PARADOXICAL

The faith chronicles

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

 

Meekness and Aggressiveness/Zeal


Like love and discipline, meekness and aggressiveness are seemingly contradictory traits but upon closer look are actually complementary. Here, we discuss meekness and zeal as another paradoxical facet, among many, of the Christian life.

This talk seeks to answer the question: What is God's ideal or definition of greatness?

'Great' in the eyes of God are those who are able to lower themselves in the spirit of love and service. This is hinged on two passages:

Mt. 18:1-4: "If you cannot be like his little child, you cannot enter heaven for heaven belongs to such as these."

The context here is: Jesus addresses a community faced with division, as though to say Christian unity necessitates the willingness to put ourselves in a lower position if the situation calls for it. Becoming "child-like," therefore, does not mean being childish but the ability to lower ourselves in the genuine spirit of service. "Child-like" refers to the position of the child (lowest) during Biblical times, not the qualities of the child, which are both pleasant (charming, etc.) and unpleasant (selfish, bratty, etc.).

Phil. 2:1-11 refers to those who choose the position of powerlessness - servanthood for the sake of God and His people. (The original word is actually 'slave.') In Christian service, there is this important element of choice. We do things out of our own personal volition.

Contrast these to worldly values, the gospel of selfism: 'Plan your career.' 'Be your own boss.' 'You must look out for Number 1.' 'Me first.' 'Have it your way. Nobody tells me what to do.'

Serving the Lord is being led to where you'd rather not go, and this necessitates meekness. This also necessitates a paradigm shift in one's values: Not looking to one's own interest. As Paul in his letter to the Corinthians illustrate, "Christian love flows from the free disposition to unseat concern for self as the driving force of life and replace it with a practical concern for others." (Jerome Bible Commentary)


What is meekness?


Etymology: Hebrew anavah, which has two senses: 1. humility and 2. meekness

Meekness is related to humility, but meekness is different because it is applied in the context of community relations. Humility is "the sober way of assessing self-worth." Meekness is "a way of behaving based on an internal disposition."

Because it is quite hard to understand, we look up to Jesus as a good example of meekness, not to the Father, who is hard to imagine as being meek, but more of someone who's aggressive.

Meekness is not timidity, or a weak kind of gentleness, or being a pushover.

Meekness is born of a voluntary desire to serve, be a servant in the context of a community united in love and service for one another.

Attributes of meekness

1. Respectful, courteous to all

- the opposite of this is arrogance, hostile/insulting (hot arrogance) and aloof and condescending (cold arrogance)

2. Teachable

- not opinionated (not open to evaluation and input of others)
- not rigid (not demanding on one's preferences)

3. Obedient

- not fearful of trusting one's life to others who are worthy

4. Not hostile in the face of personal attack or abuse

- Read the example of Miriam and Aaron's grumbling vs. Moses, who entrusts things in the hands of God

(Christians always choose the peaceful path. 'Do not brood over injury.')

- Christians are not quarrelsome but correct mistakes with gentleness.

5. Leading as a servant

Meekness is not just for subordinates but most especially for leaders. Meekness means not being power-hungry or out to glorify self but after the good of others.



Root of Meekness

The root of meekness is brokenness, not in the sense of being a broken or crushed man but in the sense of a 'broken horse,' in human terms, broken from being independent and self-willed.

Brokenness in terms of self-will - one does not insist on one's own ways or preferences.

Brokenness in terms of wildness - one does not react by impulse, fear or anger. There is a more well thought-out response instead of an unthinking reaction.



What is zeal?


Again we look to Jesus for example: In Mt. 21:1-13, the Palm Sunday, Jesus comes in peace (v. 1-11), but a few verses after, He also cleanses the temple (v. 12-13).

In Jn 2: 17, He quotes Ps. 69 ("Zeal for your house consumes me!")

Zeal is not mere enthusiasm but aggressive dedication to something or someone.



How do we combine meekness and zeal?

These seemingly opposite forms of behavior actually work in concert.

Like in the exercise of Love and Discipline, the exercise of meekness and zeal requires wisdom and experience.

Again, we look to the example of Jesus: It depends on the circumstances and whether we are in position of authority.

This is not being schizophrenic.

Read the example of Paul in his letter to the Corinthians. (Remember, he also didn't even hesitate saying "foolish Galatians!" in his letter to the Galatians. Other translations: "stupid Galatians!")

The key to understanding this is that meekness and zeal are not commandments (absolute requirements) but character traits that must be developed.

Guide questions to help us sort it out.

1. Whose rights are at stake?

If it is ours, we lean towards meekness/submissiveness.
If it is God's or others', aggressiveness.

2. Are we in an authority position in the situation?

If yes, we are obliged to be aggressive.
If no, we turn to proper authority.

3. What will best serve the Lord and His people? What will be most helpful?

This requires wisdom/discernment and experience.
Ask: What would Jesus do?


___________________________
Read: John Keating's Strength under Control (Word of Joy Foundation)

Important note: The above is based on a Ligaya ng Panginoon material. For specific Biblical references and details of this talk, permission from Ligaya is requested.


***

Coming up: Joy and Sorrow




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