Your Father knows

“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:7-8).

People speak about “the power of prayer.” But prayer by itself does not have any power. The One to whom we pray has unlimited power. No magic words can be sprinkled into our prayers to force him to do what we want. God wants us to pray, but he does not want us to trust in the power of our payers. He prefers that we put all our trust in him.

The Gentile approach to prayer treats the words of prayers as if they have magical powers. Repetition is important for such prayers and incantations to work. In the Gentile world, special times are set aside for prayer and meditation, because those activities are seen as a source of power for the faithful Gentile.

Jesus denies to us these forms of babbling. He gives us no special words to use and no special times to pray. He places no value in the repetition of prayers. Rather, Jesus wants us to treat prayer as conversation with God. Talk to God in a way you would speak to anyone you respect. Have your mind on him as you pray, not on the mechanics of your prayer. Treat God as a Father who can be trusted to love you, to understand you, and to want what is best for you.

Failing to pray is a sin. The person who refuses to pray reveals that God does not matter to him or her. Misusing prayer is also a sin. Prayer itself can become an idol, something worshiped in the place of the true God.

Jesus makes genuine prayer possible for us. Our sins had come between us and God—including our sins of neglecting God and our sins of replacing God. Jesus cancels our sins by his sacrifice. His forgiveness opens channels of communication between us and God. Because the only Son of God sacrificed himself for our adoption, we now are children of God and are invited to call him “Father.”

Genuine natural prayer requires some effort on our part. Such prayer includes struggle, and often our prayers fall short of the ideal. The more we think about prayer, the more likely we are to change prayer into something God never intended it to be. Instead of thinking about prayer when we pray, we think about Jesus. We lift our prayers to the Father “in Jesus’ name,” but not because that name is a magic formula which guarantees that we will be heard and answered. We pray “in Jesus’ name” because the life of Jesus, his death on the cross, and his resurrection have made prayer possible for us. We pray because of Jesus. We pray with our minds and hearts set upon him. J.

You must be perfect

“You therefore must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).

The perfection Jesus demands includes loving our enemies. It expands, though, to include every commandment from God. If we are to be saved from sin, evil, and death by obedience to God’s Law, then our obedience must be perfect. Any failure, any shortcoming, leaves us falling short of perfect. For each of us who has sinned, even once, we deserve no blessing from God. We deserve only punishment.

Poison is measured in parts per million. God’s Law is stricter yet; his Law has zero tolerance for sin. Obedience to most of the commandments is like a chain with one or two weak links. If we break the Law at any point, we have broken the entire Law. Our obedience is like a toy balloon filled with air. One tiny hole, the point of a pin or needle, destroys the entire balloon. Even the smallest sin makes each of us imperfect, unable to deserve anything good from God.

A human tendency wants to receive credit for trying our best, for having good intentions. We want to do some good things that might cancel all the wrong we have done. Jesus denies this path to us. If we are to be saved by obedience, we must be perfect. If we are going to find our own way to God, we are not allowed a single mistake. Once we have fallen short of God’s standards, even in a little way, we have lost any chance of earning anything good from God. We deserve only anger and destruction.

Jesus declares God’s Law in all its purity and all its power so we will lose hope of saving ourselves. All we can do is throw ourselves on God’s mercy. None of us is perfect. Our righteousness does not exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees. We need the righteousness of Christ. We need him to fulfill the Law for us. We need his blessing—his gift—which makes us acceptable in the sight of God by erasing our sins, replacing them with the good works of Jesus.

Jesus died on the cross to pay the full price for our sins. His blood washes away our sins. Because of the blood Jesus shed on the cross and the life he sacrificed, the water of Holy Baptism cleanses us from all sin and unrighteousness, giving each of us a personal guarantee that Jesus died for us. In Baptism we are clothed in Christ. His good works are credited to our accounts. God the Father looked at his Son on the cross, saw our guilt, and treated Jesus as we deserve. Now he looks at each of us, sees the goodness of Jesus, and treats us as Jesus deserves. In this way, we have become the children of God.

In God’s eyes we are already perfect. We will not see the perfection God sees in us until the Day of the Lord, the Day of Resurrection, but God sees it today. What God sees and what he promises has already begun to shape our lives, making us more like Jesus. We are glad for that transformation, and we are eager for it to be completed, but our hope is not in our imitation of Christ. That imitation is a result of our hope, not its cause. The only source of our hope is Jesus himself—his perfectly obedient life, his sacrifice, and his resurrection. J.

