Patience and Persecution

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Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

– Matthew 11:29

 

In my early twenties, I’d get real prickly about anything that smelled of chauvinism. I believed passionately my will, my voice and my vision were no one else’s to silence. I knew, as a Christian, the meek were considered blessed, but I struggled to make peace with a biblical virtue that seemed to be expected more from women than from men. It felt outdated and downright dangerous to pursue meekness, a term I equated with becoming a doormat. Surely we weren’t called upon as Christ followers to be naively taken advantage of.

Two decades later, I realize my original perception of meekness was misguided. I was viewing it through a societal lens rather than a spiritual one. By trying to “make sense of “ humility and submission from an earthly perspective, I was blinded to their heavenly potential to transform lives and unchain souls. Becoming strong through weakness is a paradox, the miraculousness of which is revealed through self-denial. I now view Christ-like meekness as essential for obtaining unshakeable peace, and selflessly loving my neighbor.

 

The soldiers took Him away into the palace, and they called together the whole Roman cohort. They dressed Him up in purple, and after twisting a crown of thorns, they put it on Him; and they began to acclaim Him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They kept beating His head with a reed, and spitting on Him, and kneeling and bowing before Him. After they had mocked Him, they took the purple robe off Him and put His own garments on Him. And they led Him out to crucify Him.

– Mark 15:16-20

 

In 1979, when I was five years old, my parents took my brother and me to see the recently released “Jesus” film. Though I had heard the story of the crucifixion, I had never seen it dramatized. When it came to the part where Jesus was put on trial, I kind of lost it. As the scourgings and mocking began I started screaming, “YOU CAN’T DO THAT!” My mother swiftly swooped me up and carried me, weeping and wailing, out of the theater.

For years afterwards, it perplexed me to no end how Jesus could have just stood there and taken it, knowing with but a word he could call down a fleet of angels, revealing Himself as God and laying low everyone who doubted him. I cannot fathom that kind of restraint in the face of such utter injustice. How do we, as mere human beings, cultivate within our hearts even a fraction of the meekness shown by Christ while on this earth?

 

Fr. John Oliver in an article entitled, “Blessed Are the Meek,” wrote:

To respond to villainy with blessing, to answer persecution with patience, is contra-instinctual. It is to override our instinct toward self-preservation. So, to override a powerful instinct, some power greater than ourselves is required.

This being the case, that we have not the wherewithal on our own to turn the other cheek when persecuted, the only place to start is with prayer.  And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son, promised Jesus in John 14:13. With faith and humility we implore God, in the morning, throughout the day, and before going to bed, to help us! “Lord Have Mercy!” we pray, before every conversation we enter into. “Lord have Mercy,” we pray when feeling indignant and offended. This kind of ceaseless habitual prayer can move mountains in our souls, and enlighten the eyes of our understanding (Eph. 1:18).

Each time I turn the other cheek by refraining from vehemently defending my name or my opinions when criticized, or respond to anger and resentment with compassion, a part of me dies making more room in my heart for Christ to enter in. And when there is more of Christ than “Me” in me, I am patient and courageous and merciful.

In a society darkened with fear, violence and bitterness, a spirit of true meekness shines like a beacon of purity and goodness. Pursuing meekness, daily, is essential for fostering healing in our communities, and for developing self-control.

Meekness is an unchangeable state of mind which remains the same in honor and dishonor. Meekness is the rock overlooking the sea of irritability which breaks all the waves that dash against it, remaining itself unmoved. Meekness is the buttress of patience, the mother of love and the foundation of wisdom, for it is said, “The Lord will teach the meek His way.” (Psalm 24:9)

– John Climacus

“By this everyone will know you are my disciples,” said Jesus, “if you prove the truth love one another.” Nothing communicates hope in the Resurrection more clearly than mercy  and long-suffering in the face of ridicule, indifference, injustice, even death. Blessed am I when I lay down my pride, pick up my cross and share in the suffering of my Savior.

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