Being a Doormat for Jesus (Matthew 5:38-42)
Topic: One Truth: Walk in Truth Passage: Matthew 5:38–5:42
Being a Doormat for Jesus
(One Truth: Walk in Truth)
January 6th, 2019
I. The Purpose of a Doormat
Think for a moment about the purpose of a doormat.
The purpose of a doormat is not to look pretty in front of your door (although some people buy one for that exact reason). No, the purpose of a doormat is for people to walk on it, right? Why? In the hope it will affect their soles; you know...the bottom of their shoes; specifically, in the hope it will clean them up, so dirt and grime are not tracked across the floor of your home.
So with that image in mind, think for a minute about being a doormat for Jesus.
You might think, “Being a doormat for Jesus? I don't remember Christ saying anything about being a doormat.” Well, if you thought that, you'd be correct. Jesus didn't use that exact language. I chose those words. But I chose those words because I think they express, in more modern, more familiar terms, the very thing Jesus expressed in Matthew 5:38-42.
If you haven't already turned there, would you look with me at Matthew, chapter 5, vs. 38-42.
II. The Passage: "Turn to Him the Other Also" (5:38-42)
Before we consider these verses, let me briefly remind you that this passage is part of a large block of teaching we're calling the 'mountain message' of Jesus. This teaching block covers all of Matthew chapters 5, 6, and 7. And as we've talked about in past sessions, this message was given to his students, to followers, to disciples of Jesus, in order to describe for them what we might call “kingdom righteousness”. How should we live in light of King Jesus and God's good and gracious reign? What does that good path look like?
Well, this is exactly what Jesus has been detailing for us, beginning in 5:21. Listen as Christ continues here with another lesson. Look at verse 38...
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’  But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.  And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.  And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.  Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you."
So here's my assertion: I believe when most of us, when most people today hear these words, they hear Jesus describing someone who's a doormat, that is, someone who is allowing others to walk all over them; to take advantage of them; someone who is too afraid or too tired or too demoralized to say “no” or push back.
Is that what Jesus is recommending here? Well, not really. But... he's still talking about being a doormat. But he's talking about being a kingdom 'doormat'. Remember, we're asking what does it mean to be a “doormat FOR Jesus”. Let's take a closer look at these verses in order to answer that question.
1. Specific Setting (vs. 39-42)
When it comes to being a doormat for Jesus, the first question, a critical question, is this: what is the specific setting Jesus has in mind here? When does this teaching apply? When does it not apply?
The subheading for this section in the ESV simply says, “Retaliation”. Now, that word may work with the first half of this passage. But look at all of the situations Jesus describes for us in verses 39-42: an insulting slap across the face, a lawsuit to take your tunic, pressure to travel further, the plea of a beggar, and the request of a borrower.
Those examples are broader than just the idea of retaliation. No, all of these situations are about your response to someone taking something from you: taking your honor, taking your basic necessities, taking your time and energy, taking your money. And you may have noticed that Jesus moves from, in one sense, severe to mundane, or painful to least painful. It begins with the backhanded slap of verse 39 and ends with the borrower's request in verse 42.
But please understand this: when Jesus says in verse 39, “Do not resist the one who is evil”, he is not making an absolute statement about any and every situation. He may be talking about being a doormat, but he is not talking to the abused wife, telling her to grin and bear it. He's not talking to the police officer, instructing him to ignore criminal activity. He's not talking to the civic leader, or the military general, or the employee who's discovered fraud or exploitation, deciding if she should be a 'whistle blower'.
No, Jesus is talking to individuals in light of personal encounters with those we might label 'takers'. To be clear, all of know 'takers', and all of us have been and can be 'takers'. Jesus may have spoken these words 2000 years ago, but he's speaking to your everyday:
When your spouse tries to take your joy with their criticisms and naysaying.
When a self-involved person tries to take your time with their own agenda.
When a neighbor tries to take advantage of your offer to 'lend a hand'.
When a coworker tries to take advantage of your scheduled days off.
When a friend wants to take another loan from the “First Bank of You”.
When a disgruntled associate takes potshots at your reputation via social media.
When a brother or sister wants to take you away from your down time.
When someone in need is looking to take whatever you can offer.
These are the kinds of situations Jesus has in mind here.
2. Familiar Feelings (v. 38)
But if we back up to the first verse in this passage, to verse 38, we see recognize that Jesus is confronting the familiar feelings that so often accompany these kinds of situations.
Look again at verse 38: “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’”
Now that sounds more like it, right!? Jesus is quoting here a dictum found in three books of the OT Law, in Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy. The phrase embodies a principle that was intended to guide judges in Israel, specifically in light of what we would call retributive or proportionate justice. To sum up this principle, we say, “the punishment should fit the crime”.
But when it comes to personal insults and loss, we fall back to this same principle, right? Playing judge and giving people what they deserve feels good, doesn't it? Tit for tat. Retaliation. Payback. And because it seems equitable, because it seems fair, we often think we're in the right. “Well, you didn't hear what she said to me.... Did you see how he was acting?... He had it coming to him... I wasn't going to let her get away with that.”
Of course the word deserve also factors into how we think about those in need. “Well, unless he's willing to work, he doesn't deserve any help... If she really wanted my help, she'd have a better attitude.”
Our world says (and our flesh often agrees): “Don't let people walk all over you. Don't let them take advantage of you. Don't be a doormat. Stand up for yourself. Assert your rights.” But what does Jesus say?
3. Radical Response (vs. 39-42)
Well, we've already seen what Jesus says:
“...if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.  And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.  And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.  Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you."
Notice that when Jesus talks about being a doormat, he is not simply saying 'let takers take'. No, this is what he's saying: “when people look to take advantage of you, you take advantage of that opportunity and give even more. To those who are all about taking, be all about giving.”