Love your enemies

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?” (Matthew 5:43-47).

Many people come to Jesus hoping that he will make their lives easier, that he will spare them from the problems of this evil world. Jesus warns of persecution in this world, remarking that those who have received the blessings of God are the same people who will be persecuted in this world. Jesus offers several examples of ways that people of the world take advantage of God’s people, adding that we should not resist them. Now, instead of saying that Christians will have no enemies or that we will conquer all our enemies, Jesus acknowledges the existence of those enemies and commands his followers to love our enemies.

In the Stoic philosophy/religion of ancient Greece and Rome, people were taught to be disinterested. Apathy was a virtue to the Stoics. People were taught not to treat others on the basis of what they had done for one in the past or on the basis of what they might do for one in the future; instead, all people were to be treated fairly and equally. Here, Jesus points out that God acts in the same manner: he gives sun and rain to all people, no matter how good or holy those people are. When good things happen, all people benefit; when disaster strikes, all people suffer. God does not use sicknesses and accidents to sort the good from the bad. If an airplane crashes, we cannot judge the goodness or sinfulness of the passengers by analyzing who survived and who was killed.

We are told to be like God, treating everyone the same. Yet Jesus makes it clear that the disinterested approach of the Stoics is not good enough for God. We are to love everyone, even our enemies. We are to imitate Jesus. He did not resist those who sentenced him to death, those who mocked him, or those who nailed him to a cross. Instead of resisting their evil, Jesus prayed for them, asking his Father to forgive them for their sins.

This kind of love surpasses our usual way of living. We are more likely to measure other people by what they have done for us and by what they can do for us. The other religions of the world protest this selfishness. Still, only Jesus has been able to live according to the higher standard. As Jesus calls us to be like him and to be like his Father, he knows that he is asking something difficult from us. When he tells us to love our enemies, he knows from his own experience how unlovable those enemies will be.

God hates sin. God hates sinners. Whenever we sin, we are God’s enemies. Though it seems a paradox, God also loves his enemies and wants to rescue us from our sins. When we were still enemies of God, lost in sin, Jesus died for us. He took our guilt upon himself and absorbed God’s wrath so we could be treated as the sons of God. We could become, in God’s eyes, righteous people who deserve God’s rewards. Jesus grants this blessing to his people. When he commands us to love our enemies, Jesus requires us to be living pictures of his love, the love that has transformed our lives. J.

Turn the other cheek

“But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you” (Matthew 5:39-42).

Jesus gives radical examples of not resisting evil—so radical that, over the centuries, many Christians have tried to reduce them to something manageable. They have said that these examples are metaphors, not to be taken literally. They look for excuses, ways to explain that Jesus does not mean what he says. We accomplish the good deeds we can, and then we claim that we have turned the other cheek and have gone the extra mile. At the same time, we justify ourselves for not giving to everyone who asks. We tell ourselves that blind obedience to this rule would enrich liars and con artists while forcing our own children to starve.

Can we compromise the teachings of Jesus and still call ourselves his followers? Can we remove the challenge of selfless living from Christianity and still call ourselves Christians? Jesus calls us to forget ourselves, even to allow ourselves to be abused by the world. Trying to make his rules less radical is the equivalent of denying Jesus, saying that we do not know who he is.

Turn the other cheek. If other people want to hurt you and insult you, allow them to hurt and insult you. When you fight back, you are no better than they are. Most religions recognize this principle. “Blessed are the meek,” Jesus said. Now he demands extreme meekness from his followers.

Give up your cloak as well as your tunic. The tunic is just a shirt—desirable to have, but not necessary. The cloak is a coat to wear in cool or rainy weather; at night it becomes a blanket. The cloak is much more valuable than the tunic. To surrender more than was demanded from you is meekness to the point of absurdity. Still, Jesus requires this from us.

Go the extra mile. Roman soldiers could force subject people to carry a burden for them, but only for a distance of one mile. Simon of Cyrene was grabbed from the crowd and required to carry the cross of Jesus (Matthew 27:32). Most people probably would agree that the Roman law was unjust, even with its one-mile limit. Instead of preaching against the law, Jesus tells his followers to do twice as much for others as the law requires.

