Are Victims Better Than Abusers?


There is a dangerous trap in popular Christian thinking that subtly infers that only victims are qualified to experience forgiveness and salvation. We like to amplify our solidarity with victims, to show compassion to them, to assure them of God's grace and healing and power to restore. But at the very same time it is all too easy to fall into the trap of viewing victims as somehow more righteous or innocent or worthy of our compassion than we feel toward those we consider perpetrators or abusers. We indulge readily in prejudice, animosity and even outright hatred at times toward those we consider dangerous and ready to exploit other people. We garner recognition by showing sympathy for the victims but we do not share such magnanimity toward those who have abused them. Rather we are quick to judge, to label, to ostracize and to seek punishment for all who in our eyes are not as worthy of grace or in need of healing.

Many know in their head that perpetrators are usually victims themselves simply recycling the dysfunction that they themselves have endured in the past. Yet we like to vilify the abusers while aligning ourselves with the victims. This is popular and offer solidarity and seeming comfort to the victims. But is this really helping the victims or does it foster a similar spirit of unforgiveness toward those who have offended them and actually creates more problems while trying to address some. What I am learning is that this is not the way heaven views things.

Jesus did not die on the cross to bear the pain and shame of only the victims but equally took on the pain and shame and guilt of all those who have committed offenses no matter how grievous. But knowing this we still tend to want to qualify our own administration of God's grace and offer it more readily to those we consider more worthy while choosing instead to offer mostly condemnation toward those we consider less worthy. But this is a tragic misrepresentation of God and blocks many from seeing the hope of healing and redemption they need to escape a life of abuse and crime.

I am not referring in the slightest to the abuses and miscarriages of so-called earthly justice where perpetrators get away with crimes because of their ability to manipulate the system in their favor. I am speaking directly to how Christians should view and relate to people based on the way heaven sees things. When we engage in earthly attitudes toward sinners of any stripe, categorizing them in a hierarchy of importance or value, we stray from the reality of the unconditional nature of God's love and forgiveness and present a very damaging picture of God to those who need Him most.

It is so easy to join in with the crowd in condemning the guilty and rushing to the aid of the victim. But the person who has come to know the true nature of God's grace will realize that the perpetrators are in as much need of healing if not more than the victims. A true follower of Jesus will also realize that condemnation never produces repentance and God does not engage in such tactics to draw us to Him. This view of God is part of the system of misrepresentations about Him created by His enemy and is not found in the life of Jesus His Son. As professed Christians we are so often eager to recommend punishments for those we consider evil and are often unwilling to restrain our expressions of disgust. But if we really knew Jesus ourselves wouldn't we rather look more into ways we might bring the healing grace and love of God into those lives as well.

By indulging in criticism of abusers while showing favor toward victims, we give the impression that healing grace is more readily available to victims than to abusers. This characterizes God as being partial and forces people caught in the cycle of abuse to try to reshape their public image as more of a victim themselves if they want to receive the help they need. But as they discover that few are willing to see their real pain, accept them with their problems and are just as worthy of attention and help as those whom they have victimized, many give up hoping for help and simply throw themselves into a life of more exploitation of others in hopes that the little pleasure they gain from it will somehow assuage the pain that is ever growing inside their souls.

Jesus never treated anyone differently based on an evaluation of whether they were more guilty or deserving of punishment than someone else. He never endorsed human views of justice and mercy measurement scales. Jesus scandalized both the religiously influential and the politically powerful by ignoring all the artificial boundaries they had set up to evaluate and condemn others. Rather He went straight for the heart of each person without regard to their relative innocence or guilt and considered everyone equal opportunities in need of healing, grace, love, acceptance and hope.

Those claiming to be followers of Jesus cannot do any less if they want heaven to view them as faithful. We cannot indulge in condemning what is popular to condemn simply because we can. Jesus' standards of evaluation are radically different than those of popular Christianity despite its claims to represent Him. Jesus made no distinction between wounded and wounder; He applied His healing grace equally to every single individual sinner.

We are very uncomfortable with this flat playing field. It implies that we could be considered by heaven just as guilty as those around us that we prefer to disdain and vilify. To avoid this we resort to our own versions of qualified grace, qualified acceptance and qualified forgiveness. But in doing so we use the system invented by Satan himself and often without realizing it we perpetuate his many lies that has already given God a bad reputation with sinners.

There are certain classes of sinners that it is popular to vilify without risking censure from other Christians. Little resistance is met if we condemn abortionists, homosexuals, child-molesters, sexual abusers among clergy or rapists. But from heaven's viewpoint are these people really worse sinners than others who piously heap condemnation on them while wrapping themselves in sympathy for their victims? We like recognition from those we serve in church while throwing jabs at those we consider hopeless sinners. But is this a reflection of the Jesus who found Himself often at odds with the religious elite while acting like honey for flies attracting all the wrong sorts of people around Him?

