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06 February 2015

Meekness and weakness

Meekness and weakness

Exercise is not something I enjoy on its own terms – I have to be achieving something else for it to make sense. The bicycle therefore has appeal – it takes me somewhere.

I was interested in Lance Armstrong's story this week, not because the sports section grabs my attention, but because I wondered about the actions of his partner Anna, and what response we might make as Christians. The Church of England is exploring its theology of marriage over the next two years. Church marriage courses explore Ephesians 5 – how our unions act as parables to that great mystery that is the relationship between Christ and his Church.

In Ephesians 5 a mutuality is explored, in which a husband lays down his life for his wife and the wife similarly invests herself in the well-being of her husband: putting the other first is championed.

Anna was asked to take the blame for Lance's car accident, to lie and say that she was behind the wheel when it happened. Lance says his motivation for asking her to do this was bound up with wanting security for his family, which has been beleaguered by the press. It would seem that all parties had some sense of a right motivation if you look hard enough.

However, perhaps what was on display here was weakness rather than meekness. Jesus is called meek, and Moses is described as being the paragon of meekness. It's to such as these that the earth will be an inheritance. The original meaning of the word meek, though, describes a wild animal that has been tamed – often a wild horse harnessed to a plough.

Meekness is about power controlled for a purpose, about giving your will over to God. Meekness is yours when you operate out of your dependence on Christ. Meekness is not to be confused with weakness or being a doormat. It's about anchoring your life to the truth and being submissive but to God – out of that you will develop the right attitude to the people around you. It can't be about lying to protect someone else's reputation when that person is too afraid of the consequences of their actions to deal with them.

Jesus says in Matthew 5 that you should let your 'yes' be 'yes' and your 'no' be 'no'. This is a pretty radical call. Jesus says that if we are trustworthy with the little things, we will prove ourselves trustworthy in everything. Anna shouldn't have taken the blame for Lance, and this does nothing to develop that thinking behind Paul's words to the Ephesians. But if we think we aren't like Lance and Anna, we have to remember all the things we do, such as the scribbled notes we write as mums excusing our children from PE for flimsy reasons.

We have to remember that when it comes to those we love and protect we can be most easily undone out of some sense of a rightness of actions. We are more like Lance and Anna than we realise. Of course, as Christians we know that only Christ has sufficiently taken the blame for all our misdoings, whether by negligence, weakness or own deliberate fault, and it was his moment of strength – a meekness seen in surrender to God – that was displayed there on the cross. We need to have a right sense of ourselves in Him. We need to know ourselves well enough to distinguish between the motives that we try to tell ourselves are underpinning our actions, and the crashes we might be heading towards.

Rachel Marszalek is a mum to two girls whom she is encouraging to take more of an interest in PE. She is also a vicar in West London and the general secretary of Fulcrum.