America is going through a culture shift. Victims of traumatic events, such as physical and sexual abuse, have begun to speak out in mass. Many harmful acts that have been hidden for years are finally being investigated and even prosecuted as criminal. Shining light on darkness is always a good thing. My concern, however, is that victim classification is now in vogue. So much so, that many born again believers live with the mindset of victims rather than in the victory secured by Christ. So, how do we experience Christian victory in a culture of victims?
First, living in victory is not dependent upon past events or present circumstances. As one who knows the pain of abuse, I refuse to define myself by the wrongs done to me. This doesn’t excuse or minimize wrong; it just means that I’m not a slave to victimization. There’s no greater example of this than the Lord Jesus; the One who makes our victory possible. He is certainly no stranger to being singled out for unjust treatment, yet He never submitted to the mindset of a victim.
Before going further, I wish to state the obvious. There is a marked difference between the abuse Jesus endured and the physical abuse many suffer today. Jesus gave Himself to the Cross. He left Heaven for one purpose – to pay for the sins of all humanity. But I also call your attention to Hebrews 12:3, “For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” So then, let’s briefly consider what He endured.
Although Jesus was completely innocent, He was mocked and made a public spectacle by the most corrupt trial in history. He was beaten beyond recognition and displayed naked on the Cross; abused by those He came to forgive. However, this was not the last chapter. Yes, the Cross was about payment for sin, but the resurrection was about the power to overcome. Jesus rose from the grave in victory…not vengeance.
When I surrendered to Christ, I also united in His death and identified with the power of His resurrection, which secured my victory over whatever this life brings. “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, ‘For your sake we are being put to death all day long. We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:35–37.)
By bringing every thought captive to Christ, I have the mindset of a victor rather than a victim. I choose not to dwell in the pain of the past. Instead, I choose to walk in the promise and reality of “He is.” He is my Rock, my Refuge, my Defender, my Deliverer, my Shepherd, my Shield, and my Salvation.
Having the mind of Christ also means that I must choose to forgive. I can hear some of you skeptically asking, “That sounds good on paper but how does it work in real life with real people?” Well, the life of Corrie Ten Boom greatly inspires me. If anyone deserved to have the mindset of a victim she did. Corrie and her sister where arrested by Nazi’s and spent several years in a labor camp before the Allies marched into Holland in May, 1945. For more than three decades, Corrie traveled the world telling her story. She spoke of God’s forgiveness and the need for people to forgive those who had harmed them. Her memoirs tell the following story.
Corrie was put to the test in 1947 while speaking in a Munich church. At the close of the service, a balding man in a gray overcoat stepped forward to greet her. Corrie froze. She knew this man well; he’d been one of the most vicious guards at Ravensbrück, one who had mocked the women prisoners as they showered. “It came back with a rush,” she wrote, “the huge room with its harsh overhead lights; the pathetic pile of dresses and shoes in the center of the floor; the shame of walking naked past this man.”
And now he was pushing his hand out to shake hers, and saying: “A fine message, Fraulein! How good it is to know that, as you say, all our sins are at the bottom of the sea!” And I, who had spoken so glibly of forgiveness, fumbled in my pocketbook rather than take that hand. He would not remember me, of course — how could he remember one prisoner among those thousands of women? But I remembered him and the leather crop swinging from his belt. I was face to face with one of my captors, and my blood seemed to freeze.
“You mentioned Ravensbrück in your talk,” he was saying. “I was a guard there. But since that time,” he went on, “I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fraulein” — again the hand came out —“will you forgive me?” She wrestled with the most difficult thing she had ever had to do. Corrie wrote, “The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us.”
Standing there before the former S.S. man, Corrie remembered that forgiveness is an act of the will — not an emotion. “Jesus, help me!” she prayed. “I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling. As I thrust out my hand an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.
“I forgive you, brother!” I cried. “With all my heart.” For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely as I did then. But even so, I realized it was not my love. I had tried, and did not have the power. It was the power of the Holy Spirit.
Those who’ve imposed cruelty on you might not ever ask for your forgiveness. But you don’t have to define your life by how they hurt you. Don’t give in to the mindset of victimization. As Corrie did, ask the Lord to help you forgive, simply because He forgave first. Yes, you and I can experience victory in a culture of victims. Because Jesus was victorious over sin and the grave, we can live in the reality of He is.