Content from this article is from the new book Love Like Jesus: How Jesus Loved People (and how you can love like Jesus). For more articles included in the book go to Love Like Jesus Book. Love Like Jesus is due to be published in February of 2020.
A Dormitory Door Mat
There are these two roommates Walter and Craig who live on the fifth floor of the Barnhart dormitory at the University of Oregon. Craig is on the football team. He’s pretty sure he’s one of the best athletes on campus. He’s really into his sport and his friends, like a lot of guys are during their college years. Two of his favorite hangouts are the weight room and wherever the current party happens to be. He’s a Grand Theft Auto and Madden NFL kind of guy.
But his roommate Walter is different. He’s kind of bookish, if you know what I mean. He’s a good student. He belongs to the college writing club. He’s watched all the Lord of the Rings movies multiple times—on Blue Ray. He’s an English major but he’s taking a physics class, just for fun. He’s more of a Minecraft kind of a guy.
Well one day Craig has a chance to move into an apartment off campus. The day the apartment comes open is the day before a home game, and he wants to move in right away so he can have a victory party after the game. He already invited a bunch of his friends. Getting people to come to his party was no problem. But getting people to help him move wasn’t working out. Not a single friend was available. So, even though he very much preferred not to, he asked Walter.
“Hey, I need you to help me move my stuff over to the apartment.”
“I’d like to but I can’t,” Walter said. “I have a midterm and a group project presentation tomorrow.” He also said yes to a request to give a presentation at his writer’s club right after the midterm. And his parents were arriving for a visit after writer’s club. But Walter was too embarrassed to disclose that to Craig.
“I don’t really see a problem,” Craig said. “I only need you for like, one hour.”
Walter didn’t respond but Craig could see the reluctance on his face.
“Come on Walter, don’t be selfish.”
For some reason every time Walter experienced a pang of guilt he thought of the dentist’s needle injecting lidocaine into his gums. Except instead of his gums, he imagined the needle penetrating his heart. And instead of pain followed by numbness, there was just pain. Craig had a knack for triggering that response in Walter. So did his dad. So did his mother. So did a lot of people.
And there was that word: selfish. A Christian can’t be selfish, can he?
“Okay,” Walter said, “I’ll do it.”
A full four and one half hours later, Craig let Walter go. On his way back to the dorm his phone rang. It was one of his group project partners, the only one in the group who was at all interested in helping with the project. At least until now. “Something came up,” he said. “I can’t do my part.”
Now the whole thing was up to Walter. He thought about letting the project fail, at least in part. He could present in a way that preserved his own grade. But that thought brought out the dentist’s syringe, the one filled with guilt. What would his dad think if he did that? What would his mother think? What would God think?
Have You Felt Like This?
Have you ever felt like Walter? I know I have. He’s trying so hard. He’s esteeming others higher than himself. He’s dying to himself. He’s denying himself, like he’s supposed to, right? he’s simply following Jesus’ words: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves…” And that’s what he’s doing, so he must be doing precisely what God desires for him–right? (Philippians 2:3, John 12:24, Luke 9:23)
Well you’re right, he is right–and he’s also wrong.
Of course he’s right to esteem others higher than himself. And he’s right to die to himself. And he’s right to deny himself. Jesus said, “…whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.” (Mark 10:42-44)
Then he said, “…even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)
We all know why Jesus came. He came to die and, to love like Jesus loved, so should we. As Bonhoeffer wrote in The Cost of Discipleship: we should die every day.
But here’s where he goes wrong. And here’s where I go wrong, and where you go wrong. We go wrong when we go from someone who serves like Jesus to someone who serves like a doormat. We go wrong and we become a pushover when we leave out the Holy Spirit. To see an example of someone who died to themselves and yet followed the leading of the Holy Spirit we have to look no further than Jesus Christ himself.
