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A Weird Way We Win

I was mildly frustrated with a friend of mine as we were playing tennis the other day. He would barely bop it over the net, forcing me to sprint with all my might right up to the net in order to hit it back before it bounced twice. He did this again and again. Though it took them a while to get going, my mind’s wheels started turning, and I had the solution.

I would return his hits by barely bopping them over the net. Then, he would be the one running out of energy (pun absolutely intended).

But when I saw him effortlessly run and easily return the hit that I bopped over the net, I remembered something from past conversations. My friend runs marathons. Regularly. For fun.

By making him run, I was only giving the psycho what he wanted.

I needed to change my strategy. Just as I wasn’t going to win in tennis by mirroring my friend’s strategy, so we Christians don’t win battles against the enemies of our souls by using their tactics. Christians don’t dupe demons by listening to deception. Christians don’t conquer consumerism by making the faith trendier and more marketable. Christians don’t silence self-absorption by selling out to a me-centered gospel. Christians don’t persuade persecutors by pummeling them back.

As Paul put it, “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does” (2 Cor. 10:3).

We don’t win by flexing our strength, flaunting our importance, or fueling our fame. We don’t win by twisting the truth or trashing the competition.

So, how do we win?

The answer is weird, but it works. It doesn’t look like it would work, and it might not always work in the immediate future, but it really is one of the main and most effective ways we win our battles against . . . you name it: demonic deception, secular hostility, cultural seduction, etc.

Before we give it a name, let’s scroll through some pictures of it. It’s the long-awaited conquering Messiah entering Jerusalem, yet he’s “lowly and riding on a donkey” (Zech. 9:9). It’s the triumphant Lion of Judah standing on the throne, but paradoxically taking the form of a “Lamb, looking as if it had been slain” (Rev. 5:6). It’s the church beating the Devil by the humblest weapons imaginable: “They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death” (Rev. 12:11).

They literally defeat the dragon by dying.

This is how the psalmist describes the people who will “inherit the land and enjoy peace and prosperity” (Ps. 37:11). After the “arrogant boasters” are removed, it is these people who remain in the land as a faithful remnant (Zeph. 3:11-12). These are the people Jesus in his Beatitudes called “blessed,” for “they will inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5).

Here’s the weird way we win: meekness. Meekness means gentle, humble, unassuming. It means keeping your strength under control. Keeping your preferences from constantly raising their hands and blurting out whatever they’re thinking. Keeping your anger asleep long enough to rest up so it doesn’t awaken like a bear ready to maul somebody. Keeping your self-image human-sized.

Meekness means that you could react to an insult by flinging one back that stings even more, but you don’t. You could raise your voice, clench your fists, and intimidate the opposition, but you don’t. On social media, you could type every angry response that your button pusher has coming, but you don’t. Instead, you do the kinds of things that don’t make headlines, yet move the needle: “Encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone . . . strive to do what is good. . . . Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thess. 5:14-18).

That’s what the Bible calls meekness. So, is meekness basically a nice way of saying “weakness”?

No. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Let me explain. As we all know, Bible college humor is the best. One of the wittiest sayings we had (which, looking back, is so very sad) was, “Meek isn’t weak in the Greek.” For anyone curious about the Greek word for meek (“praus”), I suppose we could build on that saying and say something like, praus isn’t Minnie Mouse according to Mounce (the Greek scholar who wrote the textbook). Let’s hear some laughter, huh?

Meek isn’t weak. Turning the other cheek isn’t weak. It takes a lot of guts to continue humbly doing good in a loud and proud world that values distraction and depravity.

And, in the end, meekness wins.

“The meek will inherit the land and enjoy peace and prosperity” (Ps. 37:11). “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5). It is the “Lamb, looking as if it had been slain” whom we see “standing at the center of the throne” (Rev. 5:6).

Meekness is spiritual muscle. Meekness is why I’m not overly concerned when I see headlines about the latest church megastar crashing to the earth after a meteoric rise. It’s sad to see the publicized fall of lionized leaders, but I know that for every one of them, there are thousands of meek Christians quietly doing God’s good work in the harvest fields.

“The meek will inherit the land and enjoy peace and prosperity” (Ps. 37:11).

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