Hard Expectations

It’s Narcissist Friday!

Jesus said that His burden was “light” and “easy.” You wouldn’t know it by the expectations some preachers lay on their listeners. Jesus also said that the truth would set us free. Yet, we come out of some church services in chains. It isn’t difficult for some teachers to make the Christian life difficult. All it takes is a low estimation of God and a willingness to twist the Scriptures.

Some people have the idea that personal and relationship boundaries are unscriptural. Wives are supposed to submit to their husbands, women to the men of the church, employees to their bosses, church members to church leaders. If these “authorities” misuse their positions, they are still to be obeyed. Boundaries are just an excuse for disobedience, they say.

So, they bring out those challenging texts. Turn the other cheek; give up your cloak; go the extra mile. Yes, they say, it may be abusive, but you are called to take it willingly. Suffering, they say, will make you more spiritual.

As my kids would say: “Yeah, no!” Something is wrong in this. Abusers might use these texts to manipulate their victims, but that is not the point of the Scriptures.

You see, there is a key point that seems to be missed here. These actions are forced, clearly abusive. “Whoever slaps you.” When anyone sues you. “Whoever compels you.” There is no choice in this. These are abusive situations.

Sometimes you have no choice. Some wives suffer physical abuse at the hands of their husbands. Some employees are manipulated and controlled into difficult situations. There is nothing here about a way of escape or a way to avoid the abuse. No admonition to stay in and take it. There is only a recognition that there are times when you and I have no choice.

When we are abused and can’t leave, we still have the ability to be strong in ourselves. We can choose not to fight, not to cringe, not to become angry. I once knew a man who said that no one could steal from him because he would simply give the item to the person. In other words, he chose to define and control the situation his way. To be honest, I would find that difficult, but it worked for him.

I have been in many situations where lies have been told about me. Rather than run around defending myself, I have often been content letting others draw their own opinions. Those who lie about me are free to tell more lies. I couldn’t control what they did to me, but I could control (or attempt to control) how I felt about it.

So, if someone abuses you physically—and you can’t get away—find the special peace from Jesus to turn the other cheek. That doesn’t mean that you invite more abuse, but that you yield your heart and responses to the Lord who loves you. No, not easy. Not at all.

My point here is not to suggest an “easy” way to deal with abuse. My point is to show that these passages are not about prohibiting boundaries. The presence and activity of abusers in our lives does not mean we can’t set and maintain boundaries—when we are able.

One more Scripture should be mentioned here. Some teachers will use the example of the couple in Acts 5 who failed to give all their money to the church. They died as a result of their selfishness, these teachers say. But, again, that isn’t the point of the story at all. They were free to give what they wanted to give, according to the plan (or boundaries) they had set. Their problem was that they lied about what they gave in order to appear more spiritual. When the Holy Spirit revealed their lie, they died of shock.

Boundaries are part of the Lord’s will for believers. Those who try to break through those boundaries, even if they are using Scripture to argue the point, are dangerous or abusive.


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2 responses to “Hard Expectations

  1. Steve Tompkins

    Good clarification and explanation on Scripture passages abusers use to break through our boundaries! I really appreciate you writing this blog, Pastor Dave. Thx!

  2. cheriden

    Interesting read!

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