Jesus Christ, the one who “did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many,” did not die, until the Holy Spirit’s time for him to die came upon him. Think about it: Right after he was baptized by John, and having just received the Holy Spirit, Jesus went out into the wilderness where he fasted for forty days. There Satan came and tempted him three times. The third time they were on top of the highest part of the temple where Satan tried to persuade Jesus to throw himself down. But God didn’t want Jesus to die in Satan’s timing. So Jesus denied Satan’s request. (Luke 4:9-12)
Not long after that Jesus was teaching in the synagogue in his hometown of Nazareth. He read from Isaiah a messianic prophecy and explained that the scripture was referring to him, to Jesus. The people who heard that didn’t take it well. They were so offended, they were so outraged, they took Jesus to the edge of a cliff and attempted to throw him off. But God didn’t want Jesus to die in the people’s timing, so Jesus resisted. He muscled his way through the crowd, and he escaped. (Luke 4:28-30)
In his third year of public ministry, Jesus made the statement, “…before Abraham was born, I am!” He was referring to his own divinity. And when the Jews heard this, “…they picked up stones to stone him…” But God didn’t want Jesus to die in the timing of this group of Jews. So, “…Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.” (John 8:56-59)
The last unsuccessful attempt at killing Christ outside of God’s timing occurred one winter day when the Jews asked Jesus to tell them if he was the Messiah. At the end of his reply Jesus said, “I and the Father are one.” And that lit them up. They picked up stones to stone him, they tried to seize him, they tried to kill him. But God didn’t want Jesus to die in their timing, so Jesus “escaped their grasp.” (John 10:22-39)
How to Know When to Die
So, surprisingly, it’s okay for you to deny someone’s request, as Jesus denied Satan’s request. And it’s okay for you to resist and escape, as Jesus escaped. And it’s okay for you to hide yourself, as Jesus hid himself, and slipped away from the temple grounds. It’s okay.
You might be asking yourself right now, “But when? When is it okay? And how do I know when it’s okay to refuse a request, or resist a crowd, or hide? And we’re also supposed to die to ourselves, so how do I know when to do that? How do I know when to die?”
Did you ever notice not one single miracle from Jesus is found in the biblical record, until after he received God’s Holy Spirit? Jesus Christ made every decision not to die–as well as his final decision to die for us all–after he received the Holy Spirit. And that’s how it is for you and me. Without following the leading of God’s Holy Spirit, we’ll find ourselves trampled upon. We’ll find ourselves walked on. We’ll find ourselves dying to self but outside of God’s timing–and God doesn’t want that. (Luke 3:22)
You know God doesn’t want that because you know that Jesus refused requests, and resisted the crowd, and hid himself, and escaped. And you know that at the pool of Siloam there were many gathered there that needed healing, but he, the Son of God, the One through Whom all things were made, the One Who is the Light of all mankind, He didn’t serve them all, but only served one man with healing. And you even know Jesus didn’t rescue John the baptist when he was on death row. Jesus Himself didn’t serve everybody, but only served those who the Holy Spirit led him to serve. (John 9, Matthew Chapters 11 and 12)
So to love like Jesus we can’t just die at every opportunity. Because if Jesus only died when led by the Holy Spirit to die, if Jesus, only served when led by the Holy Spirit to serve, how much more do you and I need to die and serve only when led by the Holy Spirit to do so.
So the key to not letting that dentist’s needle inject guilt into our hearts, the key to breaking free from that guilt that can so easily plague us, the key to loving like Jesus is to ask for, and follow, the leading of God’s Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is the key.
And Jesus said if we being evil, know how to give good gifts, how much more will our Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask. Jesus also told us how to ask. He said if you want something from God, ask boldly, like the man who had the boldness to ask for loaves at midnight. He said to ask persistently, like the woman who persistently pestered the unrighteous judge. (Luke 11:5-13, Luke 18:1-8)
So ask. Ask God for His Holy Spirit every day. Ask ten times a day. Then listen to His leading and refuse requests, resist, hide, and escape according to that leading. And also die according to that leading. Take up your cross, deny yourself, and die to yourself according to the leading of God’s Holy Spirit.
That’s what Jesus did.
You can too.
Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.
“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
[HT Unborn Word of the Day, Crucifixion of Jesus was the Sixth and Final Attempt on His Life, March 11, 2008]
[Image via Tony Roberts – Creative Commons]
The illustration at the beginning of this blog post is a fictional account inspired by true events.
Coming in February of 2020:
Love Like Jesus: How Jesus Loved People (and how you can love like Jesus)
Love Like Jesus begins with the story of how after a life of regular church attendance and Bible study, Bennett was challenged by a pastor to study Jesus. That led to an obsessive seven year deep dive. After pouring over Jesus’ every interaction with another human being, he realized he was doing a much better job of studying Jesus’ words than he was following Jesus’ words and example. The honest and fearless revelations of Bennett’s own moral failures affirm he wrote this book for himself as much as for others.
Love Like Jesus examines a variety of stories, examples, and research, including:
- Specific examples of how Jesus communicated God’s love to others.
- How Jesus demonstrated all five of Gary Chapman’s love languages (and how you can too).
- The story of how Billy Graham extended Christ’s extraordinary love and grace toward a man who misrepresented Jesus to millions.
- How to respond to critics the way Jesus did.