Give to everyone who asks. Do not keep anything for yourself. Do not judge the honesty or the worthiness of the person who asks to borrow from you. Money and property are not as valuable as love for God and love for every neighbor. If we resent the way other people ask for a portion of our money or our property, we have forgotten to love those neighbors as much as Jesus loves us.

We can try to adjust these laws to meet our diminished level of goodness. Instead, Jesus wants us to use these laws to judge our poor amount of goodness. His perfect standard is far beyond the reality of the way we live our lives. When we acknowledge the difference between his standards and our accomplishments, then our eyes are opened and we see our need for a Savior.

The scribes and the Pharisees constantly rewrote God’s laws to make them practical. Jesus goes the opposite direction. He tells us to be like God even when being like God is not practical. As we realize how badly the world has twisted our thoughts and perceptions—how hard it is for us to be meek and generous, loving and selfless—we see why we need Jesus as our Savior. His radical perfection is the only antidote to our shortcomings. Jesus lived up to his own standards. He turned the other cheek. He went the extra mile. Now Jesus gives us credit for his perfect goodness. Our sins have been removed, so that God sees in us the perfection of his Son. J.

Come to terms quickly

“Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. Truly I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny” (Matthew 5:25-26).

Clearly these words relate to those that precede them, the teaching about leaving a gift at the altar and going to reconcile with a brother. Jesus seems to be illustrating the dangers of allowing a wrong to fester uncorrected for too long. In this world, punishment—such as the debtor’s prison Jesus describes—follows our sins and mistakes when we fail to get along with one another and when we do not correct the wrongs we have committed.

Punishments in this world remind us of the final Judgment of the Day of the Lord, as well as the punishment of sinners that will result from that Judgment. Perhaps this lesson of Jesus is a parable about Judgment Day. Jesus already explained that the commandment not to murder covers more territory than the simple act of taking a life. With that in mind, Jesus says, we had better consider how the lives we live measure up to the standards that he will use at the final Judgment. We must change our lives today, making sure that we are not found guilty on that Day, because hell is a prison from which there is no escape.

Most religions dedicate themselves to this proposition: we must become better people, causing less harm to one another and to our world, accumulating less guilt for that final Judgment. Goodness, though, is not only motivated by escaping punishment. Goodness is sought for its own sake, to please God, and to be the people he intended when he created us. We want to be better now. We want to turn our lives around so we walk on the paths that God has provided us.

Who will be our adversary on that Day? The people hurt by our sins and wrongdoing might testify against us, but the real Adversary is the one whose rules we have broken. We take sides against God whenever we do what he told us not to do, and we also take sides against God when we fail to do the things he commands. Our Maker, who knows what we are meant to be, has given us clear instructions about how to live. This Maker will also be our Judge. If Jesus is the Adversary and the Judge and the Officer of the prison as well, we have no hope of escaping punishment on that Day.

Therefore, we seek to be right with Jesus today. We try not to be angry at our brother. We try not to insult the people around us. We try to meet the higher standards of Jesus, but we fail. The good deeds we manage to perform cannot balance our shortcomings. Our best intentions, our worship and prayers, and our efforts at holiness all might seem to help us come to terms with Jesus quickly, before that Last Day comes when it is to late to come to terms. Left to ourselves, though, we cannot be right with Jesus. Left to ourselves, we still find ourselves facing an eternal prison sentence.

Is there no answer to this problem? The answer has already been given; the answer was found in the blessings which Jesus spoke at the beginning of the sermon. Jesus has fulfilled the Law and the Prophets. Jesus has given us a righteousness that exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees—Jesus has given us his own perfect righteousness. He gave it as a free gift. Now we are right with him. He is no longer our Adversary, because he has paid our debt in full. Not a penny remains to be paid.

If we are right with Jesus now, we will be right with him on the Last Day. He will not be our Adversary; he will be our Defense Attorney, reminding his Father why have a place in his kingdom, as Jesus also is doing today. On that Day, we will not be thrown into prison. On that Day we will be welcomed into the kingdom of heaven; we will inherit the earth.

