3. Leadership Is Child’s Play: Meekness

3. Leadership Is Child’s Play: Meekness

3. Leadership Is Child’s Play: On Meekness As The Essence of Power.

“Brothers and sisters, consider who you were when God called you to salvation. Not many of you were wise scholars by human standards, nor were many of you in positions of power. Not many of you were considered the elite when you answered God’s call. But God chose those whom the world considers foolish to confuse those who think they are wise, and God chose the powerless to baffle the high and mighty. He chose the lowly, the outcasts in the world’s eyes – nobodies – so that He would frustrate the somebodies.”  (1 Corinthians 1:26-28, TPT).

The core of this world’s powers, the powers that be, is saturated with selfish ambition, cutthroat competition, distrustful suspicion, and sheer arrogance. The result is that the contemporary world, and probably every world down through history, has a difficult time defining and defending meekness. Is meekness the same as weakness? If so, the meek will never get anywhere in life, no less inherit the earth. Is it the inability to think or act for oneself? If so, the meek person will never have any influence or be a real leader. Are meek people those who passively let others ride roughshod over them? If so, meekness will always result in humiliating defeat. In our world, power doesn’t understand meekness. So it is rare to see a leader who demonstrates what Dostoyevsky called the “moral force of meekness.”

Take Moses as an example. He was called “the meekest man on the face of the earth” in Scripture (Numbers 12:3). Was he weak in any way as a leader? Was he too passive, reluctant to get involved, unable to think for himself? Not a chance. Moses was one of the greatest leaders to ever grace this planet. He exhibited strengths beyond most mortal men. But his unquestionable influence and power were bridled by God. Moses was content to be a servant of Yahweh, humbly dependent on God’s guidance and strength. Moses was meek, he certainly wasn’t weak.

Let us suppose each one of us was a wild bronco, furiously running with power, strength and abandon but without direction or purpose. The sooner this wild strength is under some control, the better. In order not to be a mere slave to our natural impulses, we need a master horseman to tame us just enough to put a bridle on and lead us to energetic usefulness.

This idea of power-in-control is the biblical way of looking at meekness. The word is actually used in reference to the taming of wild horses. Meekness is not a passive plow horse plodding along in abject servitude. Meekness is the controlled strength of a bridled bronco. Meekness is the strength of discernment needed to be neither too bold nor too timid, neither too zealous nor too uncertain. Meekness is allowing oneself to be placed in God’s corral for spiritual training. It is the strength of character that gives the reins to the Lord. Meekness is the humble strength that confidently trusts in God’s handling, God’s direction.

A meek person is humble enough to give up raw ambitions that are only satisfied when promoted above another. So meekness knows how to compete graciously. Meekness is being strong enough to refuse to take advantage of someone else’s lower, more vulnerable position. With a meek person, God provides the self-control needed to follow the Lord’s direction. God controls the reins, and the meek person is ruled not by his passions or impulses, but by their faith and dependence on God.

How did Moses develop such meekness in his character? After all, he enjoyed the best leadership training in the ancient world, which was no doubt based on power and authority. He was raised a prince in pharaoh’s palace and was “instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, mighty in his words and deeds.” (Acts 7:22). As Brian Simmons noted, “All the education and culture of that world dynasty with its unlimited resources was placed before Moses.” If anything, we would expect a man with that background to bask in ambitious self-reliance in pursuit of power over others, not meekness.

Moses’ initial attempts at leadership resulted in his people’s rejection of him and his exile in the wilderness. And that’s when the crowning aspect of his leadership training truly began. As a nomadic shepherd, he was humbled into insignificance. He became a forgotten man in the world’s eyes and was a vivid example of the Thomas A’Kempis insight, “Learn to be unknown.” Moses experienced a forty-year solitary education in the wilderness in which his leadership skills were linked with God’s control. Moses finally acknowledged his own personal inadequacy before God and welcomed God’s control of his power. Moses experienced a poverty of spirit that mushroomed into a powerful meekness. Out in the middle of nowhere, Moses gave the reins to God.

Jesus, the very embodiment of meekness, perfectly illustrates the nature of meekness as power under control. His triumphant entry into Jerusalem in itself provides a fascinating model: the donkey was an animal typically ridden by the socially inferior. It was the means of transport for the poor and the powerless. The donkey is also identified as the appropriate mount for the Peacemaker in 2 Samuel 16:2 and Zechariah 9:9-10. So in Jesus’ fulfilling of that prophecy, we view a magnificent picture of meekness: the One who is the Servant-King, the victorious meek one who succeeds in overpowering the might of this world through sheer goodness and humility.

It would help us to remember that, though Christ appeared to be a sheep led to slaughter, surrendering in weakness and impotence, He indeed was and is in full control. “For this reason, the Father loves me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again.” (John 10:7, 18).

Sharing the yoke of the servant Jesus requires a profound submission in utter lowliness before God. As members of the same family with a common Father, we become children of God the All-Powerful. Too, we share in the family inheritance, which is promised specifically to the meek (Matt. 5:5). Christians, thus all Christian leaders, have a common lot in life: We are promised exaltation in His Kingdom, but only through brokenness in this present one. Here and now, our strength must wear the veil of humility. The racehorse must be bridled, with God holding the reins.

The centerpiece of Jesus’ teaching, His Sermon on the Mount, describes in many ways the power of meekness as expressed through surrender. This is the moral force of meekness, and is exemplified through such actions as forgiving those who wrong us, providing our coat and our cloak if asked, walking the extra mile, being persecuted for righteousness’ sake, praying for our enemies, turning the other cheek if insulted, laying up  our treasures in heaven and not on earth, accepting anyone who borrows from us, and giving freely to anyone who begs from us. Jesus emphasized not dominion by surrender; not resistance but the overcoming of evil through goodness; not the power to dominate, but the power to build up and serve. This is the crux of all power for good… the gaining of strength through surrender to God, the achieving of influence through meekness, the overpowering of darkness with light.

Meekness is not only a holy submissiveness towards God about the things of man. It is also a holy stubbornness towards man about the things of  God. The foundation of meekness, of giving God control of the reins, is self-sacrifice out of reverence for Jesus, not self-abasement out of fear of man. Where does this leave the Christian leader who wields power and influence? We believe in the meek power of our Savior, and we trust Him to develop true meekness in us as His Spirit dwells in us.