- How to love unlovable people the way Jesus did.
- How to survive a life of loving like Jesus (or how not to become a Christian doormat).
- How Jesus didn’t love everyone the same (and why you shouldn’t either).
- How Jesus guarded his heart by taking care of himself–he even napped–and why you should do the same.
- How Jesus loved his betrayer Judas, even to the very end.
With genuine unfiltered honesty, Love Like Jesus, shows you how to live a life according to God’s definition of success: A life of loving God well, and loving the people around you well too.
A life of loving like Jesus.
(Kindle, hardcover, and paperback are scheduled to come out in 2020.)
Contact Me! If you have a question or even if you’d just like to say hi, I’d love to hear from you. Just send me an email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Thank you so much for this post! I was close to a breakdown because of some traumatic recent events and the preacher last week gave a sermon on how to be a Christian doormat and I was, well..totally confused and scared if I could take it anymore. True eye-opener 🙂 thanks so much Kurt 🙂
You’re welcome Fiona. Keep praying for the leading of our Father’s Holy Spirit. Pray for His Holy Spirit every day. Pray for His Holy Spirit three times a day! Keep praying and don’t lose heart!
oops, didn’t read fully…I am so used to the God haters freaking out against Christians online and my daughter almost got destroyed by this new ‘hypergrace’ twisting of the gospel, …so sorry Kurt. To agree with you….. every time we do something for someone else….its either time/energy /or money taken from another thing we could be doing/ministering to or tending to, and our health in all areas is also as important as all the other stuff; so I believe what you are saying is kin to: learn to prioritize wisely ( by the help of the HS) while every one and the entire world is tugging at your sleeve: I’ve been doing that pretty well for years…never had a problem asking God what to do and saying lots of ‘no’s’ in 48 years since Jesus came in my heart. I think you have to have a a vision to see through the sometimes complicated assessment process, be a deep thinker, and of course keep a keen ear for the Lords thoughts. Its basically just discernment and wisdom, the ability to ‘assess’ a big picture…not just be a ‘people pleaser’. I may take some flack for this next comment: but, its basically people with insecurity problems that have been rejected a lot on life that get pushed controlled and pressured to comply with ‘out of priority’ things. Put another way they ‘reflex’ wanting to be popular or wanting to avoid negative in the small picture from the ‘requester’. Another problem is ‘blanket assumptions’ many Christians think ‘the #1priority…always….only and forever : to send free checks to all the folks that are having trouble with the groceries, but the Bible is clear that IF ( not all cases OF COURSE, but millions none the less) a person is lazy and refuses to work, THEN : they don’t eat. WARNING:) deep comment to follow: Thereby to ‘legally vote’ to steal from ones struggling neighbor so you or others don’t have to work and can have nine free babies on y our neighbors back….( or to be too lazy to actually go to the free college… provided to the poor…in order to remove yourself as best you can from continuing to BE totally irresponsible and HAVING to take your struggling neighbors pay check) isn’t ok. People that enable that sort of thing to run rampant in any country are unwittingly hating the country and have zero balance in their view of the scriptures when assessing how they should be treating God. You see God cares about the middle class over burdened daddy TOO. Whenever people ‘attempt ‘ to help one person via the gov, they hurt something/someone else ( sometimes to ‘death’) , there are no free lunches…there have been suicides over men and women being crushed by tax burdens. Each family being destroyed these days…. and crushed by their paychecks being raped…hey God cares about them also and it can be big sin to ‘force hurt’ others that way. Don’t even get me started about the state of this country and the silent cowardly ‘Christians’ these days that arrogantly self righteously support those that are for the murder of little ones and insult God on his institution of marriage and align themselves with a party that boos God at their conventions supporting those that have boldly tried to remove Jesus from his own birthday & in every public forum and attack God for ‘sport’….half this country( self righteously) votes for these; frankly unbelievable. Then they go to church Sunday morning and sing and have zero feeling for the Jesus Christ they actually VOTE have bashed. ( not to mention the nationwide massive promotion of Islam ABOVE Christianity by our muslim president . The religious liberal secular humanist left is on ‘all out attack mode’ against Christianity in the USA….along with the famous statement… by the ‘anti Christ act alike’ Obamanation…that ” this is not a Christian nation’; coming from the muslim president himself that invaded Gods white house with the help of many so called ‘lovers ‘ of Jesus. Marin Luther King would be appalled and his niece IS appalled.
