Sunday’s Sermon Today: Are You Meek Enough? (Fruits of the Spirit)

The writing assignment for the week was to develop a persuasive argument. My students were immediately bubbling over with excitement. Rather than writing about a descriptive tour of their own homes or the story about who they wanted to be when they grew up, they could argue. This was what they had hoped they could do all semester long; our class, in fact, often resembled a debate club.

On the day that the papers were due, one enterprising student announced that his paper was the best and that no one could argue. Having some idea about what he had written about and knowing his writing skills, I imagined that there would be some argument but that there would be a healthy conversation. When his turn came, he walked boldly to the front of the class and began to read an essay entitled “Why Every College Student Should Own a Gun.”

As he read, some students grinned, some shook their heads, and others … watched me. I listened carefully to his argument, given that many of them had heard me discuss guns prior. As part of the process of reading the paper aloud, the class would respond with what they thought he had done well, what he needed to work on, and whether he had persuaded them.

The outcome was mixed.

While the students were primarily eighteen to twenty years old, they came from different backgrounds. Some of them were from suburban, well-to-do families; others had grown up in rougher sections of their communities in poverty.

After the class had debated the point, they turned to me expectantly. The author assumed I would commend him for his idea; the class was still mixed. And then I asked, “Have you ever been in a state of mind where the decisions you made were ones you regretted later? Have any of you lost anyone to gun violence? Have any of you been in a situation where the violence escalated because people had guns?”

Suddenly, the classroom was almost silent – something that never happens in my classes. There were nodding heads, and a few glistening eyes. It didn’t matter how well the paper was written – or how persuasive it was. Somehow, in my class, they realized that I was asking them to consider whether the right to bear arms was one that everyone needed to use, especially college students in the midst of hormones, lack of sleep, too much caffeine, and feats of bravado. This wasn’t about gun control anymore but whether or not power was something that had to be always asserted or not.

Yes, my ‘day job’ bleeds over into my teaching. I’m always asking myself questions that I end up asking my students.

Am I using my “voice” correctly?

Am I treating others the way I want to be treated?

Am I being responsible with the power that I’ve been given?

It’s annoying sometimes, to consider the Fruits of the Spirit. They often fly in the face of how we feel like acting, instead opting for a tougher route that takes us in a path away from what society might tell us is a natural or appropriate reaction.

Gentleness. Meekness. Humility.

All of these ideas are wrapped up in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Jesus called the uneducated, not the experts, to be his disciples.

Jesus lived as a homeless man, counting on the kindness of others.

Jesus died penniless (and friendless) on a terrorist’s cross.

But if we consider Jesus’ beginnings, he stayed true to where he came from.

Kyle Idleman puts it this way in his book “The End of Me” with the way it could’ve gone and the reason why he didn’t:

[Jesus] could have disembarked in one of the world’s great cities. {People would have said, “Right time, right place. Look what fate can do.”

He could’ve been born into a billionaire financial dynasty. People would have said, “Look what money can do.”

He could have been the child of an earthly emperor. People would have said, “Look what political power can do.”

He could have come by way of a celebrity family. People would have said, “Look what fame can do.”

Instead, he stepped into poverty, weakness, and obscurity, and all we’ve left to say is, “Look what God can do.” He takes a blank canvas of drab gray and says, “Watch this!”

God in Jesus chooses meekness. Some might confuse that as weakness. But as KB says, “If you think being meek is weak, try being meek for a week.”

Jesus, God’s own son, God himself chose to be born in a manger. To a lowly carpenter. Into disgrace as a child who was not of both parents.

If this is the example of the God of the universe, then how much more should we embrace humility, and meekness?

But it’s not easy – even the disciples didn’t get it.

In Matthew 20, there’s the story of how the disciples squabbled over who would be Jesus’ number one disciple.

Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him.

“What is it you want?” he asked.

She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.”

“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?”

“We can,” they answered.

Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.”

When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

No one likes being last. I have it on good report that at preschool, the worst assigned task is to be the caboose of the line. We want to finish first – even if we’re not competitive, we somehow know that’s better. Ricky Bobby even said that second place is just the first place loser!

But there is one who likes to be last. It’s the shepherd. The shepherd is the one who comes behind, making sure that none fall out of line or get lost. The shepherd coaxes and encourages from the rear.

Dallas Willard, a professor and theologian, is one of those people who is “historically” meek. He was kind and understanding, and approachable. One day in his class, a student (with great ferocity) attacked and contradicted this pillar of faith. The student put down Willard and the school, in front of a shocked lecture hall. Willard finally spoke up, “I think this would be a good time to end class for the day.”

Afterward, he was approached by startled witnesses who didn’t understand why Willard hadn’t defended his teaching, why he hadn’t rebutted this rude student?

“I’m trying to practice not having the last word,” was his only response.

Somewhere, buried deeper down in some than others, there’s a shepherd in all of us.

Where meekness and humility come from.

Where the mentality that the God of the universe would wash his disciples’ feet, on the night he would die, a seriously inglorious affair if you ask me.

Where the sacrificial love of Jesus comes from.

It doesn’t come naturally to us but it was the nature of Jesus, the same Jesus we are striving to be more like, right?

So ask yourself today, what would it take for you to be meek? Could you be meek for a week?

Stop trying to have the last word.

Offer kindnesses instead of criticism.

Hold back from always being right.

Serve others before meeting your own needs.

It says that as we become the meek, that we will inherit the earth.

Sounds good, doesn’t it?

We’ve got to tackle meekness one word, one action at a time.

Embrace your inner shepherd.

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About Jacob Sahms

I'm searching for hope in the midst of the storms, raising a family, pastoring a church, writing on faith and film, rooting for the Red Sox, and sleeping occasionally. Find me at ChristianCinema.com, Cinapse.co, and the brand new ScreenFish.net.
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