Maybe a more accurate measurement of our Christ-likeness might be to observe how many prostitutes, abusers, rapists, homosexuals and financial rip-offs are drawn into our circle of friends because of our love and acceptance for them. The very idea sounds scandalous, but it is a far more accurate standard of measurement than the ones we use now to determine who is Christian or not. If our lives do not produce similar effects in the hearts of the same kinds of people that Jesus attracted, then the chances that we are not really representing Him are extremely high.

I believe it is long past time that we allow God to reintroduce Himself to us. It has been too long since Jesus demonstrated the truth about God on this planet and since that day so many misinterpretations have been infused into His story that we have nearly lost sight altogether of what He was really like and how He related to sinners. We need to humble ourselves, to confess our hypocrisy, our religious pride, our shallowness, our double-standards and our ignorance of the ways of God and to seek His face and plead with Him to show us again the real truth about Him that will attract all brands of sinners into His grace, not just the ones we prefer to work with.

Not until the abuser, the rapist, the child-molestor, the financial scammer, the pimps are gravitating toward us instead of away from us can be begin to believe we may be following in the example of the One who attracted those very same kinds of people to Himself 2000 years ago. We should disabuse ourselves of the mistaken belief that we are Christians when our lives have so little similarity to Jesus' ministry for others and His passion to vindicate His Father's reputation that marked His life. Not until we confess our unlikeness to Jesus can we ever hope to begin to learn the real truth that He came to show us about God. Modern Christianity has little attraction for sinners because Christians have little resemblance to the Christ that Christianity claims to represent.

Comments

  1. You make a good point, that God's grace applies equally to abusers as well as victims. However, you neglect to take into account the true nature of sin, treating it as an event or act rather than an attitude.

    Sin is not just the action a person takes (as in, raping or molesting), but the process that leads to being capable of such a crime. That process is called the sin against the Holy Spirit. For a person to come to the point where they can commit such a heinous crime, they have invested enormous energy in pacifying their consciences, convincing themselves that someone else's rights are not important, that someone else's feelings are not as valid as their own.

    Think about it. For a normal person, the very thought of someone being raped is horrifying. Even in prison, other prisoners view rapists as horrific offenders. For a person not only to participate in that crime, but to actually fantastize about it beforehand, plan it and enjoy executing it, there is a profound sin against the Holy Spirit that has ALREADY happened in their hearts. That sinful process has put them very far from repentance.

    I'm not saying abusers can't repent. I'm saying that the process leading to repentance is long and difficult. It involves re-sharpening a conscience dulled by years of persistent, habitual cultivation of sin. That's why the Korah, Dathan and Abiram situations are dealt with very differently than the woman caught in adultery.

    Only God can measure the magnitude of a person's sin against the Holy Spirit. But I believe He expects--and requires--His children to do their part to prevent those who have committed such acts from being in situations where they are free to do them again. This means that while we do not pretend to know whether a person is repentant or forgiven (as those are God's realms and we cannot read hearts), we do not allow those who have molested children to have access to children again. We do not permit people to be in leadership when they have previously committed crimes when in positions of trust. Offering forgiveness and offering trust are two very different things.

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    1. Actually I agree with you that sin is not an event but rather a state of mind and heart. However, I feel that maybe you miss an even deeper point in that you generalize about people considering some so bad that they have sinned against the Holy Spirit by making themselves capable of such atrocities. Every human being is capable of doing such things but most of us are in serious denial about this. Only when social restrictions are removed and people in a crisis feel they can get away with anything does their real character become revealed and that can be very shocking even to the person themselves.
      The point I was trying to make in this piece was that we incorrectly believe in a person's worth based on behaviors they have done. This is legalism and is foreign to the principles that govern heaven. When we view some as more hopeless than others because their character is so warped, we are ignorant of the fact that we are ourselves judging them and replacing Christ, i.e. acting as an antichrist. Man looks on the outward appearance but God looks at the heart, which is impossible for us to do. When we give preferential treatment to people we consider morally superior to others we contradict the very example of Jesus who attracted all the wrong sorts of immoral people to His unconditional love.
      Religion today hardly resembles at all the kind of life that Jesus demonstrated which has largely obscured the real truth about what God is like. If we took serious the teachings and example of Jesus we might well be considered as scandalous as He was and be persecuted by the religious establishment just as all His true followers have been for thousands of years.

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