Saturday, October 10, 2009

High Volume Meekness

Meekness isn’t exactly in demand today. Nobody wants it. Sure, people will buy books on love, on peace, on joy, on self-discipline—but how many people want Meekness for Dummies? Microsoft Humility? (Whoa, talk about a contradiction in terms!) McLowly? Meekness just doesn’t sell.

And why should it? Meekness doesn’t comfort us, it doesn’t make us more successful, it doesn’t help us make friends or influence people. Let’s face it—the meek in our society are rejects. They are the outcasts, the people who don’t really fit in. Let’s see, who are the professional meek in the U.S.?

• Homeless
• Elderly in nursing homes
• Those living in low income housing
• Poor immigrants
• Mentally ill
• Those who work for minimum wage
• Panhandlers
• Those on Disability or Food Stamps
• Non-English speakers

Not exactly whom you want to be like? Perhaps not the friends and neighbors? Nor your usual upstanding church members? Of course not. These are not the building blocks of society, the ones who can make things change for the better, the righteous, the acceptable. Again, the meek are the rejects. Not just the unimportant, but the unwanted, the unacceptable.

And how do the middle-class church members—the Uptight Upright—treat these folks, the meek and lowly? Sometimes they treat them with pity, feeling sorry for their plight, perhaps seeing how they can help them. That’s typically the best response. If only the best response were the only response. Often the meek are treated as a “problem” that needs to be solved, the solution of which has avoided the minds of all the mighty. The meek usually are ignored by most—best not seen, not dealt with. The apathetic aren’t interested in judging the lowly, but they aren’t interested in doing anything else with them either. But there are many that do wish to judge the lowly.

These judges use the logic of Job’s friends—These meek are in the positions they are in for a reason. Perhaps in these post-modern times we do not want to use the argument of God only offering material blessings to the righteous, but we would use other arguments. “They made terrible errors in their lives, and so they ended up where they are.” “They will have to work hard like we did and then they can get out of that situation.” “This is the land of opportunity—anyone who works hard enough can get ahead.” “They just need to apply themselves.” “Lazy.” “Addicts.” “Trying to take advantage of good people.” These labels are used on the meek, even if they are not known. And if you think you are immune to this, how many times have you ignored a panhandler whom you have never seen before because, you assume, they would use the money you might give them for their addiction? This is judging by stereotype. Would we assume such things of our neighbor who lives on the same suburban street as us?

If we looked at these meek with God’s eyes, we would see that these meek are not the insignificant and hopeless as we might first have imagined. Just the opposite. We need to remember that God does not choose the powerful, the rich, the ones who already have everything in place. God chooses the needy, the insignificant, those for whom everything is falling apart. This means, biblically, when we look at our world around us, we need to see it with new eyes. Next time you see a panhandler, instead of seeing him or her with pity or disgust, think, “This is one of the ones whom God chooses.” Next time you see an elderly woman, living alone, respond, “I wonder if God will give her a son.” Next time you meet a mentally ill person, consider, “I wonder what God is going to do in this person’s life—it must be magnificent!” Next time you hear about the starving in Africa or Asia, instead of being overwhelmed with a mix of compassion and guilt, pray that God would do a work of power there.

Poverty and illness are not dead-end streets—they are opportunities for God to act.