Written by Sam Aragones
The Sermon on the Mount is one of the most influential texts in the world. Its principles are counter-cultural, effective weapons for combatting sin and self-centeredness.
At one point in it, Jesus says, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5 ). I’ve always wondered about this—surely Christ does not call His believers to live weak, docile lives? So what does Jesus mean when He calls believers to be meek, and what does it mean that they will inherit the earth?
Meekness is defined as a state of passivity and gentleness, submissiveness, being easily imposed upon. But I have never found that Christ taught us to be abused by others or to be easily manipulated. Christ calls us to be bold and explicit in our faith and convictions, not wavering in our devotion to Him by even our closest relatives (Matthew 10:37). Yes, submission is to be shown to Christ, governing states (in most cases), parents, fellow believers and a person’s husband or wife.
So if this call to meekness seems counter to the conviction He’s instilled in our spirits, perhaps we need to rethink our understanding of it.
Jordan Peterson, the prolific and controversial professor of psychology at University of Toronto, once stated that he believes (through study of lexicon and commentary) the correct interpretation of Matthew 5:5 to be: “those who have weapons and know how to use them, but still keep them sheathed will inherit the earth.” In other words, those who are strong and are capable of power are instructed to control themselves.
Although I am sometimes leery of Peterson’s biblical interpretations, this seems like a sound principle and one that is more congruent with Jesus’ attitudes about retribution (“turn the other cheek”).
But does this interpretation make any sense in terms of inheriting the earth? A weapon sheathed wins no battle, right?
I can think of one example where this kind of meekness allows victory and inheritance of the earth. Proverbs 15:1 says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” I’m thinking of this verse in connection with our calling to share the gospel with all people. Have we perhaps forgotten to don the winsome gentleness and understanding of Christ in our presentation of the truth?
So often the gospel message of sin and Saviour is rejected due to the condescending demeanour of the evangelist; there was no love, no meekness. Yet, what if we approach evangelism weaponized by the conviction of the truth and presenting it in meekness and a genuine desire for well-being?
To me, this seems like an example of a meek believer who will truly inherit the earth and “reap a harvest if [they] do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).
Of course, it is a huge challenge to speak Christian truth in an age where to offend is the greatest offence, and anything less than total agreement is deemed intolerance and hate speech. The gospel message and the tough callings of Jesus are offensive to the world because they point out sin and leave man exposed in his frailty before a holy God.
But speaking the truth in love…. Now that’s got potential.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GmuzUZTJ0GA (Peterson Lecture to cite, Time: 1:45:39)