“Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.” I imagine that those standing in the blood, sweat and tears of Rome’s occupation found this utterance of very little comfort. I image that it was even disgusting to be told by Jesus that meekness was the way to reclaiming their beloved homeland. Was he just another rabbi in collusion with Rome? If so perhaps this man was no messiah. No liberator. How much longer must we wait? How much longer must we feel the boot of Rome on our necks? You claim the Kingdom of God is at hand but want us to believe that meekness is how we will fully realize it? Thanks, but no thanks.
But rather than a prescription for continued submission to injustice the beatitudes are the foundation of Christian nonviolence. The meek shall inherit the earth, not the Kingdom to come, but the Kingdom of God that is at hand. Here, now.
In The Nonviolent Alternative, Thomas Merton says: “The chief place in which this new mode of life is set forth in detail is the Sermon on the Mount. At the very beginning of this great inaugural discourse, the Lord numbers the beatitudes, which are the theological foundation of Christian nonviolence: Blessed are the poor in spirit…blessed are the meed (Matthew 5:3-4).
This does not mean “blessed are they who are endowed with a tranquil natural temperament, who are not easily move to anger, who are always quiet and obedient, who do not naturally resist.” Still less does it mean “blessed are they who passively submit to unjust oppression.”
Merton rightly asserts that meekness is not a call to submission but rather a call to a deeper, truer way of engaging the powers and transforming the world for everyone. Neither violent conflict nor passive flight, a third way as Walter Wink has named it, but Jesus’ radical new paradigm for overturning the powers that rob us of our full humanity. We have seen the fruits of this spirt in our lifetimes in the words and deeds of Martin Luther King Jr.
Dr. King brought the practice of active meekness, nonviolent resistance, to life for a generation and forever changed the balance of power in the US. So too can we today engage in practices of nonviolence in our personal and public lives. We need only to unleash the power of love.
A few good reads:
What other resources would you recommend regarding this understanding of meekness?
How you’ve seen meekness, nonviolent resistance, flip the script in your own life?
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