Today we will examine our "M" List - let's call it the "M&M's" of spiritual character: Mercy and Meekness. Most of us really don't use the word "meek" or "meekness" in our vocabulary all that often, so we will do well to refresh ourselves on its meaning. Mercy seems to be something we pretty much understand - at least in theory, if not in perfect practice yet in our lives! The Sermon on the Mount is the location for our two passages today - the first describing the character trait of meekness, the second mercy. Let's dig in...
“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought." (Matthew 5:5 MSG)
“You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for." (Matthew 5:7 MSG)
Now, you may not have seen either word in these passages, but if you go to a more "traditional" translation, you will observe they read: 5 Blessed are the meek (the mild, patient, long-suffering), for they shall inherit the earth! and 7 Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy! So, let's look again at the translation I chose for today's passages.
First, Jesus says we are blessed (happy, joyous) when we become content with just who we are - a state of no longer trying to keep up with everybody else, being settled into the place where God has us, and just enjoying it to the fullest. Meekness is really the result of being right where God wants you and doing exactly what God wants you to do. In fact, when we are in this state, we find our behavior is the result of the inner working of God in our lives. There is an inward "tempering" of our spirit that helps us accept everything God is doing in our lives as "good" - even when it may not appear so on the surface. When we see meekness in another, we see the ability and willingness of the person to accept God's dealings without disputing them or putting up a ton of resistance. It is more than being "resigned" to what God is doing - it is being intentional in the pursuit of what he is doing, because we know the activity of his Spirit in us only produces the best results, even when the journey may get a little "rough".
Meekness in today's vernacular is really what many will call "self-control". Truly, this character trait is not weakness, or the absence of a backbone. It is the evidence of inward power - the type of power that does not come naturally to any of us. It is the result of the inner working of Christ in us. It is the limitless resources of his power within. In fact, when we exhibit true meekness we are showing much less "self-assertiveness" or "self-interest". We are revealing "control" of self - not self in control. Many times people equate meekness with some kind of "mamby-pamby" kind of response to life's issues - like someone just standing there and "taking it". It is just the opposite, for meekness is really "active participation" in resisting the urge to take control and doing things our own way.
Second, mercy is "partnered" with meekness simply because we learn the lessons of mercy most in the midst of learning the lessons of meekness! In fact, as we journey through the things God wants us to walk through with him in order for his power to be revealed in us, we find we need a whole lot of his mercy to embrace the actions of meekness being produced. Self will rise up repeatedly, resisting the actions of God - we need mercy to put self back into place!
Too many times, I think we believe mercy is just needed for dealing with sin. The truth be told, we need mercy each breath we breathe! Mercy is what helps us relate to the goodness of God and it is what helps others see the goodness of God in our lives. Mercy is the trait of being "cared for" and then sharing an equal amount of care for another when they most need it. It is the trait we sometimes equate with "empathy" - being compassionate with others who often struggle with exactly the same things you have or are presently struggling with. We often "behave" in a manner quite the opposite of being merciful, don't we? In fact, when we see the behavior in another, we often are critical of it. Letting God express his mercy in our lives is one thing - extending the same mercy to another takes it up a notch!
Now, look at mercy in conjunction with meekness. When we begin to realize we ALL go through the same struggles of dealing with the "determined self-will", we might begin to recognize the behavior in another is simply a manifestation of the same things we might have already "struggled through". We probably "resisted" a little at first, leaning heavily on God's grace to help us through, and we needed a whole lot more mercy each step we took toward breaking free of that struggle with our "self-will". As we actively participated with what God was doing in our lives, we began to see the evidence of God's "re-creating work" in us as meekness began to take root. In the course of time, responding to what God was doing became easier and we actually "resisted" less. The thing is, we all go through this similar "up and down" kind of struggle until the change is evident. Repeatedly we will need to lean upon the mercy of God and others. Repeatedly we will need to rely upon the "strength" of meekness learned in our last lessons to get us through our present.
So, meekness is really a "strength", not a weakness. Mercy is really the ability to live above being critical of self and others, because we all are going through the same stuff, the outward appearance of the struggle may just look a little different. Just sayin!