This post will be a bit of a ramble. The New Testament teaches that we are to deny ourselves, serve others, go the extra mile, turn the other cheek. Are these statements an invitation to be a doormat for Jesus? I don’t think so. There has got to be some tension here.
Even Jesus did not totally deny himself. For example, he had to get away from the crowd and be alone at times to re-charge (pray).
Jesus did not do all the serving himself. He taught his disciples and sent them out on mission – to share the load of responsibility with him. Even Jesus could not do it all.
We can observe incidences where Jesus was silent in response to ridicule, and other times where Jesus spoke his mind in reply.
I often see a weakness or misunderstanding here, with women in particular. I once had a friend who was becoming increasingly burned out and exhausted. In both her family and work life, she was unable to say no or speak up for herself when necessary. When I tried to encourage assertiveness and self-care, she essentially responded that my advice was un-Christian! I could not get through to her. It pained me to see her taken advantage of at work and bearing such a heavy load at home.
I’ve observed wives/mothers who do near everything for their family. Even if not employed outside the home, is this wise? A child who has everything done for them is not learning personal responsibility or life skills. Is sending a helpless 18-yr old into the world a good thing?
A mother who takes no time to re-charge and has no personal interests outside of her children – may actually create self-centered children who think the world revolves around them. After all, mom made them the center of the universe. Is sending a selfish, entitled 18-yr old into the world a good thing?
I am not a mother, but these general ideas apply to other relationships. I am a very independent person and dislike asking anyone for help, but this denies other people the privilege of serving me. Think about it.
If we all refuse to be served, then no one can actually emulate the example of Jesus to serve others! There is freedom and humility in acknowledging our limitations.
In all irony, our so-called selfless behavior may actually be selfish.
If we completely deny ourselves for the sake of others, we will end up exhausted, possibly even sick, and lose or lessen our ability to help others! Self-care and self-compassion is vital.
While we need to be cautious about “speaking our minds” – there are times that we must be assertive. A boundary is protective. We have the right of self-protection. At times it may be appropriate to quietly endure certain types of mistreatment for the sake of the gospel, but wisdom is needed here. It is never God’s will for you to be abused or victimized. If someone tells you that you must endure abuse – please, I implore you – do not listen to them! Get out. Seek help.
Charles Swindoll recently had a devotional that emphasized:
“God looks for people with a backbone.”
Yes, He does. But if we are exhausted and overwhelmed from all the self-denial and serving, we may not be able to stand for Jesus when we need to do so.
Related book review here: Good manners, niceness, passivity = godliness? The Myth of the Submissive Christian Woman.