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|Jan and Karoline Sassenberg|
Blessed are the Meek and the Great Commission
As a teenager, I was scared of the Beatitudes. Brought up in a conservative Free Evangelical Church, it didn’t make sense to me that Christ’s longest and best recorded sermon opened with words about the poor, the meek and the persecuted. Why not have the most important come first? Why not start with: “Surrender to me, Jesus, and you shall be saved!” Was Jesus perhaps more political than my pastors and teachers wanted me to believe? Too scared of becoming “a liberal” and of watering down the gospel I did not dare following this uncomfortable train of thought.
By now, 20 years later, without abandoning my love and complete trust in God’s precious word, I am not scared of liberals anymore. I sometimes rather enjoy looking at our faith from their fresh perspective.
Nevertheless, I still find myself puzzled over Jesus’ radical claim. What is it that Christ praises about the attitude of meekness? How can he promise the meek to inherit the earth? Does this reflect reality in a world ruled by social injustice, cruelty, and the survival of the most brutal?
The word “meek” implies peacefulness although it does not only mean the act of peacemaking. The peacemakers receive their own promise later. With the word “meek” Jesus uses the same expression as in His self proclamation: “Come to me, all you who are weary for I am meek and humble in heart.” (Mat. 11:32) The NIV translates “… for I am gentle…”. Jesus is calling to himself the weary and a few verses later Jesus refers to himself as the one who does not quench the smoldering wick.
So how will such a meek disciple inherit the earth? As with all Beatitudes, Jesus does not come up with new ideas but refers here to the Old Testament. Psalm 37:11 says: “The Meek will inherit the land.” From the patriarchs to Jesus’ day, the Israelites had been anticipating the fulfillment of this promise. Becoming again a sovereign independent nation was the ultimate Jewish dream.
So, how does meekness empower us to reach this world for Christ? Is global mission a question of converting souls, large stadium crusades, and efficient strategies?
In our community in Freetown, Sierra Leone, we find ourselves often overwhelmed by the vastness of the suffering around us. Children beaten mercilessly and dying needlessly, young women forced into prostitution, hopeless unemployed men turning to crimes and drugs. But in all this we find that God can use us best, when we turn away from programmes and let God use us in our weaknesses and limitations. Where He brings us low we are ready to truly meet our friends in the slum of Kroo Bay at their level. And when we gently touch wounds we see God touch and heal and restore.