a life marked by meekness. He had absolute power and authority and yet he used it in combination with deep vulnerability and sacrificial love. He used his power and influence for the sake of others. He invited his disciples to build a Spirit-dependent movement which would see meekness move from a sermon on a mount to a city on a hill.
The "leadership culture" in the 1st century was not based on servanthood, or selflessness or meekness, but on authority and control and fear and on ever increasing doses of that. Into that reality Jesus brought a revolutionary and costly message about his vision for healthy leadership--whether that be in the church, in your office, or with your kids.
"But Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, 28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28)
Even the Son of Man. What a picture. What a vision. What a price.
If we are to lead and serve people with meekness then we have to know the meekest and strongest one of all--Jesus Christ. Thankfully, he is not only our example but our Savior. It is not the strong or the accomplished or the powerful who shall inherit the earth...it is the meek. Only in the kingdom of God. Only through a King who showed us the true redemptive power of meekness...and shows us still if we would listen again to his words.
To the revival of the meekest...a movement that speaks a better word than the survival of fittest.