If that is the case, why does Jesus spend so much time teaching the commandments of God and explaining what they mean? Jesus explains the Law to show us how badly we need his gift. He explains the commandments to open our eyes, so we will see that our righteousness is not good enough for his kingdom. Jesus does not want us to try our best and fall short. Therefore, he is brutally honest with us today, telling us how far we are from his kingdom when we try to get there on our own. Some people, when they read the teachings of Jesus, try to tone them down, making them practical and achievable. They miss the point. Jesus was not exaggerating; he really wants everyone to be as good as he describes. He also wants us to despair of reaching that goal on our own. Only then will we treasure the gift of forgiveness he gives to us.

Forgiveness is no license to sin. We still try our best to live up to Christ’s high standards. We try to be good, and Jesus tells us what “good” looks like. He even shows us what “good” looks like, because the standards he teaches match the life he lived. Because we are forgiven, because we are on the path to heaven, Jesus helps us become more like him. His love and his forgiveness transform our lives so we can bear his image. We are not doing it for him; Jesus is doing it for us. J.

Anger and murder

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the fires of hell” (Matthew 5:21-22).

All religions regard human life as sacred. All religions regard murder as a sin against the Source of life. Granted: exceptions can be found to this command. Killing in self-defense is not called murder. Soldiers killing enemy soldiers in wartime, and executioners killing convicted criminals who have been sentenced to death, is not murder. (Religious people, including Christians, sometimes debate these examples, and differing opinions are possible.) Some people distinguish between the value of a human life and the value of an animal life; others make no distinction. Some consider it sinful to kill an animal for any reason, while most people accept killing animals for food and for clothing—and many feel that hunting or fishing for sport is not sinful.

Jesus does not address these matters in this sermon. He speaks of the commandment not to murder, and he carries it a different direction. Any harm we cause to another person—even the emotional harm of an insult—is a sin, violating the commandment not to murder, according to Jesus. He even seems to equate anger with murder—but we must be careful to understand Jesus correctly. Jesus himself expressed anger against people who were doing wrong. At times he used the energy of his anger to overturn the wrong. Anger in itself is not sinful. Anger is a temptation to sin. Anger offers opportunities to sin. Anger becomes sinful when it results in other sins. Anger is sinful also when we become angry for selfish reasons—because something has hurt us or has been inconvenient to us. On the other hand, when anger comes from seeing sin, from seeing that God’s will is not being done, from seeing others suffer due to sin, that anger is not necessarily sinful.

Jesus offers two examples of sinful anger. First he uses the general term “insults”; then he quotes a specific insult. Jesus says that people who are angry enough to insult one another deserve punishment; God will regard them as murderers, both at the time of the insult and at the Last Judgment.

This teaching is a frightening teaching. Only a few people of the world are guilty of murder under its narrow definition. All people have been guilty of selfish anger and even guilty of insulting the people who made us angry. We can hardly live a week among sinful people without sinning this way several times. We might even accuse Jesus of going too far. The best of us is not good enough to keep our tempers at all times. The best of us is in danger of the fires of hell.

Jesus wants us to understand that point. He is quite serious about this teaching, about this interpretation of the commandment not to murder. Even the smallest harm we cause to another person is a sin against God. Despite our good intentions and our best efforts, we cannot escape our guilt. For this reason, we need a better righteousness, the perfection of Jesus, credited to our account. Only through his blessing, his gift, can we escape the judgment we deserve. J.

The greater righteousness

“For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20).

The scribes and Pharisees were not wicked men, not even by any worldly standards. Because they opposed Jesus and because he called them hypocrites, we tend to think of scribes and Pharisees as bad people. The truth is that the scribes and Pharisees studied their Bibles, sought the commandments of God, and tried to obey every commandment they found. They were good husbands and fathers, good neighbors, good workers, and good citizens. Everyone in the Jewish world looked up to them and respected them. Some Jews disagreed with the Pharisees about interpreting the Bible, but no one said they were bad people.

No one said scribes and Pharisees were wicked, but Jesus said they were not good enough for God’s kingdom. They knew their Bibles well, and they were trying their best to be good people, but they still did not measure up to God’s standards. Sometimes people say of a virtuous person, “If she doesn’t deserve to go to heaven, nobody does.” This precisely matches what Jesus means; no one deserves to enter the kingdom of heaven. No one is good enough for God. No one meets God’s standards.

