How nice do we have to be?
How nice should a Christian be and how nice is too nice? This seems to be a very difficult question for people to answer. On one hand there are people who don’t think we should take any kind of bad treatment from anyone. They believe we should come at all offenders with both barrels blazing and do what we have to do to protect ourselves and get what we want in this world. On the other end of the spectrum are the people who think we should be pacifists and take whatever happens to us with a smile on our faces. I believe that the answer is somewhere in between.
We don’t need to say too much about the first response. Meeting anger with anger, and offense with offense is the normal, natural way that the unregenerated (unconverted) human being responds. It’s worldly, its not Christian, and its wrong. An angry response never solves a problem, where as a kind, gentle response has the possibility of smoothing things over.
Proverbs 15:1-A gentle answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger.
But how “gentle” do we need to be? Should we just stand there and allow people to abuse us? The pacifists think so.
The most common verses touted by the pacifists have to be Matthew 5:38-40:
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.
and Luke 6:21:
27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you..
However, I don’t believe that these verses are telling us that we are to tolerate being used and abused by people in general. I think Jesus was instructing his disciples in what to do when they are confronted and harassed by people while they are out preaching the gospel. He was telling them not to respond in anger and retaliation as human beings are most likely to do in these situations. Instead, they were to respond in love, thus setting a good example as a Christian and glorifying God. They were to be willing to suffer for their faith. 1 Peter 3:8-15
8 Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. 9 Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. 10 For,
“Whoever would love life
and see good days
must keep their tongue from evil
and their lips from deceitful speech.
11 They must turn from evil and do good;
they must seek peace and pursue it.
12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous
and his ears are attentive to their prayer,
but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
13 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” 15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,…
Clearly these verses are talking about them suffering for doing the good of preaching the gospel. But what if you are being used or abused for a reason not related to your faith? Do these verses apply? I believe they do…to a point.
Human nature gets angry when offended
First, lets admit that it is typical of self-centered human nature to get angry over any and all slights or offenses. Our first instinct is to respond with anger, and for some, that will extend into some kind of retaliation. For instance, you go outside to find your new neighbor’s dog digging up your flowerbed. You become angry that the neighbor is not respecting your property and is not being a responsible pet owner, so you go to his house, bang on the door, and start yelling about the situation. He in turn gets upset, and the situation escalates into a shouting match. The new neighbor now dislikes you and certainly isn’t going to want to hear anything about your faith from you. If he finds out you consider yourself to be a Christian, he will probably just think you are yet another hypocrite. Not a good situation.
It would have been much better to handle things in a calmer, kinder manner. You go next door, knock on the door, smile and introduce yourself and welcome them to the neighborhood…and then inform them that their dog is tearing up your flower bed. You may even find that your neighbor might not even be aware that their dog is outside, let alone in your yard. Or maybe the dog was tied out in the neighbor’s yard and got loose. Who knows? In any case, if you handle this in a more Christian manner the neighbor isn’t going to feel attacked or offended, and you haven’t made an enemy or made Christianity and Christ look bad. Your gentle approach saved an ugly scene from occurring.
Better to not get offended at all
So, I agree that we should approach every slight and potential offense with a Christian attitude. More importantly, we should learn not to take offense so easily (or at all) in the first place. How many enemies have been made, and wars fought, over silly or even, imagined, offenses? In many cases, Christians just need to learn to forgive people for being human and making a mistake, and move on.
Sometimes the problem must be stopped
However, there are times when a Christian needs to do something about a situation. For instance, I in no way think that an abused person should stay in an abusive relationship. I also don’t think that loved ones who have drug or alcohol problems should be allowed to wreck another person’s life. I don’t believe a Christian has to tolerate consistent bad treatment from a “friend” or coworker. I don’t believe a Christian should give money to everyone that asks them, whether a relative, friend or an organization of some kind.
In other words, Christians are not obligated to take bad treatment from people on a consistent bases in the name of Christian love. It is not showing love to allow a person to beat you all the time. It is not love to allow your drug addicted adult child to lie and steal from you regularly. It is not showing love to allow irresponsible people to steal from you by asking for money that they never pay back, especially when you can’t afford to be giving it to them to begin with. God doesn’t expect us to tolerate consistent abuse in the name of Christian love. He does expect us to use discretion and wisdom.
Yes, we are to forgive, but that doesn’t mean you have to allow the person to keep hurting you. Forgive the person you thought was your “friend” for gossiping about you again, but think about whether or not you want to keep sharing confidences with them. Forgive your spouse for beating you, but get away from them and insist that they receive help before you even consider moving back into the house with them. Forgive your addicted relative, but don’t hand them any more money or put up with their stealing.
Putting up with abusive behavior from people is NOT showing love. After all, how is the person supposed to learn that they need to stop doing whatever they are doing if they never experience any negative consequences? Why would they stop if they are getting what they want? If a thief was stealing from people’s homes and all the victims refused to press charges, do you really believe he would stop robbing houses? If an employer knew an employee was skimming money from him, yet he refused to press charges, would the employee stop stealing? I really doubt it. Hard hearted, unconverted people need to experience consequences or they won’t stop. I don’t know, maybe there are some exceptions, and that is why I say you handle even these types of situations with kindness, but showing kindness doesn’t mean you allow people to get away with abusive behavior.
