Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.
(Ephesians 1:3 NIV)
It’s often said that we live in a society with a “victim mentality” – many of us are victims of things outside our control, which excuse our behaviour and should make us the objects of special treatment. Certainly one does hear talk like that, and if it is a trend in society, it’s likely to affect our mentality as Christians – for we easily drink the water we swim in.
Let me suggest two danger areas where we may pick up a victim mentality.
One is when Christians face opposition. We do read quite a few stories these days of street preachers being arrested on implausible charges, of workers being suspended for sharing their faith or for holding to the Lord’s teaching. We may ourselves experience some measure of ostracism – though what we have in the UK is still far easier than it is for many Christians in other parts of the world. In some cases there is genuine suffering.
If this were to happen to any of us, we’d be tempted to feel sorry for ourselves. But the New Testament will have none of it. In the words quoted above, the Apostle Paul writes to the Christians in Ephesus to remind them of just how blessed they are – and he himself is writing from prison! There is no hint of self-pity. On the contrary, we are rich beyond measure, in a way those outside Christ are not. Don’t mope – count your blessings!
Indeed, in the book of Acts, we read how Peter and his fellow apostles were tried and flogged for preaching Christ, and afterwards they left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. (Acts 5:41 NIV)
Of course, when our fellow believers suffer for Christ we must pray for them and encourage them and sympathise with them: but we must not, in the face of a more hostile society, develop a corporate ‘victim mentality’.
A second area where a victim mentality can infect us is when we consider our sins. We feel sorry for ourselves because we struggle with a particular temptation, or blame our circumstances when we sin. It’s so easy to do! But we are in fact responsible for our sin. As David confessed, in Psalm 51:4: Against you, you only, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight. He doesn’t blame anyone but himself for what he did to Bathsheba and her husband Uriah. He owned up – and found the astonishing forgiveness the Lord provides.
Brothers and sisters, we are not victims!