For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of living water,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
By Stephen W. Hiemstra
Meekness marks a natural leader, yet few aspire to be meek, as Nouwen (1989, 82) observes:
Christian leadership…is not leadership of power and control, but a leadership of powerlessness and humility in which the suffering servant of God, Jesus Christ, is made manifest.
Like the one who sent him, the ideal Christian leader is meek, but meekness also creates tension within us it, between us, and with God, to which we will now turn.
For church leaders, the Apostle Paul advises elders and deacons to pursue fruits of the spirit, such as “righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness” (1 Tim 6:11), where gentle is a good synonym for meek. In pursuing fruits like meekness, however, success is not easy to obtain. Even Paul points to inner tension:
For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. (Rom 7:18-19)
As with any fruit of the spirit, progress in obtaining meekness requires the intervention of the Holy Spirit.
Tension With Others
“Isn’t meekness a personal attribute?” A friend recently inquired. “How can you be meek when you are responsible for other people?” One response is that modeling meekness creates space in our lives for other people, which is foundational for servant leadership.
During his time in prison, for example, Bonhoeffer continued to function sacrificially as a pastor offering counsel to other inmates and even the prison guards. When offered an opportunity to escape from prison, Bonhoeffer refused to leave because escaping would put his family outside prison and his ministry inside prison at risk (Metaxas 2010, 448). Sacrificial leadership can be risky, painful, and, yet, unappreciated, as the Apostle Paul writes:
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. (2 Cor 4:7–10)
Several levels of meekness may need to be developed.
Tension With God
Sacrificial leadership can also lead to the cross. In a moment of weakness and despair on the cross Jesus cried: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34) These words are taken from Psalm 22:1 that later ends in praise: “You who fear the LORD, praise him!” (Ps 22:23) Emptied of our despair, we are able again to turn to God in praise.
We can lead with meekness, even in the face of suffering, in part, because the story does not end in suffering. Just like the cross of Christ is followed by the resurrection of Christ; when we share in his suffering we know that we will also share in his victory (2 Cor 1:5).
As the Apostle Paul writes: “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Cor 15:55) Because our future is in Christ, today we can embrace Christ’s meekness.
Metaxas, Eric. 2012. Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
Nouwen, Henri J. M. 1989. In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership. New York: Crossroad Publishing Company
Lead Out of Meeknes
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Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net
Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com