On many occasions our Lord taught us that, “the last will be first, and the first last” (Matt. 20:16 cf. 19:30; Mark 10:31; Luke 13:30). This lesson of reversal was nothing new for God’s people. Scripture is replete with stories such as Jospeh and his brothers, Moses and Pharaoh, David and Goliath, etc., where the lowly are exalted by God’s grace and against all odds. Throughout God’s Word we learn that in the Kingdom of heaven, the poor are rich, the weak are strong, and the dead live. We can even hear this theme of reversal expressed quite beautifully by Mary when she sang her magnificat:
[God] has brought down the mighty from their thronesLuke 1:52-53
and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
The reason why Christians of every age have found those words so comforting is not because we are the mighty and the rich. Rather, we identify with Mary as those of humble estate. We are the poor, mourning, meek, hungry, and persecuted from Jesus’ sermon on the mount. In this fallen world of sin, and as those assaulted by satan, we are the sufferers, the assaulted ones, the beaten and bruised, the losers.
But that is not the same as being the victims. To be a victim implies innocence. It suggests a lack of responsibility for one’s state in life. True victims should be defended and protected. They should receive justice for the wrongs they’ve suffered. But today’s emerging culture has taken victimhood to a different level, considering it to be the greatest of virtues.
This is a part of what is called the philosophy of intersectionality, where people are not judged by their character as a unique individual, but rather by the identity groups to which they belong. What this means is that a person is primarily defined by their gender, race, religion, socioeconomic status, sexuality, etc. If one or more of those groups is considered an oppressed minority, that individual has a higher victimhood status. And the greater victimhood status one acquires, the more important they are considered to be, the more their opinion matters, the more they are seen as morally superior than someone of privileged status. Hence, we have a culture where people are competing to see who can be the greatest victim.
This has led many people to surrender personal responsibility and accountability, to shift the consequences for their actions upon another, and to instead adopt an outlook on life wherein every aspect is viewed through the lens of “how have I been wronged.” This framework of microaggressions is what has taken centerstage, pushing away the value and identity of each individual. How and why this victimhood culture came about is debatable, but either way, this is not compatible with the Christian Faith, and for two important reasons.
First and foremost, regardless of whatever victim group you belong to, you are not a victim. Well, of course, in a very real sense you are victims of satan’s temptations. But at the same time, your fallen flesh is also complicit with those temptations. And, yes, you are victims of the ways in which other people sin against you, or the ways life happens to fall apart around you. But in terms of the external scales of justice, you are never wholly innocent of such things.
We were all conceived in sin. The transgression of Adam and Eve courses through our veins. We have earned the curse. The guilt is ours. “For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the gory fo God” (Rom. 3:23). At the end of the day, it cannot be escaped that whatever consequences we suffer in this fallen world, they are but a sliver of what we deserve because of our sin. Without this understanding of guilt, that is, without repentance, the Gospel makes no sense to the person always claiming victimhood.
Instead, Faith shows itself in admitting culpability and confessing responsibility for sin. The person who is cut to the heart by the realization of their guilt finds that Christ has loved you in spite of that sin. He has gone to the cross — your cross — to wear your suffering and death as His own. He has called you to faith so that you too might live in this hope, and rejoice in this mercy.
Hence you find that you are not a victim. In fact, of all those who are privileged in this world, you are more so. For you have the privilege of God’s grace and what it means to be His baptized child. That is what you claim, not victimhood.
Secondly, that grace of God is the reason why you matter in this world. Your value and status have nothing to do with being a part of a group of people who have suffered in one way or another. The reason the Pearl of Great Value has great value is because of the merchant who sold all that He had and bought it (Matt. 13:45-46). He gave up everything, even His own life at the cross in order to redeem — to buyback — you! You mattered so much to our Father in heaven that He sent to die for you His only Son, the only truly Innocent Victim. This is why we treat our brothers and sisters in Christ with respect as an individual for whom Christ died, not because of the color of their skin, their gender, or their socioeconomic status. Your worth is found in Christ Jesus.
“For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”Gal. 3:26-28
We Christians must take a stand for this truth, and it begins with ourselves. We have to own up to our own responsibility, and the ways in which we have failed. Repentance is not possible from those who believe they aren’t responsible for their thoughts, words, and actions. Yet because that is the ever-increasing reality in which the Church finds herself today, it is all the more reason for us to be faithful in the ways we speak about right and wrong to our neighbor. May God grant us the courage to use His Law to expose the lies of this world, pointing out what He calls sin, and to use His Gospel to free people from it.