Brothers and sisters, in one sense, this outlook is not new with Jesus. Proverbs 24:29 says, Do not say, “I will do to him as he has done to me; I will pay the man back for what he has done.” Smilarly, Proverbs 20:22 states, Do not say, “I will repay evil”; wait for the LORD, and he will deliver you.
The Apostle Paul picks up on this teaching from Jesus and also uses the book of Proverbs to make his point in Romans 12:17-21...
Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.  If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.  Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”  To the contrary, (quoting Pr. 25:21, 22) “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
What's the purpose of a doormat? The purpose of a doormat is for people to walk on it, in the hope it will affect their soles. The same is true for you, if you are His disciple. Being a doormat for Jesus means allowing people to 'walk over you' in the hope you will affect their soul; that when their insults are met with kindness, they would be affected; that when their grabbing and grasping is met with generosity, they would be affected; that when their pressure is met with willingness and cheerfulness, they would be affected.
In situations like these, I don't need to protect my honor, or my time, or my possessions with a worldly mindset of fear or pride or fairness. Yes, not responding in kind to someone who spits in your face will often be perceived as a sign of weakness, of cowardice. But for the disciple of Jesus, it is a sign of faith, of humility, of kingdom-mindedness. Why? Because it means taking advantage of those looking to taking advantage of you, but doing so for the sake of kingdom gain, not worldly gain.
Real strength, real courage is trusting God to protect us, as we give everything for his transformative, but counter-intuitive kingdom agenda.
Now, let me reiterate: being a doormat for Jesus also requires discernment; gobs of discernment. We need the wisdom that God's word and God's Spirit make available to us. Why? Because we are looking to persuade sinners, not enable them. We are looking to highlight God's grace, not minimize another's sin. Jesus is not talking about ignoring sin or giving thoughtlessly. That's not what it means to be a doormat for Jesus.
III. “Behold, the Doormat of God”
If you really want a powerful example of what it means to be a doormat for Jesus, if you really want to see what this looks like, embodied, then look no further than the One who spoke these very words. Jesus Christ practice what he preached. Throughout his ministry he bore with the slights and the offenses and the lies of others. As Paul would later say in Romans 15, quoting Psalm 69: For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: "The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me." [Romans 15:3]
But as Peter explains in his first letter, When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. (I Peter 2:23). Jesus lived out the very principle he prescribes here in Matthew 5. And yet, it was at the end of his earthly ministry that we see the ultimate embodiment of this 'doormat directive'.
In His suffering before the cross, and his suffering on the cross, Jesus allowed sinners to walk all over him. Why? That souls might be radically affected; that we might enter into the presence of God, into a relationship with God, with the filth of sin removed; that we might be purified by his blood.
You see, according to Matthew 26:67 and 27:30 sinners like us struck Jesus across the face. How did he respond? Amazingly, He not only offered his other cheek, but his head, hands, feet, side, lungs, and blood as well. Again, continuing what Peter wrote in chapter 2 of his first letter: He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. (I Peter 2:24)
Eye for an eye. Tooth for a tooth. Life for a life. On the cross, Jesus satisfied the justice of God for us.
In the same way, it was sinners like us who, according to Matthew 27:35, took his garments as well. There was not lawsuit involved. They simply took them and gambled them away. How did Jesus respond? Amazingly, He gave sinners like us, for any who would trust in Him, a new robe, made of his own righteousness.
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands... (Revelation 7:9)
In the same way, the Gospels tell us that sinners like us “led him away to crucify him” (Matthew 27:31), and that “he went out, bearing his own cross” (John 19:17). How did he respond? Amazingly, He went the 'extra mile' in a way no one could imagine. He walked right into the fiery center of God's wrath against your sin, against my sin, and he allowed it to consume him. Like a doormat, he bore the weight, as the Father's justice pressed down on him. Again, he did that for us.
Therefore, even today, amazingly, with sinners like us, he give[s] to the one who begs from [him], and do[es] not refuse the one who would borrow from [him]. Jesus gives forgiveness, and freedom, and forever with God to any who trust in him and his incomparable work. And so John the Baptizer, could have easily said instead, in John 1, “Behold, the doormat of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (1:29)
Brothers and sisters, there is only one way that sinners like us can 'turn the other cheek' (again, that's not simply holding back or being non-responsive; that's responding to selfish grasping with selfless grace, with generosity). There's only one way that kind of life is possible. A man or woman, a young man or young woman, a boy or girl must be transformed by what Jesus did for sinners like us.
The person who would allow others to walk over them like a doormat, with any eye to God's glory and the offender's eternal good, is a person who confesses in repentance and faith, “Jesus Christ was a doormat for me, crushed under the weight of my own sin”. It's in embracing the fact the Jesus was a doormat for me that I'm inspired to be a doormat for Jesus. And I strive to be a doormat for Jesus so that others can see the 'doormat of God', so others can see the compassionate, patient, forgiving, generous grace of Jesus Christ thru me.
To become defensive when demeaned, to become incensed when insulted, to push back when shoved, to attack when attacked, to criticize when criticized... these are not demonstrations of strength. They are expressions of faith misplaced, trusting in our own wisdom instead of God's ways. But instead of seeing an opportunity to get even, God wants us to see an opportunity to give grace, to show grace, his grace, to the offender.
Would you allow God to humble you this morning in light of the grace he gives to offenders like us? Would you confess the ways you've walked over others, would you acknowledge that Jesus was crushed under the weight of your sin, and embrace the forgiveness, freedom, and forever Jesus makes possible? And would you then allow Him to shine through you, as you bear under the sins of the 'takers', praying for them, that they would see His grace through your grace. Let's pray together and ask him to do that very thing.