May 23, 2024
Jesus Wasn't A Doormat

Learn how you can take care of yourself by creating boundaries in which Christ exemplified.

By: 

Kayla Stroud

I hate to be the girl who brings up the enneagram1 . . . but I’m going to bring up the enneagram. I am an enneagram two wing one, meaning I’m a helper with strong perfectionist tendencies. This can make maintaining healthy boundaries extremely difficult for me. In my effort to genuinely care for others, my people-pleasing, self-martyring two-ness distracts me from caring for myself. 

Whether you’re a two or not, maintaining boundaries can be really hard, especially for Christians who strive to do the right and loving thing. We can mix up being selfless with giving too much. We might struggle to say “no” out of a desire to please or achieve. We often fear what may be lost when a line is drawn. In an effort to be more like Jesus, we see His kindness and sacrifice but forget one important detail: Jesus wasn’t a doormat. 

When we look at Jesus’ life, we have the opportunity to see not only all the amazing things He did for others, but also the things He did for His own well-being along the way. The Son of God became man to glorify His Father and redeem His people. In His humanness, Jesus wouldn’t have been able to accomplish such a mission without tending to His own health. In fact, He was further glorifying the Father by protecting the body and heart God gave Him. When I began to notice the care Jesus had for Himself, I realized I had permission to regard my own needs more highly.

So how exactly did Jesus set healthy boundaries?

  1. Jesus prioritized His human needs

Among the many things Jesus was good at, looking after Himself was high on the list. Wherever He went crowds of people followed, seeking something from Him—whether it be healing, teaching, or even confrontation. It’s important to notice that though He helped many, He didn’t give up His own needs to do so.

“But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” (Luke 5:16, NIV)

On numerous occasions Jesus takes time for Himself. People ask a lot of Him but He still makes space for His own needs. When He needs to be alone, He withdraws. When He needs to recenter, He takes time to pray. When He needs community, He takes time to dine and celebrate. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus appears to regard His mental and spiritual health with great value. 

“Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” (Mark 6:31)

Having sent the disciples out two by two, upon their return, Jesus tells them to retreat and rest. Not only did He prioritize His own care, but He encourages others to do the same for themselves. Jesus advocates for physical rest as much as spiritual. He recognizes that taking care of all aspects of Himself is just as important as (and actually crucial to) the mission He is on. 

  1. Jesus said “no” 

It’s often hard to know how to say “no” or remove yourself from an unhealthy situation. It’s a fine line to walk: loving and serving others well without doing so to the detriment of your own health or sanity. Jesus, however, was really good at this. 

“Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.” (Matt 21:27)

Jesus refused to give in to the traps or tricks of others. He stood His ground and only engaged in conflict as necessary. The Pharisees, determined to gather incriminating evidence against Jesus, ask Him by whose authority He is working. Perceiving their malintent, Jesus asks a question of His own about John’s baptism being of heaven or human origin. When the Pharisees can’t answer, Jesus refuses to answer their question. He indicates no need to prove Himself or give in to what others want from Him, but rather respectfully responds with only what is necessary for the situation.

But [Jesus] walked right through the crowd and went on his way.” (Luke 4:30)

Jesus not only said “no” with His words, but also with His actions. He removed Himself from situations that weren’t fruitful. After announcing Himself as the Son of Man in His hometown of Nazareth, He is accused of blasphemy and taken to be thrown off a cliff. In the face of this threat, because He knows it’s not the right time to confront that conflict, He chooses to walk away. 

  1. Jesus stood against wrongdoing

One of Jesus’ most quintessential traits was standing up against wrongdoing. He wasn’t afraid to speak out against people crossing the line. He guarded His heart and kept clear boundaries of what was and wasn’t okay with Him. 

“Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves.” (Matt 21:12)

I love this scene: Jesus actually flipping tables. He is enraged by the people buying and selling in the temple courts. They are disrespecting His Father’s house, so He puts His foot down. While this precise example may not be the best action to take in situations we face, we see that standing up for what’s right is an important part of maintaining boundaries. While we must be careful with our response to righteous anger towards injustice or wrongdoing, it may actually reveal to us what boundaries need to be set.

 “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” (Matt 16:23)

Jesus doesn’t hold back from calling out His own followers either. When Jesus predicts His death, Peter protests, convinced that such a thing couldn’t happen. Immediately Jesus turns and calls Peter out, refusing to be misled. Jesus wastes no time protecting His heart from anything that could pull Him away from God’s plan for Him. 

Setting (and keeping) firm boundaries in our own lives can seem harsh, even selfish, to others. But, as we see in Scripture, Jesus shows us that boundaries which guard our hearts and protect us from overextending ourselves are neither. In fact, such boundaries are crucial in becoming who God intends for us to be. 

Your boundaries may not always be met with open arms, but if someone doesn't respect or understand them, that is their responsibility. Your responsibility is to take care of the God-given vessel that is your mind, body, and soul. 

Why? 

Because you are precious to God and He wants you to be treated with value. When we create (and maintain!) healthy boundaries, we acknowledge this God-given value to ourselves and others. We affirm that we are worthy of care and send a message to others that we won’t settle for being treated any less than God’s dearly loved child. 

If we want to be more like Jesus, we must pick up on how He balanced His habit of caring for others with His self care habits. The next time you’re tempted to give beyond what’s good for you, remember Jesus wasn’t a doormat, so you don’t have to be either.

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1There are at least two schools of thought among Christians concerning the enneagram. Some view it as having questionable origins, believing it to be something Christians would do well to avoid. Others view the enneagram simply as a tool which has proven useful in better understanding their own and others' personalities and tendencies. I am of the latter opinion.