Doormat theology is the term used when referring to the belief that Christians should be totally submissive – never raising a hand in violence for any reason, and not defending themselves against verbal or physical abuse. Most people, in this age, would call that “being a doormat” for people to walk on, thus the term “doormat theology.”
Was Jesus a doormat?
Jesus did ultimately allow Himself to be captured, mocked, tortured and killed, but that was for a very good reason. He came to this earth to die for our sins – so that is a unique situation. That does not mean He was a doormat. Let us not forget how He ran the moneychangers out of the temple when they were being disrespectful to the House of God. He was very assertive in doing the right thing. He knew He was in the right, and so He did what He needed to do. So perhaps Jesus would be an advocate of doing the right thing, whether that means being totally submissive or using violence to defend yourself or someone else. The situation would determine what we should do.
Let’s look at the Old Testament saints. Were they doormats?
Well now, let’s consider David for a moment. We all know who David was; he was the hero child who killed the big giant, Goliath. David did not like the way the giant mocked his people and their God, so he slew the giant. There is no way we can call David a doormat. He later on became a King. He was a hero to his people – but never a doormat.
How about Samson? He was a tremendously strong man, who fought many men – and won. He certainly was not a doormat. He was a fighter for what he believed in.
Were the New Testament apostles doormats?
Let’s look at the apostle Paul for a moment. In 2 Corinthians 11:24-28 it says Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.
Wow, Paul sure suffered a lot of abuse, didn’t he? But, that does not mean he was a doormat. After his conversion he lived his life for Christ. He gladly suffered humiliation, hunger and torture for the opportunity to share the gospel with others. It doesn’t say in the above scripture, or any other scripture that Paul did anything to defend himself when he was assaulted. By today’s standards he may certainly qualify as a doormat, but I personally don’t like the term “doormat theology”, and the reason being, it totally puts a negative slant on doing the right thing. I prefer to think that Paul’s behavior was appropriate for one having “good theology.”
Let’s look at the apostle Peter. Was he a doormat? The book of Acts mentions Peter being mocked, harassed, flogged and imprisoned – and according to legend he was eventually crucified upside-down. Why upside-down? He allegedly said he was not good enough to be crucified like his Savior. There is no record of him trying to escape these extremely bad situations, but like Paul, he felt that it was an honor to suffer for Christ. He wanted to tell others about his Savior.
Does God want us to be walked on by the world?
I don’t believe God wants us to let people walk on us. I believe we should counter hate with love, violence with self-defense, but not to the extent of agressive violence.
I believe we should demonstrate forgiveness and love. If we are consistent with this approach I believe we can gain respect from most people, rather than having them walk on us. Mat 5:44 says, but I say to you, love your enemies; bless those cursing you, do well to those hating you; and pray for those abusing and persecuting you…
So, taking all the above into consideration, what then should we do, as Christians, when a wrong is done to us, or someone around us?
I believe the apostle Paul had the right answer for us. In Romans 12:19,20 he said 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.” No, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink; for by doing so you will heap burning coals upon his head.” So, let’s leave the vengeance to God; He knows how to dispense it justly.
I do believe it is entirely appropriate to defend oneself or someone else if necessary, but only if we absolutely have to. It is always preferable to walk away, and pray for the offender if possible. Sure, we may be laughed at, and possibly called a doormat, but Christians should always be willing to do what brings glory to the name of Christ. We should be loving and kind. We should demonstrate forgiveness to the rest of the world.
Getting back to the apostles, Paul and Peter, for a moment, and also let’s refer back to Jesus allowing Himself to be captured, mocked, beaten and crucified. We must understand there was a greater purpose involved in those cases. Their submissiveness was for the glory of God. Jesus needed to die for our sins, that certainly was a noble reason to be submissive, and the apostles were submissive so the gospel could be further preached and more people would learn about the glorious Gospel of God’s Grace. If we can glorify God by being submissive then submissive we should be, but if we need to make a stand to better serve the cause of Christ then we should do that – no matter what the cost.
So what is the final word on the subject?
In each case we should do what best glorifies God. That’s just “good theology.”