Meekness Misunderstood: the strength of πραΰς

…Which in God’s Sight is Very Precious…

Let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. 1 Peter 3:4 ESV

It was early Tuesday morning and the Almighty Maker of the universe —  nebulae, planets, gravity, magnetism, ocean creatures, majestic mountains, beauty and grandeur that leave me breathless in awe– had just revealed that there is something in the heart of a woman that He finds very precious. Something that radiates with a beauty that never fades. He says that it is a gentle, quiet, meek spirit.

In the ESV translation above, the word “gentle” is the Greek word πραΰς, meaning “gentle, mild, meek”, which also appears in Matthew 5:5 and 21:5. Other translations (KJV, for example) render this word as “meek” in English.

So, what is meekness and how do I get it?

Called to what?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, there doesn’t appear to be much hope for the word:

1.) enduring injury with patience and without resentment: MILD

2.) deficient in spirit and courage: SUBMISSIVE

3.) not violent or strong: MODERATE

Here comes the pause in my reading, the calm before the storm of questions and protests. The something that is worth a great price in God’s sight… that something is meekness? Deficient. Lacking in spirit. Cowardly. Weak.

Here comes the storm.

Surly God isn’t calling me to that! Doesn’t Proverbs 31 say an excellent wife is clothed with strength and dignity? Do Peter and King Lemuel need to go argue it out somewhere? Worse yet, is the Bible contradicting itself? How is meekness strength and not weakness?

Interpreted through a dictionary or, worse yet, a mere cultural understanding (i.e. out of context), even Christian men and women can assume that a meek, gentle, and quiet wife (or woman) is demure, placid, complying, mousy, non-opinionated, non-problematic, and sweet.

You-keep-using-that-word

 

Your King 

πραΰς (prä-ü’s) is the same word the references Jesus Christ in Matthew 21:5 (in fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9).

“Say to Daughter Zion, ‘See, your King comes to you, πραΰς and riding on a donkey, and on a foal, the colt of a donkey.”

The first part of Zechariah 9 reveals God’s vengeance on the nations who defy him and trample his people. To them, he is not meek. However, when he comes to his people — who have also disobeyed him — he does so in a spirit of meekness, forgiveness, restoration, and peace.

In Matthew 21, Jesus is entering Jerusalem, surrounded by shouts of praise, knowing this visit ends in rejection and the weight of the Father’s wrath against our sin. He comes meekly — in obedience to the Father’s will — ready to bear injury from his creation with forgiveness.

As recounted in Matthew 21, after arriving in Jerusalem, in obedience to the Father, Jesus also drove out the money changers in the temple, overturning their tables. Yet, a few days later, he was the lamb silent before his shearers. In all this, he was meek before God the Father, obedient even unto death.

Meekness responds to others out of obedience to the Father, not out of lack of courage.

When Christ calls us to meekness and gentleness, he is not only calling us to exhibit a quality his Holy Spirit has put in our hearts. He is calling us to reflect his own nature.  The indwelling power of the Holy Spirit bears the fruit of meekness. This is strength of Spirit, not deficiency.

The strength of meekness, however, is not the strength of spirit the world immediately values. Meekness is not grasping, nor is it concerned with self. It is completely reliant on God, not fearful. Meekness walks in obedience, as Christ did, completely trusting in the Father. Meekness submits a fallen self-will to the Father’s perfect one.

“Meekness toward God is that disposition of spirit in which we accept His dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting… Gentleness or meekness is the opposite to self-assertiveness and self-interest. It stems from trust in God’s goodness and control over the situation. The gentle person is not occupied with self at all. This is a work of the Holy Spirit, not of the human will (Gal 5:23).” blueletterbible.org

Blessed are the Meek…

Blessed are the πραΰς, for they shall inherit the earth. Matthew 5:5

Meekness, then, is a quality for all believers that brings blessing through an eternal inheritance.  A meek believer does not obey Scripture with a bleak outlook, but with hope. The earth belongs to God and it is in his power and pleasure to gift it as an inheritance to those who walk in meekness.

Meekness endures persecution without exacting vengeance, walks in obedience to God without resentment, acts with patience, speaks without harshness of spirit, and is open to wisdom. (For a more in-depth look at Matthew 5:5, see John Piper’s valuable article here.)

πραΰς

One of wonderful things about Scripture is that the more I learn, the more I realize there is to know.  πραΰς is only one word, one fruit of the Spirit, and I feel I could keep learning for the rest of my life.

But back to Tuesday and 1 Peter 3.

πραΰς does not signify a certain personality of a compliant wife, but a certain disposition toward her Heavenly Father. As with all believers, women who adorn themselves with πραΰς are focused first and foremost on their God, who has promised them their inheritance. The Spirit himself strengthens wives for many acts of obedience to God, including submission to their husbands without resentment. They hope in God, and do not fear anything that is frightening (1 Peter 3:5).

I am not a wife, but I am still called to πραΰς. I have not been called (as of yet) to submit to a husband, but there are limitless ways I can show the unfading beauty of a gentle, quiet, meek spirit through the power of the Holy Spirit in me.

Hope in God, not marital status.

Forgive when I’d rather hold a grudge.

Rejoice with others’ gifts when I’d rather be envious.

Respond with a kind word when I’d rather retaliate.

Be patient and thankful when I’d rather complain.

Trust in the Lord and lean not on my own understanding.

Seek first His kingdom, and not my own (on social media, at work, or anywhere else).

Value and obey Scripture, not the demands of culture.

Have we learned the meekness which understands the power of patience, of quiet waiting on God, and the futility of employing massive methods to get our own way? What about the reverence that trusts God’s hidden, seemingly slow, working out of his own mysterious purposes? Impatience hardens. -Elizabeth Elliot “Keep A Quiet Heart”

Saturday Song: Be Thou My Vision/Holy, Holy, Holy

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls…

Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” 1 Peter 1: 3-9, 13-16

In a world that mocks holiness and righteous living, I need the Lord God Almighty to be my vision. In a society that mocks absolute morals, my hope needs to be set on the final revelation of the Lord of my heart. With a heart still beset by the temptations of the flesh, I remember that I am still shielded by God’s power and the story is not over.

By God’s Grace, arranged and played by Katie.

In bloom

Dark clouds are gathering to the north, the setting sun gleams golden to the west, and the first lily has bloomed in the back flower bed.

A reminder that God provides.

Matthew 6:25-34 Be not therefore anxious…

Resting Place

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:28-29

My faith has found a resting place, not in device or creed. I trust the ever living One. His wounds for me shall plead. I need no other argument, I need no other plea. It is enough that Jesus died, and that he died for me.

By God’s grace, arranged and played by Katie