|Edward Waters Bard of the Grey Wind|
To Daniel of Tate.
No good done is truly unseen
or ever forgotten.
The following essay is based on an address delivered in August of 2004 at Covenant Fellowship of Greensboro, North Carolina. As its original title suggests, The Fruit of the Spirit is Meekness was but one in a series of similar talks given over the course of ten weeks by various speakers, each concerned with a different element of the familiar passage from Galatians 5. While endeavouring to preserve its original essence and tone, I have revised the text here from a speaking style to one more suitable for the printed word, since, as Lewis rightly observes, each medium has its own best means of expression. The title change reflects this as well in some measure, but chiefly is intended to allow a once-constituent message better to stand alone.
My thanks to Joel Gillespie, pastor of Covenant Fellowship, for conceiving and launching the series and for inviting me to participate. Thanks as well to all the other contributors who faithfully and instructively handled their respective topics, in the process providing my own efforts with valuable foundation and context.
INVISIBLE AS THE WIND
A Case for Meekness
By Edward Waters
There is no life for any man,
other than the same kind that Jesus has;
his disciple must live by the same absolute devotion
of his will to the Father's ...
GEORGE MACDONALD 
Have you ever considered that the wind is just as unseen in a hurricane as at any other time? What you do see are the clouds caught up in it. You also see dirt and seawater caught up in it. You may even see lawn furniture, loose lumber, aluminum siding, cats and dogs and cars and trucks and overly ambitious television reporters caught up in it. You see the effect of the wind in chaos and destruction, but you never actually see the wind itself. And, at the time, no one with any sense will care about such distinctions!
When I wrote the above poem  in 1992, I took a week or so to choose a name for it. I finally settled on 'Apology', in the sense of 'Christian apologetics', because the piece was supposed to suggest that, like the wind, God could be invisible, yet overwhelming in His works.
OF NARROWS AND CURRENTS
The way meanings of words change over time, however, has always interested me. Occasionally a term of very specific reference comes to be applied more generally, but in my experience the opposite is more common: With a kind of entropy, words of broad usage gradually grow more narrow or specialized.
It should come as no surprise that similar processes greatly complicate Bible translation. If we can lose sight of our own former usage after only a few generations, imagine scholars trying to interpret Hebrew and Greek from thousands of years ago. Just as modern English continues to evolve, so those original languages were still alive and in flux throughout the centuries in which the Scriptures were set down; and the respective currents have not always flowed alike. To convey ideas between them reliably can be as challenging as an attempt to leap from one canoe to another in a rushing river.
Consider the word 'Spirit', as in 'born of the Spirit', 'walk by the Spirit', or 'the fruit of the Spirit'. The Greek is pneuma, which can also be translated as 'wind' or 'breath'. In John 3.8, when Christ says,
The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit,
the original for 'wind' and 'Spirit' are forms of the same word.
THE GREEK WAY TO SAY ... ?
We run into even greater difficulty trying to understand the eighth item of a list the apostle Paul provides in Galatians 5.22-23. With only minor variations, modern translations render this text,
... The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control ...
In Greek, the next-to-last part of the 'fruit' is prautes, a word that has no perfect correspondence in English.
Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.
This sounds as if Paul is calling for gentleness toward those we must correct; but while that should be a result, it is not his main point. If we look at the context, the surrounding discussion, we find that here Paul is primarily concerned with our own humility. He is saying that when it is necessary for us to correct others, we must be very careful not to do so in pride or arrogance, forgetting our own sinfulness and the debt we ourselves owe to God's grace. Thus: '... Restore ... in a spirit of humility; looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.'
While no one English word fits prautes perfectly, for most of its use in the New Testament I prefer a term that was favoured in older translations: Meekness. This, of course, has problems as well, being another of those words that has changed over time. Once it came closer than perhaps any other to the biblical sense of prautes. Now what it popularly conveys is almost the exact opposite.
WHAT MEEKNESS IS NOT
First: Biblical meekness does not mean being a victim.
Second: Meekness is not affected 'humility'. It is not pretending to be humble.
'That was a great message!'
