“The commander ordered him to be brought into the barracks, and said that he should be examined under scourging, so that he might know why they shouted so against him. And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said to the centurion who stood by, ‘Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman, and uncondemned?’” (Acts 22:24-25).
How would you like to be a doormat? Doormats are there so that people can walk all over them and wipe the dirt of their feet on them. Does God want us to let other people treat us like doormats?
Jesus told us we should be willing to endure suffering from others: “But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two” (Matthew 5:38-41). Jesus was speaking about our not taking vengeance on those who harm us. In the prior verse, Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’” (Matthew 5:37). Instead of taking vengeance for ourselves upon our enemies, we should be willing to turn the other cheek, endure being sued, and go the 2nd mile.
However, does our not taking seeking to avenge ourselves mean we should let others treat us like doormats? A principle for us to consider is that all we say and do is to be done with the purpose of glorifying God (Matthew 5:13-16). While it is true as Christians we are told we will suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12), not all suffering from the hands of others glorifies God. Does a young Christian man bullied at school by others, glorify God? Does a wife who allows her husband to physically abuse her, glorify God? Is it wrong for such individuals to stand up for themselves and their rights?
Jesus kept silent and did not stand up for his rights as a citizen before those who were trying Him (Matthew 26:62-63; cf. Isaiah 5:37); yet, as the opening passage above shows, Paul did stand up for his rights as a Roman citizen in questioning those who were about to scourge him (Acts 22:25). Is there a contradiction here regarding whether or not we should stand up for our rights as citizens?
No there is not. Jesus knew He must suffer and die in order to glorify God. There was no other way for men to be saved that by His suffering on the cross. In order to accomplish this, He must be tried, convicted and put to death. This is why He kept silent. Ultimately, His keeping silent helped Him to achieve the goal of glorifying God by His death (John 12:23-26). Paul knew that his allowing himself to be beaten by the Roman authorities would not glorified God, but probably would have given those who opposed him even greater boldness to persecute Christians.
Paul was willing to die if his doing so would glorify God (cf. Acts 21:13). As it turns out because Paul stood up for his rights as a Roman citizen, Paul’s life was spared and Paul would go on to glorify God as he was able to preach the gospel to the Jewish Council (Acts 23:1-6), the governor Felix (Acts 24:1-25), King Agrippa (Acts 26:1-29), and even in Rome and among those of Caesar’s household (Acts 28:16-31; Philippians 4:22).
God doesn’t expect me to be a doormat, but He does want me to glorify Him. If I must endure persecution in order to glorify God, I will. But I realize it is not wrong for me to stand up for my rights against those who would bully me or abuse me. Today, in all my actions I will seek to glorify God!
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).