Anyone who studies the life of Jesus knows that this view is in error. We cannot read a single one of the Gospels without seeing instances of Jesus telling the Pharisees, the hypocrites and the religious rulers of his day exactly what their problems were – without the slightest hint of timidity, just as we read of him single-handedly casting out the money changers from the temple. We cannot read the accounts of the life of Jesus without seeing a man strong enough to go willingly to his own death for the sake of others – knowing it was to be one of the most painful deaths ever to be suffered by a human being.
Even the concept of Jesus as a man of pacifistic mildness is inaccurate. The same Jesus who, when he was arrested, told Peter “Put away your sword” also said – at the same time – “Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53). The Bible makes clear that the son of God was and is the supreme commander of enormous power and that he wielded that power and will wield it again (Revelation 19:16).
So we must look more closely at biblical verses that might suggest, out of context, that Christ or Christians are defined by meekness that is weakness. It is certainly true that Jesus said “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5); but the Greek word for meekness (praus) found there and throughout the New Testament has the connotation not of weakness, but of “strength under control.”
It is interesting to realize that in making the statement “Blessed are the meek…,” Jesus was almost certainly quoting Psalm 37:11 in the Greek Septuagint version. While the Hebrew Scriptures say “The meek shall possess the land,” the Septuagint says “The meek shall inherit the land,” more closely reflecting the wording of Jesus recorded in Matthew. But the significance of Jesus’ quoting Psalm 37 is found in the fact that the verses directly before “The meek will inherit the land” state “Refrain from anger and turn from wrath … For those who are evil will be destroyed…” (Psalm 37:8-9a). They are then contrasted with the words Jesus quoted: “But the meek shall inherit the earth” (emphasis added). The meekness spoken of by David and quoted by Christ is, then, one of controlling anger and wrath – with the self-control that meekness really is.
To be meek is not to be weak. Meekness is the gentleness of the strong. Meekness is strength under control. That is the quality exhibited by Christ and to which He calls his followers. When we understand this,we realize that there is no contradiction between this fact and the words of the apostle Paul describing the Spirit of God that is to be in every true follower of Christ: “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7). We may notice that the English Standard Version – translating a little closer to the Greek – says “self-control” rather than self-discipline. “Power, love and self-control” is almost a perfect definition of meekness. Meekness is strength in love. It is power under self-control.