Last season, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began taking a knee rather than stand during the national anthem, as a protest against racial inequality. His actions sparked controversy across the NFL, and now the President has drawn even more national attention to the protests, saying those players who protest ought to be fired.
Whatever you believe about the propriety of the players’ (or the President’s) actions, I think this presents us with a foil to talk about victim culture, real injustice, and our response as Christians.
In the last post, we looked at the gospel story as applied to victim culture: Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration. As I close this short series on Christ & Victim Culture, I want to look at real injustice, identify fake injustice, point out a tendency toward in justice that all of us have, and remember that, ultimately, Jesus is the true victim.
Justice means giving someone else their due. If you owe someone something, and you don’t give it, you are committing an injustice. Thus, you’ve suffered a real injustice if…
- …you are denied dignity and equality on the basis of skin color, gender, etc.
- …you were denied love, affection, care, and the presence of your parent(s)
- …someone has taken something from you that they have no right to
- …someone made a promise to you that they then broke
- …a friend or loved one betrayed your trust
The list could go on. But by this reckoning, all of us have suffered injustice at one time or another in our lives. But sometimes we cry wolf. Sometimes we are victims of fake injustice.
We make ourselves victims of fake injustice when we believe we are entitled to something we don’t get, but were never entitled to it in the first place. Examples of fake injustice include:
- Discomfort – I am not owed comfort. I might expect a comfortable life because of my socio-economic status, my upbringing, beer commercials, or jealousy of my neighbors. But my expectations do not obligate the universe—or anyone else—to meet them.
- Disappointment – I am not owed a disappointment-free life. Wishing for something good does not mean I will get it. Wish-fulfillment is not what the universe—or the God who created it—is about.
- Disagreement – I am not owed a frictionless life. If someone disagrees with me, it doesn’t mean they are judging or oppressing me. It could simply mean that they have a different opinion. Or that I am wrong.
- Honest mistakes – People make mistakes. Dealing with others’ imperfections is part of living in a community filled with other humans. Since the Fall, a world without mistakes is a world without real humans.
In my own heart and life, I see too often this tendency to blow fake injustice out of proportion. I use these and other examples of it to make myself out to be a victim. But as we said before, when I illegitimately make myself a victim, I am actually trying to grab power. Playing the victim card puts others at my mercy. Rather than humble submission in Christ, I lift myself up as someone whose needs must be met.
Jesus is the true victim.
He was the victim of the greatest injustice in history.
- He was without sin: “He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth” (1 Peter 2:22).
- He was despised by people He had loved and served: “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return” (1 Peter 2:23a).
- He didn’t even defend Himself when accused: “[W]hen he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23b).
- He suffered willingly for US: “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24).
Christians suffer. It’s what we do.
We should expect suffering because our King was the True Victim. And because of that, we are blessed when we suffer injustice: “[T]his is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly.… For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you” (1 Peter 2:19, 21).
In fact, now we can “count it all joy” when we suffer because “the testing of [our] faith produces steadfastness” which in turn makes us “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4).
Suffering is God’s tool in our sanctification. Rather than bemoan our victimhood, we should rejoice in trials. They make us look like Jesus.