Friday, January 25, 2008

We don't have to be Christian doormats

What do you do when you feel that another Christian has taken advantage of you or mistreated you in some way? Do you keep it to yourself and bury it within and hold a grudge against that person? Do you deny your feelings and let the hurt get buried in your subconscious? What is the Christian thing to do in this situation? Do we put up with the abusive and bullying personalities? What does the gospel instruct us to do? I think many of us know the answer to this question.

In Matthew 18:15a, the Gospel tells us: "If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone." This famous passage goes on to tell us in further detail how to resolve conflicts within the Christian community. If you are sinned against, raise the issue! Don't just put up with it. Don't just ignore it. Don't just "accept" it. Rather, confront it, raise it, bring matters to a head. We do no one, least of all the offender, any favors if we just swallow our injury. Never make assumptions as to why a person acted in a certain way. Allow them to tell you.

Many of us seem to be under the misconception that Christians are called to be "doormats." Yes, treat others as you would like to be treated, but you certainly don't have to "like everybody" nor have "everybody like you." If we are hurting someone, don't we want others to bring it to our attention so that we can change our behavior? Some will say "no" because they don't want to deal with confrontation or discomfort.

The Christian way of approaching someone who has offended us is not to be rude, insulting or uncharitable, but to state our feelings in an honest, diplomatic, compassionate but forceful way to correct the problem. It is then up to us to reflect seriously and with humility on the validity of the correction and respond to it maturely. I repeat: we do no one a favor by looking the other way and enabling bad behavior. No one does us a favor by ignoring our own bad behavior. Our faith is one that requires boldness, courage, and frankness, not the dysfunctional denial that we feel most comfortable with in so many settings. In other words, the gospel prescribes Christian assertiveness. It is not necessary to beat the person over the head with criticism, but be as clear as you can in stating your concern and the consequences of the inappropriate behavior.

We should always pray for those who have hurt us. The prayers will heal the gap that exists between us and draw both of us closer to God.

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