The Beatitudes: Part 4 ~ Giving Up

I love to catch my dad in a talkative mood because he always says something to make me think.  A conversation we had a few weeks ago was no exception.

We were having our morning coffee and talking about churches in America and the dedication of Christians in regard to service to others.  He thinks that a part of the problem is that we’ve gotten the terminology off-kilter.  When it comes to our relationship with Jesus, it’s not just a commitment to Him that we should make, which is an often used term in Christian circles when talking about salvation; Dad said it’s more than commitment. When we decide to accept the gift of salvation, we should surrender to Jesus.

I’ve thought about this a lot.  My dad is wise… He is a man who lives by the Word… and so I wanted to find out a little more about the implications of these two words.  So I looked it up, to see what the dictionary would tell me.

Here’s what I read: a commitment is a pledge (a solemn promise or offering something as a guarantee, as for the repayment of a loan) ~ or an obligation.  Hmmm.  Maybe this is why the word doesn’t quite sit right when it comes to thinking about how I respond to Christ ~ because obligation implies duty, doesn’t it?  Many times, it’s a resented/forced-upon/motivated by guilt kind of duty.  An obligation is usually something we try to get out of, isn’t it?  This relationship with our Father, it’s supposed to be about love…and as far as a promise or guarantee for repayment?  I could never, ever give enough back to God for what He has given in His Son.  Even thinking about it kinda says that I have a certain measure of power and value to offer…and, to be honest… I don’t.  If I have anything to offer, it’s only because He has blessed me with it!

So what about surrender?  I went back to the dictionary (I really like my dictionary).  Surrender: to yield to the power of another, to give oneself up, to give oneself up to some influence, to give up, abandon, or relinquish, to yield or resign (an office, privilege, etc.) in favor of another.

I pondered for a while and this is what I concluded.  To me, commitment is agreeing to participate in the plans of the other party.  Surrender is giving the other party all control.

Now fast forward to this week.  In investigating the beatitudes, I look up the original meaning of ‘meek’ and find that ‘praus’ (from the Greek) means gentle and yielding… again, yielding!  In its total meaning, it seems that meek definitely implies surrender.

So there is something to surrender.  Giving up control.  Giving up what we want. Relinquishing our own will.  What this beatitude says is that in this attitude of gentle yielding, we become blessed.  We become heirs.  Can we look at Jesus Himself for a clearer picture of what this all means?  These verses tell us how to act towards others in light of His example.

  “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Eph. 5:1-2

Then there’s Philippians 2:5~8: “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death ~ even death on a cross!

We see that, in His humanity, this humbling was not easy.  Before His arrest, Jesus said, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death…” and He prayed, “Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass.”  He had a choice to make.  This is what His choice came down to ~ “Yet not as I will, but as You will.” He knew the coming anguish.  He knew the coming scorn and sorrow.  He surrendered to it.

He gave up His rightful position in Heaven for that time and then His very life was “yielded in favor of another”… in favor of His Father’s glory.  In favor of you and me, He accepted the cross.

We are to live with this same attitude of yielding.  In favor of our Father’s will.  In favor of others.  Even when it’s difficult.  Even if there’s no applause for it.  Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23)

Here’s where I really have been looking at my own life.  Because, to be honest, I think I’ve been complacent.  I think it’s easy to do just enough… just enough to feel like we’ve helped someone else out.  To go just enough out of our way to feel proud of our sacrifice… and that’s a danger zone.  That’s putting the focus back on what ‘I’ did… instead of what God so graciously did through me…  How much do I actually give of myself, anyway?  Do I only serve when it doesn’t cut too much into my time?  When it doesn’t require sacrifice?  When it makes me feel good?  When it doesn’t actually require surrender of what I really want to be doing for my own interests and comfort?

Isn’t a truly meek person, surrendered to Christ and following His example, going to do the maximum rather than the minimum?  Are we putting the needs of others above our own to the point that we are willing to suffer for their sakes?  Shouldn’t we be looking ~ every day ~ for a way to love others like Christ has first loved us?

I don’t know about you… but, for me, that thought throws everything in my life into a different light.  Let me be clear ~ I am not talking about earning anything here by our works.  It’s the opposite… actions flowing from the gift we’ve been given…and knowing that this gift is so life-changing, so amazing that we desire that everyone else on this earth should have it, too!  How can I do my part in sharing this love?

Sometimes it could be in the simple things ~ actions and attitudes we deem sort of trivial.  Maybe a meek attitude in my day is hanging up my husband’s clothes and bringing him a Dr. Pepper after he gets home from work…without muttering or resenting it because I am tired, too.  Maybe it’s making that phone call to the shelter to see what they need, making an extra trip to the store for those items. Maybe it’s spreading joy through kind words even when I don’t feel like it.  In every interaction, it’s letting go of what I feel like I deserve ~ because God has given me grace in the face of the judgment I do deserve.  It’s every action done joyfully and as unto the Lord… it’s serving Him with a thankful heart.  A gentle, yielding heart. 

Paul says it like this: “Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.  Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” ~Phil. 2:1-4

Maybe living in meekness is more of long-term adjustment in the journey, like setting aside the career I’d always dreamed of because God planned a different road for me.  A road that proclaims His name instead of mine.  A road that benefits the lives of others instead of building up my own pride and earthly treasures.

Maybe it’s a choice or a circumstance that requires us to have that moment in the garden, saying ‘If this cup could pass….” and still… we yield.

Is this something we can do by our own strength?  No… even if we tried our hardest to obtain meekness, our flesh would still war for our own interests.  Yet if we let go of the pride that makes us full of ourselves, if we prayerfully surrender every day to the Father, we leave room for the Holy Spirit to dwell and work in us.

We look to Jesus and  ~ for me ~ I am awed by His gentleness, His choice to redeem me… and that puts my own desires back into perspective.  We can live in meekness by His grace and His love.  When it’s hard, we trust Him to work it all out for our ultimate good and His glory ~ even if we don’t see the inheritance on this earth.  Can we remember that the One we’ve surrendered our lives to is the One who gave us life?  Isn’t it true that the One I trust to control my life laid His down to save mine?  “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.  And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.  If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?  Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” (1st John 3:18)

The One I give my life up to turns it all around and gives more back to me, more than I could ever imagine!  I give Him my meager, weak self… and He makes me a joint-heir with His Son, partaker of glory!  He is with me every day and promises that I will have an eternity of blessing, a place in the new heaven and earth…and suddenly, it doesn’t seem a hardship at all to surrender or to strive after meekness in every way.  It seems a privilege.  When I consider the way He redeems us… when I consider the way He loves us… it leaves me humbly on my knees, grateful to be in His service.

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