Blessed are the meek,” said Jesus, “for they shall inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5). Perhaps Christians these days believe this, but they certainly don’t act as if they do. Much church life is anything but meek. We seem often to have lost sight of the essential meaning of Christ’s teaching as we go about our way of setting forward the best interests of Christ’s Church as we see them.

This was impressed on me when I came to southern California in time for Easter and saw something of the way the central festival of the Christian year was celebrated. It sometimes seems as though we who name the name of Christ are determined to outdo everyone else who names that name, even if in the process we accomplish something that has little or nothing to do with the Christian way.

For example, one service in these parts was billed as “the highest service in the southland” (it was on top of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway at an elevation of 8,516 feet; reduced fares on the tram were another inducement). The lowest service was announced as being on a pier, just a few feet above the Pacific Ocean.

Combined choirs were often presented as an added attraction, and I was interested in the combination of the U.S. Naval Academy Glee Club and the Southern California Mormon Choir. Trumpets were blown everywhere, and sometimes “massed trumpets.” One service was billed to start at 5:14 A.M. because that was “the exact moment of sunrise.” Another was to reach its climax with the release of helium-filled balloons bearing “messages of hope and joy.” Yet another featured a twelve-foot red, white, and blue neon cross.

Perhaps the prize should go to the enterprising souls who organized a sunrise service on horseback, with prizes for the best Easter bonnet—worn by a horse!

I am not insensitive to the good intentions behind these services, and I realize that sometimes it is the unusual that brings people to church, where they may hear the Gospel and be brought into real spiritual blessing. I do, moreover, relish the joy of Easter, and I think a joyful service is appropriate. The service I attended on Easter Day (which was in my parish church, not some exotic setting) had trumpets, an enthusiastic congregation, and a note of high triumph. Indeed I cannot recall a more triumphant Easter service. Easter is a triumphant time, and it is well that the Church observe it with joy.

But when we start seeking out the highest and the lowest geographical points and adding things like helium balloons and horse bonnets, it is time to ask whether we have gone astray. Are we really looking to the meek Christ? Or are we letting the world and the worldly-minded dictate the manner of our observation of the high point of the Christian year?

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There is a natural tendency to think that the solution to all our ills, including those that the Church as a whole suffers, is in our own hands. We like to think that if we put forth a determined effort everything will come out all right. And if a normal, conventional effort is unlikely to attain the goal, perhaps something unconventional will do it. So we leap from stunt to stunt, hoping that something we do will draw the crowds.

It might be worth our while to pause and ask whether, in fact, we should be trying to draw crowds. I am not suggesting that we Christians should resign ourselves to perpetual failure and comfort ourselves with the thought that we are not necessarily meant to have success as this world understands it. It is easy to take that attitude and let a cloak of piety cover a basic laziness. If our churches are to do the job to which Christ calls them, a lot of hard work must be done. Let us not close our eyes to that.

God calls us to be his servants, not his stunt artists-despite the crowds we might draw.

But this does not mean that we are to turn ourselves into stunt artists. Being Christ’s servants is much more difficult.

We are to live out the implications of Christ’s cross. He said that if anyone wished to follow him, that one must take up his own cross daily. To be Christ’s means to see life in the light of the cross.

Now the central thing about the cross is that it was God’s way of putting away man’s sin. Because Christ died we live. We no longer live for ourselves; we live for him who died for us and rose again (2 Cor. 5:15). And we no longer rely on ourselves. No one can look at the cross and decide that his own right arm is adequate. The cross means the end of all self-seeking and all self-reliance.

It is true that the cross summons us to an all-out effort. In view of what Christ has done for us, less will not do. But it is also true that the cross leaves no place for complacency. Since my sins put Christ there, I cannot be satisfied with my achievement. And I cannot be satisfied to approach my problems or those I share with the other members of the body of Christ in the spirit of one of the world’s super-salesmen. I must do it in the spirit of Christ.

And that brings us back to the importance of meekness. We do not greatly like that virtue these days, partly, at least, because we confuse it with lack of spirit. We see the meek as those too passive and weak to put up a battle, and we are not surprised if they are downtrodden.

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But real meekness is strong. There is nothing of the weakling about the man who could assert himself but chooses not to do so. That is real strength. We should not confuse strength with selfishness. The one who consistently puts forth all his strength in the pursuit of his own selfish aims is not showing himself to be strong in the best sense of that term. He may be able to prevail over many and to secure the things he wants. But he is not really strong.

That is rather the prerogative of the meek. They are those who have looked at life and seen that there are better ways than selfishness. They may or may not live in poverty. But if they do it is not because they cannot earn more. It is because they see better things in life than choosing to be affluent at all costs. In some respects the hippies have come to such a position. But they are not usually meek; many of them are self-assertive about the rightness of their own way and quick to reject other people’s values.

Meekness means a readiness to accept God’s way. The really meek man looks to find God’s will and is humbly obedient to it when he finds it. This means that he constantly looks to God for his way and his means, for his direction and for the strength to take that direction rather than another. There is a need for meekness in today’s world and especially in today’s Church.


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