"As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame; / [ . . . ] Each mortal thing does one thing and the same: / Deals out that being indoors each one dwells; / Selves -- goes itself; 'myself' it speaks and spells, / Crying 'What I do is me; for that I came'." --Gerard Manley Hopkins

25 September 2006

On Being Doormats

In Sunday School yesterday morning, one of the innumerable rabbit trails brought up had to do with "being doormats." The issue was framed something like this: "Everybody says we're not supposed to be doormats. But the Scripture seems to say we should be doormats -- go the second mile, if somebody takes your coat, give him your cloak . . . but I thought we weren't supposed to be doormats."

The teacher rightly ignored this remark, given that it had nothing whatsoever to do with the topic of the lesson. But I've been mulling it over, since I hear it, or something like it, fairly often in this individualistic, rights-centered culture my students are so much a part of.

My first reaction always tends to be "Why shouldn't we be doormats?" In the world's eyes, surely Christ Himself was a "doormat" as He stood silent before Pilate and allowed Himself to be hung on a cross. Am I not called to live like my Savior? In the world's eyes, my humility will always look like folly, like weakness.

But the world is not where I should be finding my definitions, and its perceptions should not be my especial concern. In the situation brought up in Sunday School, how is the believer who obeys the injunction to go the second mile a "doormat"? He is constrained by law to carry the soldier's burden the first mile; anyone might do so, however grudgingly, to avoid punishment.

But if he then says, in cheerful humility, "Sir, because I love the Lord Christ, and through Him I love you, I desire to serve you by carrying this burden another mile" -- how is this being a doormat? This is precisely love in action -- and love is power. Not power to stand up for my rights and demand respect and protect my space -- to not be a doormat -- but power to reach hearts for the Savior who suffered and died for my unworthy self.

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