Confession of Victimization

12:13 PM

I sat on an abandoned worship bulletin while watching my sister's violin recital. It took place in a church that long ago gave up the gospel to celebrate Earth Day, diversity of religion, and acceptance of anything popular in politically correct culture.

In the historic practice of this church's denomination, it embraces a confession of sin, acknowledging before God and fellow members the intense need for Christ's sacrifice every day. The confessional prayer of this church, however, ran something along the lines of a confession of victimization:

The small stones in our hands are hard,
and stones on a path can hurt our feet.
We think of the challenges in life that make our way hard;
large things that make us change direction
and find another path in life; little things that make us stumble.
We lament the events in life that have dashed our hopes and dreams;
we confess our annoyance and anger
when life has not gone the way we planned.
Even a tiny stone can cause injury and pain;
and small things in life can take our minds off the way we are going
and spoil the pleasure of travelling.
Narrow attitudes and unrealistic expectations
can cause pain for ourselves and others.
We lament the injuries we have borne
through others' carelessness; we confess the pain we carry
when we fail to stop and deal with the things
that need to be put right in our lives.
Forgive us for journeying with burdens we do not need to carry.
We commit these stones to you,
with all that they represent for us,
and place them in your redeeming love.

My first thought: "What's up with all the stones?"
My boyfriend: "They're sinless! They can cast the first stone!" 

My second thought -- this is why the gospel shows up very little in churches these days. When you get the concept of sin wrong, the concept of suffering wrong, and the concept of discipline wrong, you get God wrong, Jesus wrong, and the entire gospel of salvation wrong. There's no point in salvation unless you know from what you're saved. And it's not from little stones pinching the bottom of your feet. It's from a crushing blow to the head -- a death blow of condemnation due to pervading sin.

I bring this up because while the majority of evangelical churches may not replace confessing sin with confessing victimization, the prevalent ideas of sin and suffering align more with the confession of victimization. In many circles the idea goes that Jesus died so we would no longer have to suffer in any way. Thus, our greatest "sin" is "journeying with burdens we do not need to carry." In our personal devotion to Christ, how many of our prayers focus on God's sovereignty in our broken situations and rejoice in this "momentary light affliction"? Unless you're Calvinist, God's sovereignty is not cool: God becomes only the healer who alleviates our pains, the comforter who kisses away the consequences and discipline rightly earned by our sin. We lament our pain and hurt -- do we lament our sin and disobedience? Do we go to God as if He's the least judgmental person out there who won't require us to change or won't discipline us in any way? Or do we sometimes break down before Him because our sin is so great, begging Him for help and forgiveness, for grace in our time of need?

Out of anyone in the universe, God especially cares about our personal righteousness. It grieves Him when we sin. We are not primarily victims of other people's sin; we perpetrate sin ourselves. How awkward it must be to confess victimization next to a wife he's threatened with hard words or next to a sibling she constantly brushes off. Where is the relief for the perpetrators of sin? For us? 

Such a confession turns the congregation into saints huddling together against the wicked world that casts their stones at us, poor innocent people who just want to fulfill our hopes and dreams. I know personally I could never sit long through that service before guilt swallowed me up: I throw those stones. . .where's the part of the confession for offenders? No grace for anyone except victims?

The glorious thing about God is that He offers an equal overabundance of grace and help both to victims of people's sins and to the perpetrators of those sins -- through the gospel. Through the death of Christ. Through the confession of repentance and belief. This beautiful gospel rests on the firm tradition of Christ's church confessing the gravity our sin while affirming our unshakable forgiveness.

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  1. Amen!

    I was just reading today in James. "Consider it all joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of various kinds." JOY. Not lament. Without trials, how would He shape us?

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