Should Christians Be “Doormats”?
We all have been wronged. We all have “enemies”. So how do we respond?
How do you respond at your job when someone seems to be out to get you? How do you respond when someone you thought was a friend is saying hurtful things about you? Do you just get walked on like a doormat? Do you perform your best version of the “crane kick” (see Karate Kid) and get even?
In Matthew 5:38-48, Jesus walks us through a response.
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
The first thing we come across is this phrase, “Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth”. Jesus is referencing an Old Testament law found in 3 places: Exodus 21, Leviticus 24, and Deuteronomy 19. It was part of the law in regard to punishment for a crime and was civil in nature, administered by judges and priests. Specifically, it was to ensure that people weren’t punished excessively.
Jesus aims, not to refute this law, but to put it in it’s proper context and address how we distort it relationally. He gives multiple examples of how we should resist the desire to get even, and instead give freely.
- To those who hurt you – Jesus says to give the other cheek (vs. 39)
- To those who take from you – Jesus says to give additional items (vs. 40)
- To those who take advantage of your time – Jesus says to give them more time (vs. 41)
So, is Jesus saying you should be a “doormat”, getting walked over with no dignity? In short, no. We see Jesus standing up for injustice in the temple with the moneychangers. We see in the book of Acts, Paul confronting Peter over his hypocrisy. There are times when you’ll need to stand up and fight injustice, but here’s the key; it’s not for selfish gain. Jesus is getting to the heart. He’s calling us to a completely upside-down (or right side-up) way of life – A kingdom way of life. And we can resist and think, “That doesn’t work, times are different today, revenge is necessary to make it in life etc…” But, if we really look at it, revenge doesn’t work at all. Sure, it may provide a moment of personal satisfaction, but at what cost? A hardened heart, a disconnected life, a lifetime of regret? Much of our world is obsessed with revenge and as a result, we are more divided and more unfulfilled than ever before.
Jesus has a better way, and it’s love.
It’s no accident that this is one of many times in the Sermon on the Mount that Jesus references God as “Father”. When we love and pray for others, especially those who wrong us, we image our Heavenly Father. After all, as we reject Him, abandon His instruction, and go our own way, He still loves us. And when we receive His love, we experience true fulfillment, something revenge can never offer, AND we are now free to display the same love to others.
What Jesus calls us to in this passage can feel like a crushing weight of expectation that we’ll never meet. I know many times it feels this way for me. But then I am reminded that loving like this is only possible, because we have first been loved like this. And in the love of God, there isn’t crushing weight or life as a “doormat”, no there is immense power and liberating freedom.
With all of that said, you might be thinking, “Okay give freely and love powerfully”, but how do I get there? What steps can I take today with those who have wronged me? This is by no means exhaustive, but here are a few:
- Talk to Jesus before you talk to others – Don’t get swallowed up in gossip or slander. Talk to Jesus about your hurt, your desire to get even. Own any part you may have in confession and repentance. Shift your focus from the one who has wronged you to the one who gave himself for you.
- Give freely because Jesus has given to you – Practically, take steps toward reconciliation. Give grace. Give forgiveness. Give love. And when you’ve given all that you can, step back. It doesn’t mean you wash your hands of it, but it means you fix your eyes on Jesus and wait for when He might have you re-engage.
- Entrust your case to Jesus – Some of you think if you don’t make your case, no one will. 1 John 2:1 describes Jesus as your advocate. He is making your case. If you have placed your faith in Him, you have been justified before the God of the universe. Who else do you need to make your case to? Entrust it to Him.