In our culture these days there’s a lot of talk about privilege and victimhood. Various groups claim that they’ve been oppressed or discriminated against. For example, we hear talk about how the 1% is holding everyone else back. It almost seems sometimes like there’s a competition going on to claim who is the most victimized. It’s become a perverse sort of pride: “I’ve had it tougher than you so I’m better than you!” When you stop and think about it, it’s rather pathetic that people define themselves not by what they are, or by what they could be, but by what has happened to them. They allow circumstances to control and define them. Instead of overcoming they are trapped by the past.
Unfortunately, there are even some who use the badge of “victim” to excuse their own behavior. There’s no question that injustice does happen. When it does, it needs to be made right. But whether it is ever made right in this life or not, we should never justify our own wrongdoing because we were mistreated. Frankly, a lot of times people claim the status of being a victim to avoid responsibility. They have the attitude that because they, or their group, has been mistreated at some time in the past, society now owes them. Their victimhood excuses them from the consequences of their own decisions and actions.
The cross of Christ helps us put things in perspective. In one sense, Jesus was the ultimate victim. Here was a man who had never done anything wrong. He had spent His life trying to help people. He had healed, fed and comforted thousands. He had even raised people from the dead. Everything He did was good, and for the benefit of others. In return, people criticized and mocked Him. They spit in His face and beat Him. They whipped Him and nailed Him to a cross.
But was Jesus really a victim? No! He said, “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life – only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord…” (John 10:17-18 NIV)
Jesus didn’t go to the cross because He was a helpless victim. He could have easily avoided the cross altogether. In the Garden of Gethsemane, He spoke just a couple of words and the Roman soldiers who had come to arrest Him fell to the ground. When Peter struck a blow on His behalf Jesus told him, “Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way? (Matthew 26:54 NIV)
Jesus went to the cross, not because He was forced but, voluntarily. He chose to suffer; He chose the cross as a means to an end. The writer of Hebrews puts it this way: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 2:2 NIV)
Far from making Jesus a victim, it was the cross which unleashed God’s power and made salvation possible. And that same power is available to those of us who belong to Jesus. In Ephesians 1, verses 18 through 21, Paul writes, “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.” (NIV)
Each week we eat a piece of bread and drink a cup of juice to remind us of Jesus’ cross. It reminds us of His suffering. It reminds us of the glory and position that Jesus received because of His obedience and sacrifice. It reminds us of God’s mighty power which raised Jesus from the dead. It reminds us that the same power is at work in us.
But the bread and juice also confront us with a choice. Jesus told us that in this world, we will have trouble (John 16:33). When trouble comes we can let it victimize us, or we can follow Jesus’ example and look beyond to what God wants to accomplish through our suffering. You see, Jesus not only told us trouble would come, He also instructs us to deny ourselves and pick up our cross and follow Him (Luke 9:23).
Today when we eat the bread and drink the cup, what will we choose? Will we choose to be victims, or will we voluntarily take up our cross and follow Jesus so that we will experience God’s mighty power?