Allowing bad behavior is not showing love
Lets look at children for a minute. Most Christians love their children and would never allow them to get away with bad behaviors. They would teach them to do better by explaining why the behavior is inappropriate and then administering consequences. This way, the child learns why it is wrong and that they are better off not repeating the unwanted behavior because they don’t like the results. Why should we believe that unregenerated adults are any different?
Unregenerated human nature naturally uses other people
The fact is, unregenerated human nature is what it is, and people will take advantage of others if they can. We are living in a world of people who often just look at others as objects they can get things from. For a perfect example, look at all the scammers out there. You can’t get on the internet without running into them everywhere, especially on social media. Unregenerated human nature just naturally wants to use others for their own advantage.
I recently experienced something of this nature on Youtube. I had to stop watching a Youtube channel that I had been watching for a few years now. This person had said and done some things in the past that kind of made me wonder if I should be watching their channel, but I had kept watching against my better judgement. However, they recently crossed the line and I knew I had to go. Without giving too much detail, this person is on disability and doesn’t work. They recently started going on small excursions around their area, recording it live for the viewers to see. They quickly started hinting for help with the gas money for their car. People were enjoying these little trips, so they started donating a little money. Next, this person started talking about going to some local attractions, but complained about the price of admission, lunch, etc.. Yep, you guessed it, kind hearted viewers started donating money to pay for all of this. Just when you think it can’t get worse, this person announced they started a Gofundme page to raise money for a camper van so they could drive further away for these trips. They wanted what would be the equivalent of about $15,000! Of course they made it sound like this was all for the viewers benefit, not theirs. They said they wanted to take the viewers on longer trips and felt they needed a van to do that.
Let me say that I don’t know if I would call this person a scammer. I don’t believe they sat down and plotted out this plan to get people to pay for everything (I could be wrong), but they certainly were willing to take advantage of some kind people when they found out these people were willing to pay up. For them, it wasn’t that big of a stretch to figure out that people who rushed to pay for their gas, their meals and their admission fees would gladly pay for a camper van! Thankfully, they were wrong. In fact, some of the viewers got offended at the whole thing and, last I looked before the page was taken down, only one person had donated to the cause. But, do you see? People were trying to be nice and help this person out and were rewarded with being ask to donate thousands! That is especially sad because of the times we are in right now. The current world situation is causing a lot of financial stress on many people, yet this person wants $15,000 so they can go on trips and enjoy themselves. Unregenerated human nature. But some would have you believe that it would be loving to give this person your money. I disagree.
Another source of scams is the telephone. We receive several scam phone calls a day here in the United States and all of them want to get your money through dishonest means. Unregenerated human nature. In no way do I believe it is showing love to these people to allow them to scam you. So why should I believe that it’s love to allow an abusive coworker to abuse me, a spouse to beat me, or an addicted relative to use me and steal from me? In no way is that showing love.
Another example of unregenerate human nature using people for its own agenda concerns a relative that couldn’t find work in his chosen field. He was too proud to take a job he thought was below him, but, oddly enough, he had no problem going from relative to relative asking for money. Was it really a loving thing to hand this person money he didn’t earn when he was completely capable of getting a job ( there were plenty of jobs available), all because he was too proud to work but not too proud to take hand outs?
I don’t believe so. If he could get money for doing nothing, what motivation did he have to go get a job?
Lets look at an example in the Bible now. In this story, one of the churches had a male member that was having an inappropriate sexual relationship. Did the Apostle Paul tell everyone to just love this man and allow him to continue on with his behavior? No. He were his instructions:
This man was put out of the church and left for satan to discipline.
Lets look at another example from the Bible. Here is the story of Ananias and Sapphira. At this time, the church members were selling off their property and belongings to raise money to help those in the church who were in need. We pick up their story in Acts 5:1:
Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. 2 With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.
3 Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4 Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.”
5 When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. 6 Then some young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.
7 About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?”
“Yes,” she said, “that is the price.”
9 Peter said to her, “How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.”
10 At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband.
These two stole and then compounded the problem by lying about it. Did the church just love them and allow them to continue on with their selfish, dishonest behavior? Did God? Nope. The Apostle Peter confronted them and God killed them. So why should we believe that Christians should allow people to continue to hurt themselves and others with their bad behavior today?
So, should Christians be doormats? Should we just smile and take the abuse or hand over the money again and again and again? No! We are living in an evil world with many people who actively look for people they think they can take advantage of. Some people, strangers and loved ones alike, are trying all kinds of ways to get what they want from other people, at often great expense to the ones they are using. Are we obligated to go along with their plans in the name of love? Are we obligated in the name of Christianity to be harmed physically, emotionally and/or financially by these people, repeatedly, with no end in sight? No. Instead, I think we are obligated to always speak the truth in love. Love the person, be kind to the person, but speak the truth. Tell them what they are doing is unacceptable and you won’t tolerate it or participate in it. Help them get help if they are willing. Certainly pray for them. But don’t allow them to continue to use and abuse you, otherwise they will never learn that they need to stop doing what they are doing and they will not only continue to hurt you, but they will be hurting others as well (you are probably not their only victim). For their own sakes, as well as for yourself and others, love them by not being their doormat.