Lead Out of Meekness

Life_in_Tension_revision_front_20200101

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. 

(Rev 7:17)

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. 

Tension Within

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.

References

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

Also see:

Preface to a Life in Tension

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com

Newsletter: https://bit.ly/Release_2020

 

Continue Reading

Mark 15: Holy Saturday (4)

Frank and Gertrude Hiemstra, Grave“And Joseph bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud and laid him in a tomb that had been cut out of the rock.

And he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.” (Mark 15:46 ESV)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Jesus is buried on the Day of Preparation which ends at sundown when the Jewish Sabbath begins. This detail in Mark’s Gospel is important because burial was forbidden on the Sabbath[1] and executed criminals could not hang overnight (Deut 21:23). The Gospels mention nothing taking place on the Sabbath while Jesus lay in the tomb and the narrative resumes on the following day. In other words, Jesus rested in the tomb over the Sabbath. Holy Saturday was a day of mourning and grief.

A Grieving Holiday

Grief is more than crying. In Jesus’ Beatitudes, Matthew records: “Honored are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Matt 5:4) Luke records: “Honored are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.” (Luke 6:21) Both accounts of this Beatitude are written in the form of a lament which has two parts.  In the first part, one empties the heart of all grief and pain and anxiety in prayer to God; in the second part, having been emptied the heart turns to God in praise. In the lament, when we grieve, we make room in our hearts for God.

The Theology of Lament

The most famous lament in the Bible is cited by the Gospel of Mark as Jesus’ last words: “My god, my god, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34)[2] These words come from Psalm 22 verse one which turns to God in verse 19: “But You, O LORD, be not far off; O You my help, hasten to my assistance.” At a time when much of scripture was memorized, rabbis would cite the first part of a passage knowing that the audience would fill in the missing part. Knowing this tradition[3], Jesus could cite the first verse in Psalm 22 knowing that people hearing him would know the Psalm and how it ended.

Jesus gave us a template for dealing with grief the night before during his prayer in Gethsemane. Mark records that Jesus’ prayed three times:  “Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will.” (Mark 14:36). Jesus is aware that he stands before the cross and does not want to die; still, he yields to God’s will. Each time we face pain and grief we are faced with a decision: do we turn to God or do we turn into our grief? Our identity is crafted from a lifetime of such decisions.

Joseph of Arimathea

The story of Joseph of Arimathea is instructive. Mark records: “Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.” (Mark 15:43) Asking for the body of a man just crucified for sedition took guts. Yet, with no expectation of resurrection, on a day when Jesus’ inner circle was in hiding and in fear, Joseph “took courage” and asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Then, he buried him in his own grave [4].

Holy Saturday Reveals our Theology

Holy Saturday is a time to reflect on Christ’s crucifixion. Are we among those happy to see Jesus in the tomb or are we looking forward to the kingdom of God like Joseph of Arimathea?

Footnotes

[1] Burial is work, hence forbidden on the Sabbath (e.g. Deut 5:12-15).

[2] Also: Matthew 27:46. The direct citation of an Aramaic expression—“Eli, eli, lama sabachthani?” in both the Mark and Matthew accounts makes it more likely that these are the actual words of Jesus. This is because the most important expressions in the Bible are cited directly rather than translated or, in this case, the actual words are both cited and translated.

[3] Jesus does exactly that in Matthew 21:16 citing Psalm 8:2.

[4] What a picture of substitutionary atonement—Jesus was buried in my grave so that I do not have to be.

Mark 15: Holy Saturday 2

Also see:

A Roadmap of Simple Faith

Christian Spirituality 

Looking Back 

A Place for Authoritative Prayer

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net,

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter: https://bit.ly/Meet_2020

Continue Reading