April 23, Sunday

REPOST Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought was first posted on February 14, 2016.

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“Letting Ourselves Used by Others”

Matt. 5:40-1

But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.

1 Tim. 2:4-5

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all . . . .

Here is a sobering thought for Valentine’s Day, a day reserved to celebrate significant others in our lives:  Have you ever been used by someone, especially those who are close to you?   It’s natural to expect care and concern from those who we think love us, but when we find out we have been used and disregarded, our spirits can sink to the dark depths due to the deeply cutting hurt we suffer (Gaylin, Feelings, 148-164). Former Columbia University psychiatry professor Willard Gaylin insightfully describes the feeling of being used when he writes, “The sense of being used . . . arises from the fear that the person dealing with us is not involved with us in emotional ties and affection—where there may be mutual use—but is simply using us as an instrument, a vehicle of his own purposes. We then are equated with the things in his life. We are signs of his needs, not of his affections.”

Sometimes the Bible calls on us to be used: although I doubt Jesus meant in Matthew 5:40-1 that we should let thieves steal whatever they want from us because we should never resist. (Hyperbole seems to be in play here.)  Nevertheless, Jesus conveys the message that sometimes doing good means letting ourselves be used by others for the glory of God.  Jesus should know:  while He let Judas to use Him to profit himself materially, Jesus allowed it to profit us spiritually. 

At other times, it is clear we should not let ourselves be used, especially if we are being abused or if the user needs to be admonished, due to concerns of justice or the spiritual health of the user, to stop his using others as unimportant instruments. For example, Paul gives instructions to the Thessalonian church not to just freely give resources to those who refuse to work, saying, “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat” (2 Thess. 3:10).

It is largely a matter of wisdom and prudence in deciding when we should let others use us and whether enough is enough. One last consideration: to those who have wrongfully used us, we must forgive, letting go of our hatred, anger, and resentment.  This can feel absurd to us: how can we just freely forgive those who have cut us so deeply and betrayed us so deceivingly? All I can say is that it is the life the Lord our God has called us to: He calls us to forgive and He will comfort us no matter the wounds.  On this Valentine’s Day, if you are harboring any resentment or bitterness toward your significant other, would release it to the Lord and forgive?  

Prayer: Lord, while I’ve never prayed, “Allow me be used,” it’s a sentiment You are all too familiar with.  You said to Israel, “The food I provided for you . . . you offered as fragrant incense before [male idols]” (Ez. 16:17-9).  While that made You feel indignant, You never ceased loving Israel.  Lord, be merciful to me if I do the same.  Help me never to use You for my own gain, but to be useful for your glory.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Malachi 1