And, do you know: Truly, it was not them. It was the Lord. Still, sometimes, might not the Lord had rather they just said, 'Thank you'?
At the same time (and this is the third point): Biblical meekness is not always saying 'Yes'.
Fourth: Meekness is not diplomacy, or being polite.
Which perhaps relates to the fact that, finally: Biblical meekness is not about fitting in.
WHAT MEEKNESS IS
So if biblical meekness is not all these things, what is it? What does the New Testament actually tell us about prautes and praus?
Colossians 3.12 says gentleness is part of showing Love to one another.
Obviously, we have a theme here. What is meekness? It is the fruit of the Spirit. In a sense, it is all of them.
Near the end of Shakespeare's Henry V, after a ragtag army has won a seemingly impossible victory against overwhelming odds, their king forbids anyone to boast of this success. Instead, he orders that prayers of praise be sung to God, including Non nobis, Domine,  which is the Latin for our Psalm 115.1:
Not to us, O Lord, not to us,
Given what historians report of the real Harry's character, this may be no more than another case of affected humility. ('It wasn't me! It was the Lord!') Even so, we are reminded how the proud and arrogant regularly strive to appear humble, knowing that the public tends to distrust and eventually to revolt against rulers and celebrities whose pride and arrogance become apparent. Humility, albeit varying in definition and prescription, has been held up as a virtuous ideal in every period and culture. It may be more often feigned than realized; it may be dismissed as impractical; and still fallen humanity senses its worth. God's people, however, are called to more than abstract values. Psalm 115.1 can be invoked in pretence, but its author sang in truth.
Over the years I have come to see Christ's 'Sermon at the Mount' as rather like the '101' survey courses of first-year undergraduate study. I believe it was designed as an overview to introduce the Lord's new disciples to what discipleship would involve. As such, it covers a lot of territory. What stands out to me from beginning to end, however, is its focus on the why behind the what. The scribes and the Pharisees were obsessed with works, yet Jesus says our righteousness must surpass theirs. That is, we still do works, but with a different spirit, and from a different sort of heart.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth...
In short, we are to do what we do because we see with different eyes, looking to God, seeking His perspective, and believing His promises. We are called to be active in this present reality because we see the truer reality beyond it. The bumper-sticker is wrong which says, 'Some people are so heavenly minded, they're no earthly good.' Christ tells us that anyone who is truly 'heavenly minded' can not but help being of earthly good.
Yet prautes generally avoids the limelight. The Sherlock Holmes novel The Hound of the Baskervilles may seem an odd source to cite here; but I have always liked the way Sir Charles Baskerville was remembered by someone he had helped through a crisis:
He was a very retiring man, and he preferred to do good by stealth. 
Meekness prefers to do good by stealth, perhaps because it realizes that motivations become easily corrupted when one has an audience.
Prautes seeks no earthly reward, partly because it looks expectantly to God, and partly because it looks realistically at people. Sometimes when we quote, 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,' we seem to interpret this as 'Do unto others in order that they will do likewise unto you.' Meekness, however, does unto others knowing full well that they probably will not return the favour.
Prautes not only sees the Reality beyond seeming reality; it often perceives details of the present world others overlook, and it may begin where others leave off. Some people find themselves caring for those who have 'fallen through the cracks' of previous ministries. Though perhaps having no clearer idea how to help, they are sought out precisely because they do not claim to know all the answers and thus are thought more likely to understand the struggles.
Prautes trusts and submits to God's leading, even when it has no certainty where that may be. Remember:
The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.
K.P. Yohannan, founder and president of Gospel For Asia, has written,
A few years ago in the midst of a struggle, the Lord spoke to my heart and said, 'Be a leaf in the wind.' He simply meant, 'I began this work and I will continue it. Don't strive or agonize over anything. Just let me be God ...' 
THE PERILS OF PERCEPTION
Trying to live by biblical meekness does, however, come at some cost. With remarkable consistency, the exercise of prautes tends to provoke serious misinterpretation among observers.
