Have you ever felt like a church was taking advantage of you? If I’m being honest, I have. When this happens, one common reaction is to justify leaving that specific church or even quitting church altogether. We get offended, and we walk away because we know God wouldn’t want people to take advantage of us, right? Jesus says in Matthew 5:39:
“But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.”
Thanks Jesus, I knew you would understand…wait a minute. To tell the truth, Jesus’ answer isn’t really what we would expect. He says, if someone takes advantage of you, let them continue doing it.
Please don’t get me wrong. If someone is physically or sexually abusing you, you should remove yourself from that situation. Jesus isn’t telling us to become doormats. Earlier in the same chapter, Jesus discusses two related issues: spreading the gospel and taking up offenses. He’s not making room for abuse, but instead He’s saying something very simple: love your enemies because that makes room for the gospel.
Shouldn’t we expect believers to act like believers? Yes, to an extent. However, there are people in the church who still don’t know the life-changing love of Christ. I know this because I was one of them. The moments I knew I was missing something were the times when true believers responded to my actions in love. If turning the cheek will help reveal God’s love to someone in darkness, do it.
There are also times when genuine believers act in the flesh and treat you in a way you don’t deserve. In that situation, look at Proverbs 27:17:
“Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another.”
Iron sharpening iron isn’t a gentle process. It’s not a smooth technique. If God allows a believer to take advantage of you, it’s probably a test. The body of Christ is perfect in its identity, but it’s far from perfect in its performance. God uses imperfect, stubborn people to check our hearts. As God molds our hearts toward believers in the church, He is preparing us to respond in love to unbelievers as well.
It’s not always wrong to leave a church, however, it matters why and how we leave. If we’re walking away because we’re offended or to get even, we’re leaving for the wrong reasons. In fact, leaving may cause us to miss what God wants to do in our hearts through that experience.