Introduction: Online Battlegrounds
In the digital age, the online world has become a battleground of beliefs, where discussions on faith and theology often descend into vitriol, pride, and arrogance. Having navigated these discussions since the early days of message boards and forums in the ’90s, I’ve witnessed the transformation brought by this new world of communication. This realm, a gift from God, offers a marketplace of passion and conviction, yet it’s also a space where anonymity and distance embolden many to express anger, hatred, and unfiltered thoughts, diverging sharply from the principles of Christian conduct. In my view, humility is the greatest human virtue, yet it’s often absent in online interactions.
My initial reaction in these situations is often no different. I want to respond in kind. I hit “send” way too quickly. It’s a human instinct, a reflex. But now it is facilitated by a faceless keyboard and the shield of my relative anonymity. To mirror arrogance with arrogance, harshness with harshness, anger with anger is all too easy. The real test is in tempering my response. Countless times, I’ve had to revise my words, over and over again, knowing I need to infuse them with humility, gentleness, and respect (1 Pet. 3:15). This isn’t a natural response, but a conscious choice to reflect humility. Sometimes use self-deprecation in an attempt to turn the tables and be humble.
The Problem with Humility Alone
While humility is rightly a celebrated virtue, my journey has shown me it’s not enough. There’s a twist in the narrative – it’s not just about being humble. Being humble is a prerequisite to all thought and interaction. But we need something more. We are called to be more robust. Any person who is aware of their limitations can honestly look at himself and have humility. Any person who is not in the know can express his current condition of ignorance. While there is an honesty factor that is being fulfilled in this situation (which is good), but this is not who we are called to be. Here is my current position: we have this seemingly paradoxical situation we are built for strength. We are to have a strong intellect and an effective communication. We are to love the Lord with all our minds and this should be on display as well. In short, we aspire to be more than just humble. We are called to have strength with humility. What is that called?
Defining Meekness: A Dynamic Virtue
Meekness enters the central stage. Meekness, often overlooked, is not mere humility. Nor is it simply gentleness. It’s a dynamic virtue involving great strength, yet exercised with controlled gentle restraint. It’s about power held in reserve, combining strength with gentleness.
The Meekness of a Racehorse
Consider a racehorse. It has a certain beauty to it that goes beyond simple aesthetics. It is a large animal that is intimidating in appearance. I have always held a certain fear and awe for this animal. Why? Because, while powerful it is approachable. Its strength is evident but controlled. It is incredibly fast, yet it stands silently before people. It could overpower and kill me with one slight move. But it doesn’t. I believe this analogy mirrors the Christian call to present ourselves with evident strength, tempered with gentleness. This is meekness.
Christ: The Ultimate Example of Meekness
Now I want to look at Christ. In order to truly see His meekness, we must look to his strength and power. In Christ, we have the Creator of time and eternity. We have God in human flesh. He is well beyond a racehorse in every way. And he came and stood next to people—to powerless contingent people! Think about it. He is The Infinite—the infinite in power, knowledge, size, and love. He is the One who named himself “The Being One” (YHWH) due to his ineffability (His inability to really understand). And, not only is His entire life a prime example of meekness, but look to His ultimate act in letting man kill him on a cross. This is a showcase of the essence of meekness: immense power coupled with profound love, gentleness, and humility. Philippians 2 doesn’t just display the humility of Christ, but his restraint. If you don’t have power you don’t have restraint as it is a necessary precondition of restraint. Christ was the meekest man to walk the earth.
[Christ] who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
He is reserved power!
Biblical Insights on Meekness
The biblical insights on meekness can aid us here. Meekness is spoken of in many passages, including the Beatitudes (Matt. 5:5, Gal. 5:22-23, Eph. 4:2, 1 Pet. 3:4, Jas. 1:21, et al). Here is the difference between the Greek words for meekness and humility.
- Humility: The Greek word for humility is “ταπεινοφροσύνη” (tapeinophrosyne). It denotes lowliness of mind, humbleness of spirit, and the recognition of one’s own limitations and shortcomings.
- Meekness: The Greek word often translated as “meekness” is “πραΰτης” (prautes). This word carries a sense of gentleness, mildness, and a spirit of submissiveness, but not in the sense of weakness or passivity. Rather, it’s strength under control, the ability to be gentle despite having power or authority.
While many translations simply use the word “gentleness” to convey meekness into English, I would much prefer them to stick with “meekness.” Meekness is gentleness, so long as you recognize it is reserved power. But some things are gentle because they have no power. My wife just got a little teacup puppy. I don’t know if that is what they are called, but it is very small and stays very small. It is incredibly cute and cuddly. It is so gentle. But it is not meek. It does not qualify for meekness.
Personal Examples of Meekness: Learning from Scott Overby
I know that this has gone on for a while. But hang with me as I give a practical example of meekness that I have seen in my life.
In 1996, the internet was new. I was blown away by all it contained. I found this site called “The Hall of Church History.” It had all the church fathers, everything they wrote! I could not hold myself back, so I printed them all. If you know what I am talking about you are aware of how many trees I had to go through to complete this task. But I actually did it more than once.
I wanted to share my wealth. So I printed an entire set for my former associate pastor at Faith Bible Church, Scot Overby. He had already been to seminary. So he naturally had a rich background in theological studies. Yet when I, brimming with excitement (and a touch of braggadociousness), presented him with a compilation of the early church fathers’ writings, his response was the epitome of meekness. He did not say, “I have already read those” (which he had) and he did not say, “I already have those in my office” (which he already did). He simply accepted the gift by saying, “The Church Fathers? This is the real deal, huh?”
I often think of what I would have said in the same situation. I think I know. It would have been a prideful horse kick, showing my power. I would have said, “Oh, I already have and have read those [hence, you are not showing me anything new].” But Scot’s reaction taught me the importance of valuing others’ contributions, even if you don’t need them. This is an example of meekness.
Conclusion: Embracing Meekness in All Facets of Life
This journey through the virtue of meekness, from its theological roots to personal experiences, highlights its importance in all areas of our lives. The hardest place to be meek is behind the screen of a computer or phone. But this virtue should show up everywhere, from our relationship with our spouse and children to all of our friends. We are called to be as strong as a racehorse, but as gentle as a teacup puppy. Embracing meekness involves a balance of expressing our convictions and being open to learning from others, a challenge we must continually navigate in our pursuit of a Christ-like character.
Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.
That is meekness.