In not calling attention to your works, you must sometimes stand by while others are credited with them. Though not so bad in itself, this can leave you open to criticism for having done nothing at all. I call it the 'Clark Kent Principle'.
Prautes is often perceived as aimless, indifferent, irresponsible, and without a plan, for it submits to the mystery of the Spirit's leading and so many of its aims, concerns, responsibilities, and designs are hidden with God.
Because prautes makes hard choices that can involve personal risk or self-sacrifice, it may be seen as naive, self-destructive, or victimized. Indeed, at times its actions (or inaction) very much resemble those of a victim, and only God will know the difference. Consider: If you had been in Jerusalem on the day between the crucifixion and the resurrection, would you not have assumed Jesus a victim?
Ironically, when obedience to the Lord springs from deepest humility, one may be most accused of arrogance, selfishness, and even hypocrisy. I appreciate a line from the film Chariots of Fire: 'My "arrogance", sir, extends just as far as my conscience demands!' 
Meekness will be misjudged. However, one of the most essential marks of meekness is a heart of compassion, rather than resentment, toward those who do misjudge (Luke 6.26 ff). Remember the Prayer of Saint Francis:
O divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
Meekness is at odds with the motivations and logic of the World:
... God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong ...
And again, in John 3.8: When one is born of the Spirit, an observer may hear what that man or woman says, and see what he or she does, yet the wisdom behind those words and deeds remain as invisible to him as the wind.
All truth can be abused, of course. The tragedy of church history is how often the egotistical, the ambitious, the sadistic, and the merely deranged have sought to justify themselves by attributing their actions to God. ('It's not me! It's the Lord! I am but a meek and humble servant!')
So where do we begin?
There is a man I know whom I will call Kevin. A few years ago, as he was downtown and just getting into his car, a homeless person called out and asked if he could spare a few dollars for some food. When he hesitated, the fellow quickly suggested Kevin buy the food himself, to insure the money was not misspent.
We begin to learn meekness when we see ourselves for who we are before God. Psalm 131 begins,
O Lord, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty;
King David sang that. Although he was king, he knew his place, and he knew to Whom he owed that place. It was only when he forgot this for a while that he fell so tragically.
The one principle of hell is -- 'I am my own. I am my own king and my own subject. I am the centre ...' 
All the principles of Heaven, including meekness, proclaim the very opposite: We are most emphatically not our own. The gospels contain no fewer that six variations on Jesus's statement, 'Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses His life for My sake will find it.'
It is often said that, the more we learn, the more we realize how little we know. The same is true of meekness. The holiest of men and women have always been best at seeing their own sin, and how dependent they were on grace.
Or, to put it another way: 'It's not me. It's the Lord.'
Non nobis, Domine, non nobis,
sed nomini tuo da gloriam.
Not to us, O Lord, not to us,
First published in 2005 as A Windwian Book by Grey Wind from the Waters Home. Copyright © 2005, 2010 by Edward & Cindy Waters.
 George MacDonald, 'The Creation in Christ', in Unspoken Sermons (Whitethorn, CA: Johannesen, 1999), Series III (originally published 1889), p. 424.
 Edward Waters, 'Apology' (Copyright © 1992).
 William Shakespeare, King Henry the Fifth (circa 1595), Act IV, scene 8.
 Arthur Conan Doyle, The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902), chapter 11.
 K.P. Yohannan, Send, xxiv, no. 3 (Gospel For Asia, 2004), p. 23.
 Chariots of Fire, Warner Brothers & The Ladd Company, 1981.
 MacDonald, 'Kingship', in Unspoken Sermons, Series III, p. 495.
|Copyright © 2002, 2014 by Edward & Cindy Waters. All parts of this website, unless otherwise indicated, are included in and protected by this copyright. HOWEVER, limited reproduction of any material herein for purposes of ministry is permitted provided that (1) such use is consistent with the author's intentions, (2) reproduction is not done for profit, and (3) authorship is clearly indicated. The copyright holders reserve the right to define the phrase 'limited reproduction' and to determine what may constitute a violation of the above permission clauses. This website was launched in 2002 by the generosity of Covenant Fellowship of Greensboro, North Carolina.|