Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Meekness


Every once in a while I feel compelled to explain why I use the word meek to describe the work I do and the movement I’m trying to start through this blog, my books and my public speaking.  As I say in the introduction to “Meekonomics; How to Inherit The Earth and Live Life to the Fullest in God’s Economy”; meek is one of those bible words we don’t use in regular conversation anymore and as a result it has lost much of its meaning.

This past week I finally started reading Dietrich Bonheoffer’s seminal work on the Christian life; “The Cost of Discipleship”.

Originally published in 1937, at the height of Nazi Germany, it’s a clarion call directed at German Christians to reject the godless politics of National Socialism and return to an uncompromisingly orthodox understanding of scripture.  It’s precisely this kind of writing and preaching that landed Bonhoeffer in a jail and saw him hanged by the Nazi’s just two weeks before the allied armies would have liberated him.  That, and the fact that he was implicated in a plot to murder Hitler could apparently get you killed in the 1940s, go figure.

Now, over seventy years after it was first published, and in a Christian culture dominated by right wing political ideology, the message of “The Cost of Discipleship” remains just as relevant as it was in Hitler’s Germany, and for a book written in a different era, it’s a surprisingly easy read.

Bonhoeffer’s interpretation of Matthew 5:5, which I base most of my writing on, is perhaps the most clearly profound explanation of this biblical passage I’ve ever read.  I don’t poach the work of other authors very often but I’d like to take this opportunity to quote Bonhoeffer at length and allow his writing to speak for itself.

“Blessed are the meek:  for they shall inherit the earth.”  This community of strangers possesses no inherent right of its own to protect its members in the world, nor do they claim such rights, for they are meek, they renounce every right of their own and live for the sake of Jesus Christ.  When reproached, they hold their peace; when treated with violence they endure it patiently; when men drive them from their presence, they yield their ground.  They will not go to law to defend their rights, or make a scene when they suffer injustice, nor do they insist on their legal rights.  They are determined to leave their rights to God alone – non cupidi vindicate, as the ancient Church paraphrased in.  Their right is in the will of their Lord – that and no more.  They show by every word and gesture that they do not belong to the earth.  Leave heaven to them, says the world in its pity, that is where they belong.  But Jesus says; “They shall inherit the earth.”  To these, the powerless and the disenfranchised, the very earth belongs.  Those who now posses it by violence and injustice shall lose it, and those who here have utterly renounced it, who were meek to the point of the cross, shall rule the new earth.  – Dietrich Bonhoeffer; The Cost of Discipleship

I really have nothing to add.  Instead I challenge you to meditate on that for a bit and ask yourself; are you ready to inherit the earth?

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