Guest post by Darius Abyecto //
What happens when we talk about Scripture? Our words lay a path that points our feet in a certain direction. Or perhaps, our feet are pointed in the direction laid for us by the words of others. Often, these words follow a trajectory around our centers of gravity, which are points of reference in our immediate context. We tell ourselves stories that flow around these cultural centers, following the path of least resistance. More specifically, we pick and choose those points of reference that correspond to the ways that we understand ourselves in our context. These notions are not revolutionary: that we each read scripture with a lens shaped by our own perspectives and the influence of our tribes.
If we accept this presumption, how might we understand Jesus’ words here? Some have interpreted Jesus’ teaching (or rather, the subsequent Christian tradition) as delaying justice for existing suffering into a transcendent Kingdom. Similarly, some have understood such a subversion as weaker people creating a moral system so that they can exert power over stronger people. Some read this passage as an imperative that the followers of Jesus be meek, whether in possession or in desire. Each of these readings aids in constructing Christian identity, either from the outside as critique, or from the inside as a participant. Is it possible to read this scripture as an imperative to abandon our quest to further construct identity? Is this a case of losing our lives in order to find them?
The Kingdom of God belongs to the meek, as Jesus denotes possession in his statement. Thus, if one does not belong to “the meek”, then one does not possess the Kingdom of God. Jesus also uses a present verb to describe this possession. Jesus did not say, “Blessed are the meek, for yours will be the Kingdom of God.” Unless something has changed since Jesus spoke these words, the meek currently possess the Kingdom of God. Jesus capitalizes this statement of possession by emphasizing that the meek are blessed.
I take away several points of emphasis from Jesus’ statement here, and each point leads me further from a quest to construct some sense of identity. In fact, this statement challenges that quest in its essence. First, if I am not meek, then the Kingdom does not belong to me. Now, as mentioned above, this notion has lead people to reconstruct their identities as “meek” in the past. However, I read this to mean that if I am not meek, then I am sojourning in someone else’s territory when I step foot into the Kingdom of God. I have become the foreigner, the stranger, and the wanderer. Neither bible study, nor donation, nor volunteering, nor virtue purchase a plot of land in this Kingdom.
The Kingdom of God belongs to the meek, and if I am not one of the meek, then I do not hold a plot of land in the Kingdom.Click to tweet
Subsequently, the ones who possess the Kingdom are blessed. Channeling the ancients, blessed refers to a life of divine favor, or a life to be sought after. If we want to envision “our best life”, then, at least in part, we should expect to be meek. I remember listening to a pastor talk about spending time with a local businessman who had become a multi-billionaire because he wanted to learn from someone who “obviously” had the wisdom and blessing of God. Clearly, this is not what Jesus envisioned. Meek refers to someone who is bent over, cowering, low to the ground, impoverished, and destitute. In other words, the meek are those who have been put on the opposite of a pedestal; they have been put into the pit. Laying low, the meek are often imperceptible in our field of vision. We pass by the meek every day, either averting our eyes so that we can avoid inconveniencing our routine self-affirmations, or simply gazing through the meek, as they are unworthy of our attention. The meek are a difficult group to pose for our standard, as they are invisible to our eyes.
So, if I am not meek, then what am I? Jesus’ teaching makes me become a question to myself. Rather than declaring myself blessed, I ask for mercy, because I am not the blessed. Rather than asking to be sought out or listened to, I would rather seek out and listen to those who are nearly impossible to see. I need to see rather than be seen. In an age of pictures, opinions, rationales, posts, likes, subcultures, logos, brands, bylines, and buzzwords, Jesus’ words here tear down rather than construct. I am not. Or maybe, I need to learn from those who don’t quite have an “I am”, or whose “I am” sits like Lazarus being licked by the dogs. Rather than build a temple to myself, should I not search under every stone to find the meek, the blessed, sitting just outside the gate? These are the ones who possess the Kingdom, and these are the ones that are our blessed.