Jesus Doesn’t Want Us to Be Doormats…Right?

doormatJesus said not to “resist an evil person,” but whoever slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also (Matt 5:39).

I was teaching on this passage once when someone responded, “Jesus doesn’t want us to be doormats!”  It was spoken in a rhetorical fashion, as if the obvious response was to agree.  I’m not so sure.

Just in case you’re not familiar with the figure of speech, “being a doormat” means that we take a position of submission and non-defiance so that we allow others to dominate over us without resistance; just like a person walks atop a doormat. The doormat doesn’t fight back, but gets dirty from the soles of the shoes of those who walk over it.

The thought of being a doormat will revulse most of us.  It goes against our grain.  We have been trained to believe that no one has the right to treat us unequally or with disdain.  And, that is correct.  No one has the right to do that.  It is unfair and unjust treatment.  Yet, this says nothing about our right to choose how we will let others treat us.  If we have the power to stop someone from treating us poorly but we do not exercise that right, then how can it be a violation of our rights?

Is it possible that Jesus may call upon us to give up our rights to be treated fairly?  Is it possible that God’s will for us may involve harsh or difficult treatment at the hands of others?  The obvious, and easy to demonstrate answer, is yes.

First, we have the clear example of Jesus.  A reading of the Gospel accounts shows us that Jesus never objected when others treated Him poorly.  He let his enemies insult Him.  When they spoke evil of Him we find no evidence suggesting He “stuck up for His rights.”  He allowed it to happen, even though it was unjust.  Eventually, He allowed them to openly ridicule and beat Him.  Even though He had the power to stop everything and prove Himself, He instead “turned the other cheek.”

Peter, when encouraging his readers to be submissive, used the life of Jesus as an example.  He wrote, When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly (1 Peter 2:23 NIV).

That’s kind of being a doormat, yes?  But, you say, that was Jesus!

So, let’s look at the Apostle Paul.  In Acts 16, Paul and Silas had gone to Philippi and began to preach.  They were arrested and “severely flogged” (Acts 16:23 NIV) before being thrown into prison.  What makes this amazing is that Paul could have stopped the flogging at any time. He was a Roman citizen, and it was against the law for a Roman citizen to be flogged without a hearing.  Yet, he did not stop it.  He waited until a day after the flogging to warn the magistrates that they had broken the law.  This action kept the small church from being persecuted in that city.  Paul allowed himself to be “walked over.”  He gave up his “rights” so that others may benefit.  In a way, he became a doormat.

So, we have Biblical evidence and examples of refusing “rights” and submitting to unjust treatment.  I believe this is what Jesus meant when He told His followers to turn the other cheek.  I believe that He meant that insisting on our personal “rights” is not as important to God as it might be to us; and we must learn to think as God thinks.

I believe the key to learning to think like God is to remember that as a follower of Jesus we no longer belong to ourselves.  We are the property of God.  Therefore, if someone insults us, they are not insulting us, but God’s property.  If they lash out at us, they are lashing out at someone who belongs to God.  Their fight is with God, not us.  We must commit ourselves in faith to the One who owns us, and trust that He will do what is best for His property.

Turning the other cheek is not extra-ordinary Christianity.  It is simple submission to God.  It is what every believer should be trying to achieve in his or her life.

So, yeah.  You may be called upon to be a doormat.  It’s the perfect opportunity to be like Jesus.



Dane Cramer is a backpacker, Christian blogger, jail chaplain, amateur filmmaker, and author of two books: Romancing the Trail and The Nephilim: A Monster Among Us



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