In my previous post entitled “No Flinching” I suggested, “Leaders can’t afford to lose curiosity and care any more than they can afford to lose control.” An exaggerated, as opposed to an appropriate, orientation toward self-protection means that we see the majority of the words, deeds, and decisions of others as attacks. This exaggerated orientation isolates leaders, keeps them on edge, and limits their opportunities to listen and learn about other people in their organization.
Pragmatically, that seems to offer plenty of warrant to master the art of not flinching. Christians can’t simply lean back on what works. God doesn’t always ask us to be effective, but he does ask that we always be faithful. So, where might we find the theological resources to be faithful by “not flinching”?
There is no recipe for living the Christian life (see my post entitled “Life…Your Own Personal Mystery Basket”). There are plenty of instances in Scripture in which we see individuals respond, challenge, etc. There is a place for response and even for righteous anger. Not flinching isn’t a call to be abused or to become a doormat. Instead, not flinching is really about recognizing that (1) God sustains us and cares for us even beyond death (in Christ he conquered death) and (2) sustaining ourselves, our reputation, and our security is subsumed under our desire to love others.
Not flinching isn’t a universal practice applicable to any situation…it’s one viable option for us that is grounded in particular realities the Scriptures reveal about who God is and who we are because of it. Christians have a unique theological empowerment on which to drawn in order to keep from viewing every action of others as a threat. Instead, we view our interactions with others as opportunities to showcase who God is.
Note the following:
Saul’s Pursuit of David- After being named king by God through Samuel, David has a rather long, difficult road to the Israelite throne. While David appears to have both the ability and opportunity to take the throne by killing of Saul at a number of points, David decides to wait for God to put him on the throne.
David is portrayed as avoiding or being dissuaded from acts against Israel and its people that would make it appear that his militaristic prowess or own political maneuvering got him the crown. David’s restraint demonstrates the sustaining, protective, sustaining character of the Lord: “He will guard the feet of his faithful ones, but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness, for not by might shall a man prevail” (1 Samuel 2:9).
The Model of Christ– In his first letter, Peter writes the following:
“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:21-23).
Peter points out that suffering for doing good is “gracious in God’s sight.” Part of our Christian repertoire needs to be the willingness to take what someone gives and not give it back in return. Even if others act as if we are not made in God’s image, we can respond knowing that they (and we!) are.
Rather than putting ourselves in a defensive position, we have the theological resources to remain open despite the risks knowing that, even if we are threatened or harmed, God judges justly. In other words, Christians need not be a flinching people. We are empowered to remain open to others entrusting ourselves to the just judge and risking suffering and absorbing insult without offering it in return.
The Resurrection– When it comes right down to it, probably the best theological rationale for not flinching, not being threatened by what others do or say, is the resurrection. God won. He always wins and will always win. When we are united to him, we don’t need to feel threatened by anything.
We probably still will feel threatened at certain points (we are not perfect), but we must always realize that we are on the side of the victor and that God has ushered us into a new realm that operates with resources unavailable to earthly kingdoms. There is no need to feel threatened because there is no ultimate threat.
While “not flinching” may have application to the way friends or spouses relate, my thinking on the matter would not necessarily extend to contexts of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse. Such instances, in my estimation, would require a more targeted treatment than I’ve offered here because they have uniquely painful and dangerous complexities that differ from more general contexts of leadership. In other words, I don’t believe that this theological reflection would in any way require someone in an abusive relationship to suffer in silence, to empathize with their abuser, or to remain in a situation in which they are being abused.
In the end, as Christians, we don’t have to respond defensively or with violence (physical or otherwise). Instead, we have the theological resources to set aside our own anger and fear and to navigate challenging situations lovingly and graciously even when others have hurt us.
Not flinching means that we don’t view everything that comes at us as a threat. Our lives are to be given away and it should be no surprise to us that following Christ will not be without discomfort and distress. Even in those time when we need to protect ourselves or step away from a situation, we can do so with gentleness and humility modeling our Savior and testifying to a those who watch us that we no longer inhabit this world, but are part of a new order.