Jesus is tough on the meek. While the born again get to go to heaven when they die, all the meek get is the earth – what’s left of it. ‘The meek will inherit the earth.’ (Matt. 5.5) Based on a widely discredited interpretation of one verse in 2 Peter (3.10, to be precise) some Christians figure that God is going to destroy the earth – so why not help him in the process by trashing it here and now? For example, by continuing with fossil fuels. No matter that the whole biblical narrative, from creation to new creation, speaks of the goodness of the earth and the fact that the heavens and earth (and everything in them) declare the glory of God and celebrate their Maker, and that the whole of creation is groaning as it waits for God’s Creation Stewards to get their act together.
The meek will inherit the earth. The clue as to what kind of earth the meek will inherit comes in the next chapter, as Jesus teaches his followers to pray, ‘Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.’ The earth that the meek will inherit is one where God’s will is done and to which God’s kingdom comes. As Tom Wright eloquently points out many times, the Bible never says that we will go to heaven when we die. Rather, heaven will come to earth, and heaven (the dwelling place of God) and earth (the dwelling place of humankind) will become one.
Meanwhile we have overstepped our carbon footprint and don’t seem to realise that this planet, on which our lives and the lives of our children depend, is finite. The result is that the meek are not inheriting the earth: the meek, the poor, the voiceless, the disenfranchised – they are the ones who suffer most as the overbearing, the rich, the noisy and the powerful exploit the earth. The Bible is a clarion call to those who love God and seek to follow Jesus to make a stand on behalf of the earth, for it and everything in it belong to God. As the Lausanne Movement states, Creation Care is ‘a gospel issue within the lordship of Christ’ (CTC I.7.A). Lausanne continues: ‘We are faced with a crisis that is pressing, urgent, and that must be resolved in our generation.’
Let the church arise, and be in the frontline of those demonstrating tangible love for God and all that he has made by being part of the solution to the crisis.
Finally a word about the born again. I used it as a label – a risky thing to do. Jesus says that no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again (John 3.3). ‘Born again’ or ‘born from above’: the Greek means both. If I’m going to see the kingdom of God on earth I am born again, born from above, given new life by God, a new creation along with all of God’s renewed creation.
And so in actual fact the meek are born again. O Lord, I want to be in that number…