The Alphabet Soup Of Victim Groups
A hot-button topic around here has been the issue of victims, victimizers, and the churches that are left to deal with the wreckage. Culturally, there is a popular viewpoint that has gained a lot of steam over the last decade which wants us all to view people in terms of “victim-groups”. We see this vividly depicted in the fact that a decade ago we were usually only talking about Gays and/or Lesbians, whereas nowadays the discussion must include an alphabet soup of different groups who now form the LGBTQIAPK coalition.
The obvious reality is that people sin (and will continue to do so) in despicably horrendous ways against each other. Having spent time counseling folks, I have heard first-hand stories of the craters that sinful actions leave on those who have been ravaged by the selfishness of others. The question for Christians who are put in the position of helping to navigate folks biblically through such snarls, is: what is God’s purpose in this tragedy, and what is Satan’s aim in this tragedy?
God’s End In Suffering
We know, if we’re good confessional Christians, that the chief end of man, in all circumstances, is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. That’s how Westminster wonderfully frames it, drawing upon statements like this from John 17:3, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” True life (i.e. the chief end of man), is to know God & his Son; and to know God (in the sense spoken of here), results in glorifying God (Jer. 9:24).
We must not lose sight of this in the midst of dealing with those sinned against, and those who did the sinning.The goal for both the victim and the perpetrator is that they would glorify God and enjoy Him forever. The goal for both the victim and the perpetrator is that they would glorify God and enjoy Him forever. “Easier said than done,” the cynic in us might reply; but this does not change the aim of true Christian discipleship, which is largely what navigating the terrain of human suffering is.
Our goal is making disciples, which means the goalpost must not move in order to accommodate the frailty of someone who is hurting, nor to disbar from redemption the one who hurt. God saves sinners, and whether you are a victim or a perpetrator you fall into that bigger category of sinner in need of the Gospel.
Satan’s End in Suffering
Now, for the victim, we must not think that they are suddenly immune to temptation. In fact, as a result of the dark and hellish acts done to them, we should not be surprised that Satan’s end game is not only to bring harm to the victim physically and but also to damage them spiritually. His aim is to blind (2 Cor. 4:4), deceive (Rev. 20:10), accuse (Rev. 12:10), and to steal, kill, and destroy (Jn. 10:10) both the victim and the perpetrator. For the victim, the bait laid before them in their attempt to process and sort out what the heck happened to them, is to believe that now they are exempted from resisting temptation, confessing their sins, obeying the commands of Scripture to forgive, repent, and above all, continue to believe the Gospel.
It is telling that a common victim response to the violence done them is to be uncertain about what actually happened to them. Indeed, one of the dreadful consequences of abuse against them is that they blame themselves, change their story, blame others, in an attempt to sort out and explain what happened. This doesn’t mean they weren’t sinned against, but it means that pastors and fellow Christians need to be ready to help weather the storm of confusion that accompanies abuse, not by coddling untruths, but by directing the victim to the only stable source of truth there is: the Gospel of Christ.
Bitterness, lies, insecurities, unreasonable fears, anxiety, unforgiveness, and hatred are the fruit which Satan hopes to grow in the scorched earth of the tragedy. After a forest fire, it is remarkable how quickly greenery appears; but we must remember that the thorny weeds and grassy meadows are both eager to spring up. A time of tragedy is ripe for sanctifying grace and a backsliding unbelief alike. To class victims as a particular group that is somehow less needful of Gospel faith, grace, repentance and obedience is worse that victim blaming or shaming, it is victim maiming. Victims, and those counseling victims, must not veer from “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else [Isa 45:22 KJV].”
Remember too, that perpetrators stand in need of the Gospel. Being a miscreant of a sinner does not mean they are beyond redemption; and in a similar way, the smoking crater of their sin is a perfect opportunity for Gospel-ministers to rebuke, confront, and bring the Word of God to bear upon their rebellious neck. To break in order to bind up. Satan would love nothing more than to deceive victims into a life of unforgiveness and bitterness, and for victimizers to be proud of their sinful power, fail to see their sin as sin, or to believe they are beyond grace and hopeless for salvation. Satan would love for victims to think of themselves in terms of being eternal victims, and perpetrators in terms of being eternal perpetrators. Both need to come to see themselves as sinners, who need Christ, to become a new thing entirely: eternal saints of our Lord.
A Gospel Big Enough for Both
All of this must be done with both tenderness, compassion and courage. Victims who turn to Christ are not left forever frail, but are emboldened by grace to forgive and grow in godliness. Perpetrators who turn to Christ, are enabled to make restitution for their offenses and crimes, and by grace gratefully accept the consequences of their sin. The “gospel of victimhood” is quickly deceiving countless multitudes, and Christians must make it clear that the Gospel which victims need is big enough to save us all.
This doesn’t let perpetrators off the hook, and shift the responsibility to victims. Rather, the Gospel pins us all down as perpetrators, and that the responsibility for our sins fell on Christ, and through whom we might now be reckoned as not only forgiven sinners, but far more gloriously: righteous in Christ.