Meekness and the 'elephant walk'

A Christian Science perspective.

When I was a boy, the Bible’s promise about the meek inheriting the earth seemed dumb. The way I saw it, the strong and bold had all the power.

Turn the other cheek? In the world I knew, meekness wouldn’t help you survive, much less succeed. Nice guys finish last. The good die young. That was what the world was saying.

The schoolyard bullies who tried to take my bike or lunch money certainly weren’t meek. So I began lifting weights in the garage, determined that no one would kick sand in my face.

But as I grew over the years in my understanding of the Bible, I learned that real strength isn’t in muscles or aggressive behavior. Real strength is spiritual. It is understanding that as children of God, made in His image and likeness, we reflect the only real power – God’s power. God is omnipotent, all power and all good.

Elephants are powerful and yet are known as the “gentle giants” of the jungle. The placid pachyderms have no natural enemies. Meek in their might, elephants lumber about and pose no threat to their fellow creatures.

The Bible teaches that there is strength and comfort in meekness. As the Apostle Paul wrote, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31). The Bible contains plenty of examples. Daniel faced down fear with love for God in the lions’ den. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown into a fiery furnace and yet still experienced God’s protection. King David wrote, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (Ps. 27:1). Jesus demonstrated God’s power in spectacular ways, healing sin, sickness, and death. At his word, storms subsided, food became plentiful, the dead were raised. Yet this most powerful of men was so meek; he never harmed anyone.

In “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” Mary Baker Eddy wrote, “Man is idea, the image, of Love; he is not physique” (p. 475). Divine protection has nothing to do with learning to wield one’s fists. God’s love for us protects and purifies.

One summer Sunday at dusk a number of years ago, my wife, Judi, and I were walking back to our downtown hotel from the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The shadows were deepening. We were alone except for a noisy group of men clustered about a park bench at the next corner. As we approached, we saw they were sharing a bottle in a brown paper bag. They were loudly arguing over who was the toughest among them.

Judi’s hand squeezed mine. I was suddenly aware of how meek, how vulnerable I must look in my walking shorts and flowered shirt. A man on the park bench pointed at me. In a mocking tone he told the man standing, “If you’re so tough, let’s see you beat up this guy!” The challenged man turned, his lips curled in anger. He took a step toward me.

“God is Love!” That spiritual fact flooded my thought like a mental shout, calming my fear. And another: “Love is the only real power!” I looked at the man directly and smiled, striving to see him as God saw him, not as an angry drunk with a raised fist. His face softened. He stepped back to let us pass, making a theatrical bow. As we walked by, I was tempted to look back. But the thought quickly came that there was nothing to fear.

As the Bible says, “The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty” (Zeph. 3:17). Like those “gentle giants” in the jungle, God’s creatures do exist in meekness and harmony.

Adapted from the Christian Science Sentinel online.

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