Human rights is a big issue in our world. The call for rights has done great good, and some harm. Criminals have had more ‘rights’ than victims, in the minds of some. Our government is listening to those who want this corrected.
While the Bible urges God’s people to stick up for the rights of others in matters of justice and personal needs, Jesus calls His people to surrender their own personal rights. We are to let go of whatever we think is our due, and not retaliate should someone violate our dignity, liberty or personal assets.
Matthew 5 describes this “turn the other cheek” principle to people who were oppressed by the Romans. In New Testament times, Roman soldiers could compel ordinary citizens to give them their coat, or carry things for them. Jesus also mentions borrowing so that may have been part of what the Jews were suffering under Roman rule.
He tells them, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.”
Many people interpret such actions as ‘wimpy’ and put a ‘doormat’ and ‘no backbone’ label on anyone who lives like this. However, I’ve been studying a Bible word that is not very popular these days, probably because it raises these images. The word is meekness.
Meek people are those who obey this “turn the other cheek” thing. They do it, not because they are doormats, but because they are filled with the Holy Spirit. This is an attitude from God given to those who live in His power, who are not governed by the flesh, but are compelled by Him in all that they do.
I’m surprised. The fruit of the Spirit is “love, joy, peace” and so on in a list of qualitites that I understand, except for this one, meekness. In most modern translations, that word is not even there. They use ‘gentleness’ instead, but the original language of the Bible has another word for gentleness; this spiritual fruit is meekness. It means having a gentle spirit, a calm temper of mind. Meek people are not easily provoked. They have that inner attitude that accepts God’s dealings as good, and therefore we do not dispute or resist adversity. (However, we must resist Satan and temptation).
Being meek is the opposite of self-assertive. Meek people trust in God’s goodness and His control over all situations. They rely on God rather than their own strength to defend themselves against injustice, because they know God permits all things, including injuries people inflict on us. We know that He can use all things for good, to make us more like Jesus.
Meek people realize that God uses tough situations to purify His people and that He will deliver them in His time, so we are not to be feisty and occupied with trying to change things we don’t like. Also, a meek person is not occupied with self.
Obviously, this is a work of the Holy Spirit, not of the human will. If anyone tries to take anything from me, or demands that I do things, I’m sure I would defend my “rights.” However, I am supposed to become more and more like Jesus, and when I see how He responded to such things, and when I read His teaching about rights, I realize that I’ve a long way to grow.
I’ve decided meekness is not weakness. It takes the power of God and a deep faith in God to turn my personal ‘rights’ totally over to Him, and I’m sure wimpy people can’t do that.