“Hurt people hurt people,” I thought later, after finishing the talk. Too often in the past, I remembered such words, dwelt on the hurt, and allowed that feeling of pain to drain the spiritual lifeblood from my heart. This time, however, when this one mentioned yet again a rather painful topic, I could feel only pity that she would allow her unguarded tongue to tread such territory easily.
Responses to difficult people or discouraging words cannot always be planned for. Reactions happen at a moment’s notice and often reveal the condition of our hearts. An over-sensitivity to hurtful, unkind, or unbiblical words from others has proven for me to be a damaging choice. But God, in His perfect gentleness and goodness, has begun to touch my heart. To show me a different method. A method well able to respond to potentially hurtful situations. A method that clarifies the actual battle. A method that, regardless of the actions and reactions of others, clothes my spirit and produces spiritual fruit. It is the garment of meekness.
Described in my last article in this series as an evidence of God’s transforming Word in my heart, this particular apparel allows my heart to be covered in the peace of Christ. That peace beyond understanding assuages the soul, so that stinging moths of unkind words, uncalled-for comments, or inappropriate behavior lose their poison. What might have been visible welts of hurt are effectively healed spots, graciously covered by the garment of meekness.
It’s hard to believe that after many years of knowing the Lord, I’ve just recently become very aware of my own need to daily clothe my spirit in this valuable apparel.
The garment of meekness changes my perspective. It lifts me from the history of words that were said to the potential of what will happen with that same mouth, which will one day glorify Jesus Christ. It banishes the guilt of others’ sins, for which I am not responsible, to an understanding that God, rich as He is in mercy, will work in the life of this one in His own time. It frees me to “suffer long” with others and to wait for prayers to be answered, for I see that God suffers long with sin and sinners. It allows me to view people as image bearers of the mighty God and, as such, to look at each of them as created for a divine purpose and holy calling. It reminds me how much God loves individuals, knows every thought that each human thinks, and desires a personal relationship with each one.
It likewise calls me to pay the debt I owe to every person in my surroundings—a debt of love (Romans 13:8). Certainly I owe every human being this trait. I owe kindness to all, even those who somehow sting with their words and attitudes.
In his Notes on the New Testament, Albert Barnes states of this verse, “Love is a debt which can never be discharged. We should feel that we owe this to all men; and though by acts of kindness we may be constantly discharging it, yet we should feel that it can never be fully met while there is opportunity to do good.” That debt is ever before me—and ought to be paid to all, the saved and unsaved alike.
In a similar way, deciding to wear the garment of meekness clarifies my perspective. It helps me to be aware that actively encouraging people multiple times daily is part of God's Instruction Manual to me, for He commands that I follow things “that make for peace and things wherewith we may edify one another” (Rom. 14:19). But I wouldn’t have thought to daily and actively pursue such an attitude--regardless of the responses of others--to see it as my absolute debt to everyone, if my mind hadn’t recently been touched by this truth in God’s Word.
A smile. A laugh. A kind word. How wonderful it has been to see the happy spirits of others as they are touched by these.
I look forward to continually bearing the fruit of this perspective, to daily experiencing the joy of the garment of meekness, for it is obedience to the Word that changes my heart and conforms me to the image of Christ.