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Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Doormat Christians?

I remember being taught to forgive from a very early age it was almost always followed with something similar to, “but we aren’t supposed to be doormats.” Lately, I’ve been wondering about the Biblical validity of the last part of that statement. For that matter I have begun to wonder exactly what it means at all. The statement (which seems to be very widely accepted in the church) seemingly indicates a boundary. It seems to imply that we should forgive only to a certain point. This doesn’t seem to hold up to Biblical scrutiny.

At that point Peter got up the nerve to ask, "Master, how many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me? Seven?" 22 Jesus replied, "Seven! Hardly. Try seventy times seven.“ MSG Math. 18:21+22

Jesus seems to be saying there should be no limit to how often we should forgive. Another possible meaning to the “doormat” phrase is possible. This is the message that while we should always forgive certain steps should be taken to protect ourselves, or keep what is ours. This immediately brings my mind to

Here's what I propose: 'Don't hit back at all.' If someone strikes you, stand there and take it.. 40If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. 41And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. 42No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously. MSG Math. 5:39b-42

While I don’t think there’s anything wrong with common sense protective measures like locking the front door of your house I don’t think Jesus intended us to live guarding ourselves against everyone. The Message puts in so plainly, “Live generously.” Some of this is new thinking for me; so I’m not really meaning to be preaching at anyone. I really mean this post to be more of a question. Am I out in left field, is everyone else thinking “NO DUH DUDE!”, or am I on a reasonable track?

Taking the Next Step

Earlier this week a guy from church admired my ¾ length leather jacket. It’s my favorite jacket, but I let him try it on and was tempted to give it to him. I didn’t ‘cause I wanted my favorite jacket, but did I miss a chance to “live generously?” I feel like I did, and I think I will give him my jacket, but what about the next step? I keep a gun in the house (and I am skilled enough to use it effectively) and have always believed it is my God given duty to protect my home and family by whatever force is necessary, but is that in the Word? More to the point is that really God’s will? Thinking back on Matthew 5:39-42 I have to admit that I’m struggling to know God’s will on this issue. Would God have me kill a burglar even if it was self-defense? If Stephen had a gun when he was being stoned would he have used it to save his own life? If he did how would that have changed the ministry of Paul who arranged Stephens demise as Saul the Pharisee. Many theologians believe the noble death of Stephen paved the way for Paul’s conversion. What about the time God opened the prison doors for Paul, but he stayed in the prison so the guard wouldn’t commit suicide and so he could be saved.(Acts 16:26-31) Now that is living generously! I’m really not sure what the exact answers to these questions are, but somewhere in there I suspect is part of that something I believe we have missed as modern Christians.

The wind blows where it wants to. You hear its sound, but you don't know where it comes from or where it is going. That's the way it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit. John 3:8 ISV

Christian’s should seem radically different from everyone else. Is the no ”doormat” mentality a tradition that has made the Word of God of no effect?(1) Is this an example of how we have missed God’s revolutionary love?

(1) Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. KJV Math. 15:6


Blogger Ariel said...

Man, I appreciate the questions you are asking in this post. I won't try and take them all on, but I do have a thought on the doormat issue.

As it pertains to forgiveness, I think you're right on. "Cultural Christianity" often embraces this tacit (and disgusting) understanding that forgiveness is great, up to point x. But after so-and-so has treated me really rudely, I'm perfectly justified in telling him off. As you point out, such an artificial limitation of forgiveness is simply wrong.

However, I think there's a sense in which the doormat statement holds some truth. A look at Christ's life reveals that he didn't allow himself to be walked on by every ego-seeker who crossed his path. On a number of occasions, Jesus spoke sternly, confronted his adversaries, etc. Jesus had backbone, he was not a man to cross lightly.

In this sense, the anti-doormat stance may be helpful. We are supposed to forgive ad nauseum, but we're also supposed to live with conviction and courage.

9:55 AM  

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