Friday, June 17, 2011

Blessed Are The Meek – SOTM #7

When the prodigal son returned home his father welcomed him with an embrace, a new set of clothes, a feast, and a ring for his finger. All of those are symbols denoting his full acceptance back into the family he had deserted. Presumably he was made heir to his father’s wealth though he had asked for, and been given, and squandered, his share already. But his father sensed that he was a changed person now, humbled and imbued with a different heart.

Jesus was the inventor of that story. He was painting a picture of the Heavenly Father as much – or more – than a picture of the wayward, but then repentant, son. There is another son in the story too, a haughty and self-righteous man who resented any forgiveness shown to his wastrel brother. But the rejoicing in the household was for the restoration of the wastrel son, now transformed by remorse and forgiveness, and made an heir again of his father and joint heir with his brother.

The third beatitude emphasizes the attribute of meekness; Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth. The apostle Peter, writing in 1 Peter 3:4, reminds Christian women that God highly prizes “the ornament of a quiet and meek spirit.” Matthew speaks of “the king of Zion” coming, “meek, and riding on a donkey.” Moses, the great leader of Israel, and giver of the Law, is portrayed as the meekest of men.

Again, we must remind ourselves that, when Jesus promises the earth to the meek, he is speaking of the kingdom of heaven. “Want to be greatest,” he will say. “Then be servant of all.” That is absolutely contrary to the attitude and expectation of the world in which we live. A quiet and meek spirit is seen as a sign of weakness; an invitation to be trodden on. But God “highly prizes” just those things that the world despises. Every prodigal who comes to him, meek and repentant, he will cloth in a robe, and authenticate with a ring, declaring him to be an heir of the kingdom of heaven.

Poor in spirit, mourning, meek! With such God populates his “kingdom of heaven” on earth. Are these characteristics we can cultivate, making ourselves “fit” for the kingdom of heaven? I think not. I believe they are the default characteristics of God’s children. Perhaps someday, somewhere, they will be second nature – no, first nature – to us again. Our problem now is that we have adopted the characteristics of the kingdom of this world and are thus unfit to live in God’s kingdom. We literally “do not fit” into God’s kingdom. The message of John the Baptist, and later of Jesus himself, and still later, his disciples, was “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Repent of what? Of the attitudes of this present world, of course.

Those who truly repent of the attitudes of this world and seek to forsake them, will find that the Holy Spirit will quickly step along side them, willing to teach them those principles of the kingdom that Jesus spoke of in the Sermon on the Mount.

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