Lately I have been seeking to grow in the way of not being too meek. This is especially within conversations with certain people who are strongly different from me—like well-spoken atheists, orthodox Muslims, and devout Hindus, to name some.
I need to be clear about the use of the word “meek.” I want to be meek in the biblical sense: “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5). A biblical use of meek includes being humble and gentle towards others, and being submissive and obedient to the Lord.
The meekness that I want to rise above is defined here in www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/meek: “a person who is willing to go along with whatever other people want to do, like a meek classmate who won’t speak up, even when he or she is treated unfairly.”
You might be asking, “So, Fred wants to be meek, but not too meek, and depending on the kind of meekness? YES. Let me try to explain with examples: I have some Muslim friends. Two of them are interested in religious discussion, including having me speak of my Christian faith, as well as us asking each other critical questions when we wonder or we disagree. And honestly, in comparison to these two friends, I have more education and perhaps more understanding (though less practice) of Islam than they do. By nature as a Christian I lean toward being pretty gentle, so my meekness in a conversation with these friends fares quite well, even though I can still speak up rather than hold back too much.
In comparison, when I meet with my Somalian friend who is a well-read, orthodox Muslim, I find myself listening within 80% of the conversation and speaking for 20%. And, usually my words are in the form of questions in order to receive more factual information. Within his 80%, some of it is his description of Jesus Christ. In these conversations, I feel a bit like “a meek classmate who won’t speak up,” as is written in the third paragraph above, even while, in my view, my friend is improperly describing who I know my Savior and Lord to be. I need to be clear though, in respect to this friend, it’s usually me and a group of 4-6 people working in his store and then requesting him for 10 minutes to share about his life and faith. So, he has the mic; he is the speaker. But, I hope to have a time where just he and I can converse over tea, and I will be less meek in the way of just “going along,” and holding back.
Recently, I was at the home of a Nepali family, who were Hindus. At this celebration for their family member, the food was great, the people were kind, and the environment was very Hindu. I was enjoying myself until they came up to me, with a finger full of red smudge six inches from my face, and asked if they could place it on my forehead. My meekness kicked in—everyone else had it on their foreheads, so I said, “Sure.” But being a Jesus-follower, and not knowing how spiritually and culturally significant the smudge was, I felt uncomfortable the rest of the time, in part because it was humid so the smudge was running into my eyes and on my nose. To do it over again, I would have first read up more on Hindu culture and religion to understand what the smudge would mean if it was present, and I would probably seek to kindly say, “No thank-you,” to that part of the celebration.
Here are some interesting quotes in an article titled “Listening to Young Atheists: Lessons for a Stronger Christianity” in The Atlantic (June 6, 2013):
“I really can’t consider a Christian a good, moral person if he isn’t trying to convert me.”
“I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize. I don’t respect that at all. If you believe that there’s a heaven and hell and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life or whatever, and you think that it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward…. How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?” (This quote was spoken by atheist illusionist and comedian Penn Jillette.)
To close, I encourage you to take 10 minutes to read about the Apostle Paul in Athens, in Acts 17:16-34 (just below this article). I think he displayed a nice blend of urgency, respect, and clarity within an intimidating setting where I may have been meek—standing back, in the way I wouldn’t like.
May God bless you in your life and within your conversations!
16 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagoguewith both Jews and God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. 18 A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to debate with him. Some of them asked, “What is this babbler trying to say?” Others remarked, “He seems to be advocating foreign gods.” They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection. 19 Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we would like to know what they mean.” 21 (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.)
22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.
24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands.25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’[a] As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’[b]
29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”
32 When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.”33 At that, Paul left the Council. 34 Some of the people became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others.