My aim this month was to find some Kiwis who were meek, and therefore (according to Jesus) will inherit the earth.
It has been tough. Partly I've been distracted by life in lockdown, but mainly I've simply struggled to think of people who fit model of humility/meekness set by Jesus.
I discussed my thoughts about what Jesus meant by meekness in the 3rd beatitude at the beginning of the month. Over the month my shorthand for what I was looking for became 'a donkey-riding kiwi'. The idea is someone who leads in that strange 'upside down' kingdom way. I figure this is what Jesus is doing on Palm Sunday. So...not just someone who is humble, but someone leading out of a meek (πραΰς) character.
Who are these meek Kiwis? I could only think of two: Sir Michael Jones and someone I knew for a year at university I'll call Fred.
I guess Michael Jones is reasonably obvious. The donkey riding bit that stands out for me was his consistent refusal to play on Sundays. Completely incomprehensible to most Kiwis, and usually just filed under the cultural-religious category - a common depository for secular Westerners to deal with beliefs and behaviours that otherwise don't make sense. But Jones was offering prophetic leadership to a society that often places far too much weight on sport "For the Kingdom of God is not food and drink [and rugby], but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" Rom 14.17)
My other example of a donkey-riding kiwi was a bloke who taught me how to do evangelistic visiting at university hostels. Fred was clearly a donkey-rider in that most people found him weirdly focused on what he believed. He was always gentle and generous, but clearly was guided by a different light than most others around him.
Someone who went to school with him told me he was always exceptionally kind and lacking in egoism. When he became a Christian his humble character simply found a cause - a Jerusalem to ride his donkey toward. And I do wonder whether God has made only a few people humble like Jesus, and the rest of us need to discover our true selves in the other beatitudes?
Perhaps some of you feel I should have put in some secular examples. Ed Hilary, or even our Prime Minister? I'd love to hear of Kiwis you've known (or know about) who fit your definition of meek. They might be important people to know on day - Jesus says they'll inherit the earth. That'll be a shock to some of our well known national posers!
"Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth"
"Meek" doesn't read well in contemporary English. Clarence Jordan writes: "In English the word meek has come to be about the same as weak or harmless or spiritless. It is thought that a meek person is something of a doormat upon which everyone wipes his feet, a timid soul who lives in mortal fear of offending his fellow creatures". That doesn't sound like the good life! Not are doormats hurting themselves, they often enable bullies. So that can't be what Jesus meant.
The Greek work used by Matthew is praeis. In a dictionary sense it means 'humble' or 'gentle', but contextually, like all the beatitudes, Matthew points to Jesus as its true meaning. Jesus uses it of himself: "Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle (praeis) and humble in heart, and you will find rest for you souls." (Matt 11..29). As I'm writing this we've just celebrated Palm Sunday (Covid 19 style!), and here Matthew quotes Zechariah 9.9: "Look, your king is coming to you, humble (praeis), and mounted on a donkey..." (Matt 21.5). And it's often pointed out that in Numbers 12.3 Moses (surely nobody's doormat) is said to be the most humble (praeis, LXX) person on the face of the earth - something presumably not written by Moses himself! Given that Matthew is especially careful to represent Jesus as the new Moses, I suspect we should also be thinking of Moses when we come to any conclusions about what "meek" really means in this beatitude.
Here's my take. Jesus' radical way of ushering in the Kingdom was peacefully and gently on the back of a donkey. To do so took praeis: a humble bowing of his will to God's way of reconquering his creation: the cross. Moses too had praeis because he also was surrendered to the task of bringing God's people into a new kingdom. One founded on a covenant with Yahweh, not the power of horses and chariots (Ps 20.7; Deut 17.16 cf Isaiah 31.1). The meek are blessed because they are the ones who follow Moses and Jesus in winning the earth in the kingdom way we see most clearly on Palm Sunday and Good Friday. The meek will inherit the earth because Jesus, The Meek , already has.
So here's my challenge: find examples of meek Kiwis. No doormats, but meek like Jesus. I'm happy for any suggestions or contributions. to be share Perhaps it is exactly at a time like this that the truly meek will shine? Self-nominations are excluded, although if you think Moses wrote Numbers 12.3 then you could argue for a biblical precedent :-)