Great article! And you’re right, Lynn: I’ve been struggling with ‘yes’ to requests, but have gotten better lately. My angst (and the reason I found this article) is because I am being bullied at work (looked it up in Google, using the evidence I’m experiencing: it’s ‘passive-aggressive bullying’). One Christian coworker said ‘God has you here for a reason’ (meaning to minister to the God-hating, self-proclaimed person hating woman who is bullying me). I have spoken to her about the bible when appropriate and have tried my best to be kind, but the attitude and actions I’m getting are making my chest burn and I go home every day with a lump in my throat. To be clear, I have NO problem standing up for myself, but I don’t want to ‘let loose’, which I fear I may. I don’t fear losing this job, but I do want to be a good witness. And, until I can get myself out of here, I have to swallow what I really want to say. I did allude to the fact that I don’t trust myself to answer her when she’s in one of her moods (due to staying up too late with a boyfriend who mistreats her), and I think she got it for now, but I can tell this won’t change.
By the way, soon the wheat will be separated from the tares; take heart!
I’m sorry you’re in the very difficult situation you described. I’ve been there. When I wrote this I was writing to myself more than anyone else. But as your coworker said, maybe our God has a purpose in it. For whatever reason He put David in this situation, and Joseph, and Jesus too. And in each case abundant fruit came as a result. So, you’re in good company. You’re also in my prayers. Never give up. Keep trying to please God and keep trying to love like Jesus.
Kurt is confused, don’t listen to Kurt:) thinking Christians are door mats is a total twisting of scripture. Kurt is a bitter guy angry at God. that simple. I was born again at 8 in my bedroom alone, the first Christian in my family, now there are 45 of us. all bold happy healthy and tough as nails, none of us anything close to a door mat. Love being a Christian, …hope…. tons of joy …..energy and I don’t put up with demonic #%$@,…least of all Kurt’s hate for God and the bible. The God haters have gotten real bold these days, its boring.
I should not have judged the article prior to reading the entire thing, I have read it and want to say that it has merit and is a good article and Kurt is not a God hater, sorry.
No worries Lynn. I appreciate your comments and I’m especially glad that you shared about how 45 members of your family came to Christ! That is so encouraging to me! I pray our Father continues to bless you abundantly.
Your brother and co-laborer in Him,
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This is a great blog post Kurt, it really hit home. It’s so difficult sometimes to know when you are becoming a Christian doormat because the line is so fine. I’ve been a Christian doormat many times in my life and I know that it has caused me to grow weary in my ministry. I definitely need to ask the Holy Spirit to show me when I need to say no more often in my life.
Yes Peter, exactly! “…the line is so fine.” I pray our Father pours His Spirit out upon us to give us direction, to tell us when to die, and when not to. Thanks for your comment Peter and for all you do!
A Christian can’t be selfish, can he?:
Thank you–love the doormat picture.
This is so encouraging. Many struggle, as do I at times, wondering “Is this the moving of the Holy Spirit, or is it my flesh rising up and saying, ‘No, I’m NOT going to do that, or go there, or follow, or sit among them’, etc”.
Others, who have a difficult time saying “No, I’m sorry I can’t…” may over-extend themselves to the peril of their family, priorities, and be out of the will of the Holy Spirit. I’m reminded of a friend years ago who wanted my husband to sell him a car we had for sale. My husband said “no”; our friend said, “why not?” Days later someone else “gave” him a car. Point taken, Kurt!
Shouldn’t it be rightfully so that we follow His will for our individual paths while we’re here? Each of us are unique and called by His Name to be a peculiar person, for a peculiar gift, for a peculiar time, for a peculiar and purposeful end result. Yet, the enemy likes to covertly maneuver us into another avenue when we are on the our uniquely-ordained path already.
When I ask my Savior to be glorified in my thoughts, the work of my hands, the words of my mouth, and ordain my steps each day, I then must trust that He accomplishes that–that my day planner was already set-up by His Holiness, the Almighty. Indeed, Kurt, we must trust His leading and obey His Spirit. May He help each and everyone of us to “trust and obey”.
But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the Lord’s work, because you know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. (1Co 15:57-58)
“…a friend years ago who wanted my husband to sell him a car we had for sale. My husband said “no”; our friend said, “why not?” Days later someone else ‘gave’ him a car.”
I love that story! Mike was in tune with God’s Spirit that day.
Irene, you mentioned how each of us is to be uniquely used by our Father. It’s funny that you should write that because I’m reading a book right now called 10 People Every Christian Should Know by Warren Wiersbe and I’m amazed at the variety of theology found in God’s great men! (I should clarify though that they’re all in agreement on the majors) Thanks for sharing that.
And thanks for another great comment. I pray our God richly blesses you and MIke!