Life of humbleness & meekness (33)
Pope Shenouda III | 17 April 2012
In continuation of the same topic we shall speak about:
We have the example of the meek Moses the Prophet who was described as being very
Courage and Gallantry (B)
In continuation of the same topic we shall speak about:
We have the example of the meek Moses the Prophet who was described as being very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth (Num 12: 3). When that meek prophet came down from the mount and found the people dancing and singing around the golden calf which they had made and worshiped, his anger became hot, he cast the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain, then he took the calf which they had made, burned it in the fire, and ground it to powder, and he scattered it on the water (Ex 32: 19, 20). He also rebuked his brother Aaron the high priest. Aaron became confused and said to him, "Do not let the anger of my lord become hot. You know the people that they are set on evil. ….. I cast it into the fire, and this calf came out." (Ex 32: 22, 24) Moses then punished the people, so about three thousand men of the people fell that day (Ex 32: 28).
In spite of his meekness Moses was angry for the Lord, and he rebuked and punished! He could have kept silent, but meekness does not prevent holy anger.
Meekness also does not prevent a person from having strong personality and influence.
The Lord Christ, though meek, had at the same time strong personality and influence. But let us have the example of St. Paul the Apostle:
When he was captive, and while reasoning about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said to him, "Go away for now; when I have a convenient time I will call for you." (Acts 24: 24, 25)
Again when he stood pleading before King Agrippa as a captive, he said to him, "King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you do believe." And when Agrippa said, "You almost persuade me to become a Christian." St. Paul answered with dignity and power, saying, "I would to God that not only you, but also all who hear me today, might become both almost and altogether such as I am, except for these chains." (Acts 26: 27- 29) Did such power conflict with meekness? No, for sure.
Defending the truth:
Meekness will not hinder defending the truth when necessary. This is clear in the story of St. Paul the Apostle when Prince Claudius Lysias commanded that he should be examined under scourging. When they bound him with thongs, he said to the centurion who stood by, "Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman, and un-condemned?" The centurion went and told the commander, who therefore came and inquired about that. Then immediately those who were about to examine him withdrew from him; and the commander was also afraid after he found out that he was a Roman, and because he had bound him (Acts 22: 25- 29).
Actually, St. Paul did not want to escape scourging, for he says, "From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one." (2 Cor 11: 24) But he wanted to defend his right and to reveal to the prince the fault he was going to fall in. All this was not against his meekness.
For the same purpose when Festus the Governor wanted to do the Jews a favor by delivering Paul to them to be tried by them, St. Paul firmly defended his right and said to him, "I stand at Caesar’s judgment seat, where I ought to be judged … I appeal to Caesar." So Festus said to him, "You have appealed to Caesar? To Caesar you shall go!" (Acts 25: 9- 12)
St. Paul was not afraid of the Jews, but he wisely wanted to go to Rome, to Caesar, so that he might preach there, for the Lord had stood by him and said, "Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome." (Acts 22: 11) He defended his right with meekness and wisdom, not erring, but speaking lawfully.
Meekness likewise should not prevent us from warning a sinner to save him from some wrongdoing or danger.
Warning a sinner:
As St. Jude the Apostle said, "…others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire." (Jud 23) If you see for instance some friend or relative about to enter into an unlawful marriage or unlawful divorce through changing the denomination or sect to obtain divorce, or entering into a civil or unofficial marriage or the like, will you not warn such a person under the pretext of being meek? Nay, your duty is to warn or advise such a person calmly without pride or hurting. To keep silent in such a case is wrong.
Meekness does not require us to live like a dead body in the community, but one ought to move and have a strong personality and a positive stand in a calm way, even with just a word, as John the Baptist did, saying, "It is not lawful for you!" (Mt 14: 4) But you should say what is true and just, not mere rash words without knowledge.
See what the apostle says, "Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears." (Acts 20: 31) His meekness did not prevent him from warning them with tears. Therefore even if he said a harsh word they would accept it because they knew his meekness and that he did so against his will. Or do you think that the meek are excused from the command of the Lord to His disciples, "You shall be witnesses to Me" (Acts 1: 8)? Of course not, for whenever witnessing is required, everybody must do it.
Can a meek person refrain from rescuing somebody in danger and take meekness as an excuse? Can a meek person say, "It is not my business!!" I do not think so, but in gallantry the meek will gently rescue anybody in danger, as the Lord Christ rescued the woman caught in adultery from the hands of those who wanted to stone her, saying to them calmly, "He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first." (Jn 8: 7) He did so without revealing their sins, but wrote them on the ground!
Judging the others:
Can a meek person judge the others? When, and how? The Lord Christ – Glory to Him – is the prominent examples. He said, "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved." (Jn 3: 17) He also said to the Jews, "You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one" (Jn 8: 15), although on various occasions He judged many. He judged the scribes and Pharisees (Mt 23) and the priests of the Jews, saying to them, "Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it." (Mt 2: 43) He likewise judged the Sadducees, "You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God." (Mt 22: 29) He also judged His disciple Peter when he said, "Far be it from You, Lord!" (Mt 16: 23) In spite of His meekness and gentleness, the Lord Christ judged, but with authority and for a spiritual purpose.
St. Paul the Apostle likewise said to his disciple Timothy, "Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear." (1 Tim 5: 20) With his authority he judged, for the safety of the church.
Some people have the right, or rather are required, to judge, and this does not conflict with their meekness.
Among those we mention the parents, the spiritual fathers, the teachers, and the chiefs. We remember how God punished Eli the priest because he had not restrained his children (1 Sam 3: 13). If the Holy Scripture requires us not to mix with adulterers and other sinners (1 Cor 6: 9- 11), can we then say we should not judge them?! Actually, mere refraining from mixing with them or speaking to them implies judging them. The same applies to those who deviate from the sound faith or teaching; for the apostle says, "If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds." (2 Jn 10, 11) Can we accept such people in the name of meekness? Certainly not!
The matter is not one of judging and condemning, for the apostle says, "Some men’s sins are clearly evident, preceding them to judgment." (1 Tim 5: 24)
It means that their works judge them, and one has to avoid them gently as the Psalmist advises us not to stand in the path of sinners nor sit in the seat of the scornful (Ps 1: 1).
In some cases a meek person finds himself forced to speak and not keep silent, as Elihu the fourth and youngest friend of Job the Righteous. He kept silent throughout twenty eight chapters of dialogue between Job and his three other friends, feeling in his meekness that being the youngest he ought not to speak amidst seniors. Then the Scripture says, "When Elihu saw that there was no answer in the mouth of these three men, his wrath was aroused … and said: 'I am young in years, and you are very old; therefore I was afraid, and dared not declare my opinion to you. I said, ‘Age should speak, and multitude of years should teach wisdom.’ … I paid close attention to you; and surely not one of you convinced Job, or answered his words … I also will answer my part; I too will declare my opinion. For I am full of words; the spirit within me compels me … I will speak, that I may find relief; I must open my lips and answer." (Job 32: 5- 20)
Elihu was silent for a long time, but finally he could no more keep silent. God spoke on his mouth, and he was the only one who Job did not argue with (Job 32- 37).