We don’t use the word meek too often nowadays. For me, the only time I heard this word when I was growing up other than in the Beatitudes (“Blessed are the meek”) was in the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy introduces herself to Oz, the great and powerful, as Dorothy, the small and meek. So, naturally, I grew up thinking that to be meek was to be the opposite of powerful: weak and powerless. If I was looking for someone to go up against the great and powerful Oz, I’d pick Barabbas over Dorothy any day. Surprisingly though, there is a popular phrase that says, “If you think meek is weak, try being meek for a week.”
In Scripture, meekness is not weakness and has no affinity for cowards. Rather, it is a quiet strength acquired through self-discipline. In NHL hockey, it would be the equivalent of the player who receives the Lady Bying Memorial trophy, which goes to the player who combines sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct with excellence in the game. Among NHL greats who have won this trophy are Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita, Pavel Datsyuk, Alex Delvecchio, and Mike Bossy and, if you know anything about any of those players, you wouldn’t dare call any of them weak. However, they did indeed embody the Scriptural characteristic of meekness in their approach to the game. They could take a hit…even a dirty one…and just keep on playing their game instead of retaliating and ending up in the penalty box along with the goon that roughed them up in the first place.
In fact, Chicago Blackhawks’ great, Stan Mikita, came into the league as a rather chippy player, becoming the first player ever to lead the league in both scoring and penalty minutes in 1963-64. He changed after learning that his daughter once asked her mom, “Why is daddy always sitting alone during the game?” referring to the fact that he was sitting in the penalty box, of course. Stan realized that he was doing the team no favors by playing the goon style of hockey and says that he finally grew up and “got smart.” He went on to become a Hall of Fame player and a gentleman on and off the ice. He embodied meekness but, believe me, nobody saw him as weak.
Unfortunately, since Jesus is described as being meek in the Gospels (Mt. 11:29), we often wrongly see him characterized in art as looking weak. Not just weak, he too often looks like a wimp. But Jesus was certainly no wimp. As a carpenter, he would be the equivalent of a modern-day construction worker, hard hat and all. When he called himself the Good Shepherd, we need to recall that a shepherd was the equivalent of a cowboy. Jesus stood toe to toe with the most powerful men in society and never backed down. Even as he faced the abuse and taunts of his executioners, he did not cower, nor did he strike back. Rather, he absorbed their most ferocious blows, patiently trusting that God had something greater planned for him. Smart hockey players will tell you that the best way to give payback for a cheap hit is to score a goal and win the game rather than responding with a cheap shot of your own. This type of meekness – disciplined, harnessed strength – allows one to strive for something greater instead of settling for a petty response. One who remains meek is able to see and think clearly and, as a result, is able to reach for higher things. Meekness is at the heart of the wise saying, “choose your battles wisely.”