Meek, But Not A Doormat

Text: 1 Peter 2:21-25

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

It kind of sounds like Peter is telling us Christians to be pacifist doormats. You know what I am talking about. It sounds like in our reading from the Epistle of 1 Peter that Peter is telling us to become a bunch of doormats – passive defenseless Christians who allow people to wipe their dirty shoes all over us. Perhaps Peter is right; after all, Jesus taught you and me to turn the other cheek and to do good to those who hate us. 

Or, perhaps Peter was still feeling a bit guilty for that night in the Garden of Gethsemane when he drew his sword and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear. If you can recall, the night before Jesus was crucified, a group came to arrest Jesus in the garden, and Peter reacted with impulsive recklessness – setting out to attack the whole group. However, Jesus rebuked Peter telling him to put his sword back into its place. 

Regardless of Peter’s exact motives, the point still remains. It sure sounds like you and I are called to be a doormat – a small rug where people can wipe their dirty shoes on. Listen again to what Peter tells you and me in the Epistle Reading, 

“To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. . . . when they hurled insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made not threats.” 

Indeed, we are told to follow in the steps of Christ, not to retaliate, and not to make threats. But is this the same as being a doormat?  

Remember that same night when Peter cut off the ear of that man attempting to arrest Jesus? Well, that same night, Peter was sitting in the courtyard, and a servant girl came up to him and said, 

“You were with Jesus the Galilean.”

To which Peter denied it in front of everyone. 

Later, as he moved over to a gate, where two others saw him and said, 

           “This man was with Jesus…”

Again, Peter denied it with an oath. Shortly after, a rooster crowed, and Peter remembered what Jesus had said – that Peter would deny Jesus three times. And then, following this remembrance, Peter went away and cried and cried and cried.  

So obviously, from what we know about Peter, I don’t think we can conclude that Peter is telling you and me to be a weak doormat – someone who avoids danger, ignores injustice, and becomes an object of personal slight. And furthermore, from what we know about Jesus’ rebuke of Peter, we are not called to be a sword-bearing fanatical crusaders.  

Dear friends, unfortunately, much of our culture and even much of the church is like an unhinged pendulum swinging back and forth between the extremes. It seems that in some churches, Christians are encouraged to be a bunch of spineless and mousy doormats. Being a reed blowing in the wind is not seen as being a detriment but as a virtue. In these churches, Christians are taught to be overly agreeable with sappy sentiments of love while never drawing a sword and never standing for anything. Tragically, in these churches, that popular sentiment is true: 

“If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”   

However, perhaps what is equally tragic are the churches that swing in the other direction. You know, the churches that are quick to draw the sword – the kind of churches that put their trust in force, weapons, and power. In these churches, Christians are taught to be overly triggered, quick to retaliate, and disagreeable. Living by the sword is not seen as a detriment but as a virtue. In these churches, the words of Christ are true, 

“If you live by the sword, you will die by the sword.”

So, what’s the point, then? The reading from the Epistle of Peter is not stating that we Christians ought to go the way of, say – Winnie the Poo. To follow the example of Christ is not to be a good-natured, honey-loving Christian who is soft-spoken and timid. Furthermore, to follow the example of Christ is not to go the way of, say – Dwayne Johnson or John Cena. Following Christ's example is not to be a lethal weapon of force that runs through brick walls and demolishes one’s enemies with a swift kick or a Five Knuckle Shuffle.  

So, what is Peter saying to us today from the Epistle Reading?  

Your Jesus Christ, when they called him every name in the book, did not retaliate. Jesus was accused of being a deceiver, charged with having a demon, called a blasphemer, and accused of rebellious evil. And yet, He did not return an insult for an insult. 

Furthermore, when Jesus suffered injustice through His trial and crucifixion, He did not threaten punishment. He did not call down wrath from heaven. He did not call down legions of angels to destroy the whole world.  

And so, to the point, Jesus was not some cuddly Winnie the Poo honey bear – some weak, helpless, and spineless doormat. And furthermore, Jesus was not some unhinged power-hungry blockhead with a thirst for blood and revenge. But instead, Jesus was humble – he was meek. 

But do not let your mind misunderstand this. When the Bible talks about the meekness and humbleness of Christ, it does not mean mousy without a sword, but it means self-controlled and having spiritual composure. Dear friends, do not forget Jesus was not helpless on that cross. He could’ve called down legions of angels. Instead, though, being spiritually composed, He willingly chose the cross and endured the scorn. In a way, we could say, unlike Peter, Jesus kept his sword sheathed.  

And so, as a Christian, you are called to meekness – to accept opposition in this life, receive insults from this world, and endure irritations. You are not to quickly pull your sword from its sheath to return evil for evil, but you are to remain steadfast and firm. And furthermore, you are not to surrender your sword and roll over to become a doormat to everyone in this culture. Remember, Peter was condemned both for his irrational swinging of the sword and his cowardly denial of Jesus.     

Baptized Saints, you are to have spiritual composure in this life – immovable with a hand on your sheathed sword while standing with calmness.  

But how is this possible?  

Unfortunately, as previously mentioned, much of the world and even well-intentioned Christians will either rage at wickedness by swinging the sword returning evil for evil, or they will bow to wickedness by surrendering the sword, becoming a doormat, but not you. You see, you know this day that you have a Good Shepherd who is a guardian of your souls. And your Good Shepherd is not a weak-willed hired hand that ran at first sight of hungry wolves. But instead, He gave His life to protect and keep you as His very own. And so, if you have a Good Shepherd that guards your soul, what shall you fear?     

And that is the key. Because you have Christ, you shall not fear nor shall you be easily offended in this world of scorn.  

Baptized Saints, stand firm this day with spiritual composure – having your sword sheathed - for your Good Shepherd was raised from the dead and sat at the right hand of the Father with all power and authority. You belong to Him, and He is the protector of your soul.  

However, since we live in an often hostile world, do not be so na├»ve to think we should not be cautious with our lives. We must not assume that we are indestructible. Remember that Stephen was stone, Paul was beaten and left for dead, and the prophets of old were murdered. And so, if the money of a wallet could buy food or bribe a crooked gatekeeper to live another day, it was worth carrying. If having a bag could be used to secretly transport Paul’s letters from city to city, it was worth carrying. If having a sheathed sword could discourage an attacker, it was worth carrying. The same is true for you and me today, yet without fear and without forgetting that we have a Good Shepherd of our souls. (Luke 22:36)

You are to be wise as a serpent, knowing your surroundings and the threats of this life, while being innocent as a dove – perceived as harmless, while never forgetting the Gospel assurance that you have a Good Shepherd that guards your souls no matter what this life brings.  

In the name of Jesus. Amen.  

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