3 May 2012

Are you a victim?

It’s tempting to avoid accepting blame by calling ourselves ‘victims’. Watch any commercial break on daytime TV and you will be bombarded with adverts from people like InjuryLawyers4You, telling you that you could be a ‘victim’ deserving of thousands of pounds. It seems we are no longer clumsy or distracted – no, somebody else is always to blame! Read any newspaper and you will see public figures calling themselves ‘victims’ of pressure or ‘victims’ of addiction, rather than owning up to their sordid affair or drugs binge.

Of course, to some extent all of us are victims. Whether it’s a difficult family upbringing or a poor education, there will always be things that have affected who we are and how we now live. But the danger is when we make being a victim our identity. This is when we focus so much on how people or institutions have wronged us, that we become totally blind to our own failings. Rather than accepting some responsibility, it is far easier to keep on blaming others.

Jesus once told a story about two brothers who had a loving father. The younger brother, wishing his father would just die so he could get his inheritance, runs off with half the family wealth, and blows it all on wild parties and prostitutes. The older brother stays at home and is forced to bear the difficult burden of managing his father’s estate alone, and with half the money. Eventually, the younger brother realises his life is empty of meaning and will only lead to death, so he decides to return to his father, admit his guilt, and offer himself as a humble household servant. So he sets off, and whilst he is still on the horizon, his father sees him – and filled with compassion, he runs towards him, and embraces his long lost son!

The father refuses his offer to be a servant, and welcomes him back into the family home, and back into his inheritance – even though he’s already spent it all! He even holds a massive party for him, and everyone is invited!

We might expect Jesus to end the story here, as an example of God’s amazing love for anyone who would return to Him. But the story doesn’t end here! The older brother is angry. Really angry. He thinks that his father should have thrown him the party because of all his years of hard service. He thinks his brother, who stole from the family, should be given nothing. With our ‘victim mentality’ we may sympathise with the older brother, but he has forgotten one thing: the only reason he has anything is because of his father’s love for him, and not because he earned it. And so the story ends, with the younger son inside the party, found and forgiven, and the older son outside the party, bitter and angry, thinking his father still owes him.

Would you consider yourself an offender or a victim? Offenders are able to see their guilt of running away from God, and trying to live without him. Offenders are therefore able to return to God, ask for forgiveness, and be welcomed back into His family. God loves offenders! But if we see ourselves as victims, we will be so obsessed with our rights and what we are owed, that we become completely blind to our own guilt. We will totally fail to notice God’s loving kindness to us, and think salvation is something we are owed because of what we’ve done. The great news of Christianity is that Jesus welcomes all those who see their guilt – whoever you are, whatever you’ve done. But those who fail to accept their guilt will never turn to Jesus, and they will always be left outside the party. So are you an offender or a victim?

Andy Palmer