Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Tao of Meekness

I am a follower of Jesus who loves the Tao Te Ching, the ancient poetic classic written by Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu five hundred years before Christ. I loved it before I became a Christian, and I have loved it ever since. It is no accident that the Chinese translation of the Gospel of John begins, "In the beginning was the Tao." It is a quote from the Tao Te Ching. Tao means "Way" in the sense of the eternal Way, echoed in Jesus' words, "I am the Way the Truth and the Life."

I am not engaging in religious syncretism that compromises the gospel of Christ. I am professing the teachings of the apostle Paul who wrote, "Since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse." (Romans 1:20). "God has not left himself without a witness" among all the nations. (Acts 14:17)

Theologians call it natural or general revelation. The apostle John was testifying to this when he wrote, "In the beginning was the Logos" (the Greek word for Word). When John chose that word, the concept of Logos already had a rich history in Greek philosophy, analogous to the role of Tao in Chinese philosophy. The apostle was connecting the general revelation of God available to all peoples to the specific revelation of God in Christ.

Truth is truth wherever it is found. The Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu understood the virtue of meekness. His words are a better commentary on the beatitudes than any Christian writer I have ever read. He knew what Jesus meant when he said, "Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth." (Matthew 5:5) Lao Tzu wrote:

The supreme good is like water,
which nourishes all things without trying to.
It is content with the low places that people disdain.
Thus it is like the Tao.

In dwelling, live close to the ground.
In thinking, keep to the simple.
In conflict, be fair and generous.
In governing, don't try to control.
In work, do what you enjoy.
In family life, be completely present.

When you are content to be simply yourself
and don't compare or compete,
everybody will respect you. (Tao Te Ching, Chapter 8)

He also wrote:

Nothing in the world
is as soft and yielding as water.
Yet for dissolving the hard and inflexible,
nothing can surpass it.

The soft overcomes the hard;
the gentle overcomes the rigid.
Everyone knows this is true,
but few can put it into practice.  (Tao Te Ching, Chapter 78)

Jesus said, "He who has ears to hear, let  him hear." I say, "Are we meek enough to hear?"

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this. Having grown up in a Christian culture, my faith has more recently been profoundly nourished by the truths of the Tao Te Ching. It's encouraging to read of another person's thoughts that are so familiar.