9 Meekness Zealot

grappling with assertive gentleness

Questions for reflection

Do you agree that Jesus’ action of cleansing the Temple is an act of meekness rather than violence?

Noel writes that, ‘just because something is biblical it is not necessarily Christian.’ Do you agree?

Has there ever been a ‘Just War’ in your opinion? If so, are you satisfied that it fully complied with both the jus ad bellum (‘right to war’ – correct reasons for going to war) and the jus in bello (‘law in war’ – correct behaviour during war)?

Is violence always wrong?

Further reading and further thoughts

“Anger is the enemy of nonviolence and pride is a monster that swallows it up.” Gandhi

“In some cases nonviolence requires more militancy than violence.” Caesar Chavez

“The word enemy no longer has any meaning for me” – Ibrahim Nairouz

“That is all nonviolence is – organised love” – Joan Baez

“The spiritual warrior’s discipline is gentleness. Asserting gentleness in all spheres of life, nonviolence and peace are achieved.” Radha Sahar

“Wisdom is better than weapons of war” – Qoheleth

Read: Matthew 5:38-48; Romans 12:9-21

Walter Wink, Jesus and Nonviolence: A Third Way.

John Dear, Put Down Your Sword: answering the gospel call to creative nonviolence, Eerdmans 2008

John Howard Yoder, What Would You Do? A serious answer to a standard question, Herald Press 1987

For a regular series of nonviolent reflections on the lexionary, use this Girardian Reflections on the Lectionary resource. It contains some excellent introductions to Rene Girard’s pivotal insights into human violence.

A peacemeal idea

Watch the movie, Of Gods and Men. Then in the setting of a Peacemal engage in a group discussion about the themes and issues that it explores. If you had been a member of the monastery, how would you have acted?

Living it out

People often feel disqualified from following the path of ‘assertive meekness’ because they struggle with powerful feelings of rage and anger. Nothing could be more mistaken. Anger and rage are vital human emotions, when faced with injustice and wrongdoing they are essential. Most people of faith don’t get angry enough! Remember anger is a key ingredient of meekness. Gandhi said one of the first vital steps on the path of ahimsa is feeling an overwhelming desire to kill someone, but then channelling that rage into creative acts of challenge with gentleness and love towards that person. Embrace your rage and shape it into meekness.

Assertive meekness is an art form to be learned. Each day you face violence at some level in your life – however understated and subtle. Learn to identify it and then engage with it gently and creatively; become sensitive to possibilities of how to grapple with the violence in ruthless peacefulness and let that shape your behaviour. Keep remembering that the ultimate aim within all hostility and conflict is to turn it into strong positive relationships – this is the shalom vision.

A meditation

To embrace meekness is to learn to re-reflex our own inner violent impulses. Reflect deeply and honestly about an area in your life where you are most prone to a violent response or instinct. Practice a meditation of being in that exact environment/encounter and learning the intuition of choosing an alternative path of assertive meekness.