If the best is still not good enough for God, how do we become better? Certainly not by trying harder; that route already has failed. We become good enough for God when we acquire a righteousness that did not come from our lives. We measure up to God’s standards when a perfect life is substituted for our flawed lives.

In most cases, such an exchange would be considered cheating. Shouldn’t we get what we deserve? God loves us too much to give us what we deserve. Therefore, God blesses us, giving us what Jesus deserves. Jesus in turn goes willingly to the cross and accepts the punishment we deserve.

For more than thirty years, Jesus lived among us. He was one of us. During those years, he obeyed the rules we should be obeying. In the entire history of the world, his life is the only example of real righteousness. Only Jesus achieved pure moral perfection. His righteousness is credited to our accounts as Jesus takes the blame for our sins and pays our debt in full. We have a better righteousness than that of the scribes and Pharisees: we have the righteousness of Jesus, which is perfect and pure. When God looks at us, he sees the sinless life that Jesus lived. For that reason, God calls us his sons. For that reason, he gives us the rewards Jesus earned. For that reason, he invites us to enter the kingdom of heaven. J.

Peacemakers

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).

When the Great War ended in 1918, people hoped and longed for peace. The horrors of that war seemed to make future war unthinkable, which is why the Great War was described in the United States as “the war to end all wars.” A League of Nations was created, but the League could not prevent a second World War. The Cold War came quickly on the heels of that war. Even when the Cold War ended at the end of the twentieth century, peace was not established on earth. Hatred and warfare and violence continue to be the pattern humanity follows in the twenty-first century.

Peace is not as interesting as war. If a fight breaks out, people want to know who won. They do not ask whether anyone tried to keep the peace and prevent the fight.

For all the world’s rhetoric about peace, the peacemaker receives very little respect. Even though the Nobel Prize Committee awards a Peace Prize every year, few people acknowledge the individuals who live from day to day trying their best to stay out of fights, striving to get along with other people. Like the person who is meek, the peacemaker is either mocked or ignored in the world. The fighter who wins gains respect and admiration; the peacemaker who avoids a fight is forgotten.

Jesus Christ calls us to live lives of peace. He wants us to be peacemakers. Jesus wants us to imitate him. He entered the world on account of the war between good and evil, and he won the decisive battle for the side that is good. Even so, Jesus did not come to destroy all that is evil. He came to rescue evildoers like us and to claim us for the side that is good. We were enemies of God, but Jesus came to make us God’s friends—and more than friends: Jesus came to make us sons of God.

God has only one Son. Jesus is God’s only-begotten Son, begotten by the Father outside of time and existing with the Father for all eternity. Although the fact that God created us might make us his children, our sins against God have broken the family relationship. We have run away from home; we are no longer worthy to be called God’s children.

Still, God calls us his sons. Because his only-begotten Son gave himself as a sacrifice to pay for our sins, we are reconciled to God. We are now right with him. The death of Jesus pays the cost of our adoption into God’s family. Because the payment was a Son, we are now sons—able to inherit all that Jesus left to us in his death?

What did Jesus leave us? Not money or property in a worldly sense: the only property Jesus owned was the clothing he was wearing, and the soldiers claimed that clothing. What did Jesus leave us? He left us the rewards of a perfect and sinless life: the blessings of God, the guarantee of eternal life in a perfect world, and all the help we need for our lives in this world. Because Jesus died for us, we will inherit the earth. We do not deserve this inheritance. We have not earned it by being meek, or even by being peacemakers. Our inheritance is a blessing: it is God’s gift to us.

We are changed by this gift. God’s blessings shape our lives. Because God calls us his sons, we have peace with God, peace with each other, and peace with the good world God made. Living in the confidence of this promised peace, we also bring that peace to others. We become peacemakers when we refuse to fight over the petty problems of the world. We become peacemakers when we seek peace with others rather than victory over others. We become peacemakers when we share the good news of what Jesus has done, the good news that brings peace. Because God calls us his sons, and because God’s only-begotten Son is the Prince of Peace, we now are peacemakers. J.

The merciful

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Matthew 5:7).

No one earns God’s mercy by first being merciful to others. God always goes first. Likewise, no one earns God’s forgiveness by first forgiving the sins of others. God always goes first. He forgives our sins, and his forgiveness gives the power to forgive those who sin against us.

