Life of humbleness & meekness (28)
Pope Shenouda III | 1 March 2012
The virtue of meekness is one of the important Christian virtues. Suffice that the Lord says about it:
"Learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." (Mt 11: 29)
He could have said, learn from Me all perfections of Christianity, but He focused on gentleness and meekness in particular, and mentioned the result. Indeed, for a meek person enjoys a life of rest and calmness, whereas a person who loses meekness lives in strife and worry.
St. Paul the Apostle mentions meekness among the fruit of the Spirit in (Gal 5: 23), for a person who walks in the spirit is of course a calm and meek person. That is why St. Peter the Apostle says, "… the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God." (1 Pet 3: 4)
Furthermore the Lord Christ puts humbleness and meekness at the top of the Beatitudes, saying, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth." (Mt 5: 3, 5) Yes, they inherit the present earth, because they usually are loved by everybody, and in the other world they will inherit the land of the living which David the Prophet mentioned, saying, "I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living." (Ps 27: 13) David the Prophet also said, "The Lord lifts up the humble; He casts the wicked down to the ground." (Ps 147: 6) "The humble shall hear of it and be glad." (Ps 34: 2)
Seeing the importance of meekness, the church reminds us of it every morning. In the Matins (the Morning Prayer) we read part of the Epistle of St. Paul which says, "I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love." (Eph 4: 1, 2) Undoubtedly longsuffering and forbearance are characteristics of meekness, therefore the church reminds us of it every morning that we may walk in it all day long.
St. James the Apostle, to explain how important meekness is for spiritual life, says, "Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom." (Jas 3: 13) He goes further to say, "The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits." (Jas 3: 17) All the above are characteristics of meekness.
Meekness therefore is associated with wisdom; this is the meekness of wisdom. Even when correcting the others, this should be done gently, with meekness.
The apostle says in this concern, "Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens." (Gal 6: 1, 2) It means that we should not use violence, insulting, or defamation when correcting the others, but do it with meekness, which is the way of those who walk in the spirit.
Meekness was the feature of the Christians from the beginning.
In the Apostolic Era, when a heathen met a friend and saw him cheerful and calm, he said to him, 'I see that you have met a Christian on your way!" It means that meeting a Christian has its impact on the others, printing the Christian meekness on them!
Speaking about faith, St. Peter the Apostle says, "Always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear." (1 Pet 3: 15)
When speaking about meekness let us remember that God is the Example.
God's meekness and gentleness:
God is meek and gentle in dealing with mankind. He permits those who work with Him to speak and express their views with all freedom and boldness, and without fear, even though such views are different!
In His meekness the Lord discussed with our father Abraham concerning Sodom before destroying it. He permitted Abraham to speak to Him with all boldness, saying, "Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? (Gen 8: 23- 25) But for God's meekness, He would not have accepted such words from Abraham without getting angry! An employee dares not to speak to his boss in this way! Abraham even started to argue with God concerning the number of the righteous, beginning with fifty and ending with ten! God accepted this argument well and said finally, "I will not destroy it for the sake of ten." (Gen 18: 32)
God is longsuffering concerning any dialogues.
We notice that many of those having authority do not accept that anyone argues with them concerning their decisions, and if ever they accept it they will take it shortly putting limits without yielding to the opinion of the others, but God's meekness is limitless.
Another example of God's meekness appears in His talk with His servant Moses when the people worshiped the golden calf and God wanted to consume that disloyal people. God said to His servant Moses, "Let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them." (Ex 32: 10) Furthermore Moses was so daring and said to God, "Turn from Your fierce wrath, and relent from this harm to Your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel …" Then he reminded Him that the Egyptians might say, "He brought them out to harm them, to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth" (Ex 32: 12, 13) And strange indeed God in His meekness accepted the words of Moses and relented from what He was going to do! (Ex 23: 14) God, in His meekness permitted Abraham to argue concerning His decision, but with Moses He did more: He cancelled His decision! A human being made of dust may not agree to cancel his decision, and may get angry, considering it an insult against his dignity. The Lord God, on the contrary, accepts such hard words from His servants!
Other examples where God accepts words like "Why?" concerning His judgments and works:
Jeremiah the Prophet says to Him, "Righteous are You, O Lord, when I plead with You; Yet let me talk with You about Your judgments. Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why are those happy who deal so treacherously?" (Jer 12: 1) Many superiors and rulers do not permit anybody to speak to them in such a way concerning their decisions; actually nobody dares! But God accepted reproach from David when he said to Him, "Why do You stand afar off, O Lord? Why do You hide in times of trouble?" (Ps 10: 1) See to whom David say such word; to the Good Shepherd who made him want nothing (Ps 23: 1)!
But for God's meekness, He would not have permitted the devil to argue with Him and make requests from him in the story of Job.
God even permitted the devil to come among the sons of God when they came to present themselves before Him (Job 1: 6). In His meekness also, when He described Job as being a blameless and upright man, He let the devil interfere, objecting and saying, "Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!" (Job 1: 8- 11) Strange indeed that God accepts such talk from the devil and permits him to go further, saying to him, "Behold, all that he has is in your power." (Job 1: 12) Then when Job succeeded in the trial, God permitted the devil to stand before Him once more, and though God praised Job, saying, "Still he holds fast to his integrity" the devil said unashamedly, "But stretch out Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will surely curse You to Your face!" (Job 2: 5)
Another example of God's meekness is revealed in the Lord Christ accepting that the devil try Him. The devil misused this meekness of the Lord and said to Him about the kingdoms of the world, "All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me." (Mt 4: 9)
A meek person may permit it that some people talk to him boldly, but those should not make use of this and speak to that person unashamedly.
There is much more to be said next time – God willing.