God’s Gentle Partners
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” – Matthew 5:5 (NRSV)
I’ve always had trouble with the third Beatitude. The other blessings from Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount are worthy goals: hungering for righteousness, showing mercy, striving for peace. But being “meek”—as the King James Bible, the Revised Standard Version, and the New RSV translate Matthew 5:5—has always been personally unattainable.
Moreover and truth be known, meekness has never been something I’ve aspired to.
I took heart when I learned the French translate the third Beatitude as hereux les débonnaires. Being debonair seemed far more enjoyable than being meek (even if equally unattainable).
However, there was still the problem of the third Beatitude’s promise that either the meek or the debonair would “inherit the earth.” Viewing the planet as personal property to be divvied up among the worthy runs counter to the “earth-honoring faith” (in the words of environmental ethicist Larry Rasmussen) that we need in our environmentally perilous time.
But then I re-read Clarence Jordan’s Cottonpatch paraphrase of Matthew. A farmer, Greek New Testament scholar, and founder of Georgia’s interracial Koinonia community, Jordan translated the Gospel into the language and culture of the mid-twentieth century American South. Jerusalem became Atlanta, Bethlehem became Gainesville, and the Holy Family’s flight to Egypt went to Mexico instead.
Jordan translated the third Beatitude as: “They who are gentle are God’s people, for they will be God’s partners across the land.”
God’s gentle partners. Now that’s something to aspire to. That’s a true blessing—for us and this good earth.
God, gentle in your power and strong in your tenderness, help us to be your partners with one another all across your good earth. Amen.
Talitha Arnold is Senior Minister of the United Church of Santa Fe (UCC), Santa Fe, New Mexico. She is the author of Mark Part 1 and Mark Part 2 of the Listen Up! Bible Study series and Worship for Vital Congregations.