God’s mercy is a gift. He is merciful to us, even though we do not deserve it. In fact, the word “mercy” requires it to be an undeserved gift. Being kind and generous to people who deserve such things is not mercy; it is justice.

We do not deserve God’s kindness, generosity, and mercy. Even the best of us on our best days falls far short from God’s plan for our lives. We are meant to love God with our whole hearts. We are meant to love everyone around us as much as we love ourselves. When we follow the path of selfishness, greed, envy, hatred, and cruelty, we are failures. We deserve to be punished by God. We deserve to be cast far away from him, condemned to an eternal existence without his love and his help.

God is merciful to us. Although we do not deserve to be forgiven, he forgives us. Although we do not deserve to be rescued, he rescues us. Jesus came to live a perfect life for us, crediting each of us with his goodness and sharing with us the rewards he earned. Jesus took away our guilt, paying our debt in full on the cross. God is too holy to ignore our sins, but in love he transfers them to Jesus, who pays the penalty we never could have paid. On the cross, Jesus gives himself for us. He also fought and won a battle on our behalf—a battle against sin, against evil, and against death. He won the victory single-handedly on the cross; the war against all evil—including the guilt of our sins—was finished that Friday outside Jerusalem (John 19:30). Jesus announced his victory Sunday morning of the same weekend by rising from the dead.

Mercy transfers our guilt to Jesus. Mercy transfers his rewards to us. Mercy makes us able to share His victory, in spite of the fact that he won that victory alone. Mercy renews forgiveness and Christ’s victory in our lives every day, even though we continue to sin every day.

God’s mercy changes us. Because he loves us, we can love others. Because he forgives all our sins, we can forgive those who sin against us. Because he has mercy on us, we can be merciful. If it were necessary for us to love first, to forgive first, to show mercy first before God can bless us, his blessing would never come to us. Because God has already blessed us, we now have the power to be like him. Those who are truly merciful, Jesus says, are the ones who have already been changed by the mercy with which God has blessed them. J.

The meek

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5).

To be meek is not to be weak. A weak person might be weak because he or she has no other choice, but one who chooses to be meek is probably not weak. It takes great inner strength to be meek.

To be meek means to be willing to let others be in control. Meek is the opposite of brash: a brash person is always trying to be in control and to make people do things his or her way. Various insults characterize people who are brash and not meek, because brash people are not well-liked. Yet other people have coined insults for the meek. In this world, people are urged to assert themselves, to demand their rights, and to refuse to be pushed around by others. Those who do not behave this way are sometimes called spineless wimps, lacking in self-esteem, and deserving to be victims since they do not demand the respect they deserve.

It takes great inner strength to be meek when one is strong. Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, he was tried by the Sanhedrin and by Pilate and Herod, he was mistreated by the Temple guards and by Roman soldiers, and he was mocked while hanging on the cross. At any step along the way, Jesus could have freed himself and taken revenge on his enemies. He chose not to fight or to seek revenge because he had a greater plan in mind. He was working to free sinners. Because he was meek to be our Savior and our Redeemer, Christians now are called to imitate Jesus; we are called to be meek.

Forcing people to do things our way and taking revenge on those who don’t is not the path chosen by those who follow Jesus Christ. We are called to exercise self-control rather than trying to control others. We are taught by God to be strong enough to be meek.

How is it possible to be meek like Christ? Holy meekness results from the blessing promised by Christ, the assurance that we will inherit the earth. A Day is coming when the world will be melted in fire and remade (II Peter 3:10). The world will be restored to its original perfection. Only those who are right with God through Christ will be citizens of that new creation. The new creation is his kingdom; because of his loving generosity, it will be our home as well.

We do not earn a place in the new creation by being meek. Jesus describes our reception of the world as an inheritance. His blessing is a gift, guaranteed to us through the life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He bought the world with his blood and with his life; but through his death on the cross we inherit what belongs to him. Knowing that we possess this inheritance changes us today. No longer do we care to be involved in the petty disputes of the present world. Our minds are on higher things. We do not mind being meek today, even if our meekness causes us to suffer today, because a better world already belongs to us.

Being meek, though, does not mean that we do nothing. We hunger and thirst for righteousness, and we are peacemakers: we are active in this world, active on the side of good. We fight for what is right. We defend the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We do not fight for ourselves. Like Jesus, we are willing to be meek today because of the greater victory that has already been won. J.