Pursuing Victimhood

I’m no sociologist or anthropologist, but it’s easy to see that we live in a day and age where everyone pursues victimhood.

Those who have Republican leanings cry out as victims of a Democratic attempt to take over and destroy everything they hold dear.

Those who have Democratic leanings cry out as victims of an oppressive and tyrannical regime.

Obviously these are exaggerated to prove a point, that we are all prone to holding a victim mentality.

It is not just in politics. It happens in the sports world. Clemson football’s head coach spoke out about how the College Football Playoff Committee didn’t want them in it, how they were against them. In essence, how they were victims of an SEC-bias. You best believe that fired up his team.

It happens in even smaller things too.

This very morning at church I jokingly tried to present myself as the victim in my wife’s decision to not let us open Christmas presents a few days early.

Coming across as a victim has power in our day and age. People side with the victim.

Now, duh, there are very real victims of very real evil and wicked acts. Don’t get me wrong. But there are also innumerable moments where victimhood is claimed inappropriately and incorrectly.

I think it happens all of the time in the church.

We live in an age in the United States where Christians are crying out as victims just about daily. Petitions are floating around social media, boycotts are taking place, what isn’t persecution is decried as persecution. Everywhere I look, Christians are taking the role of the victim.

Toy Story 4 is liberal propaganda designed to subtly destroy the Christian view of sexuality. 

Starbucks is persecuting Christians because they didn’t put Merry Christmas on their cups. 

Netflix is persecuting Christians due to the abhorrent nature of some of their films and shows. 

Our schools are persecuting Christians by removing certain Christian practices (prayer before sporting events, etc.). 

These are all things I’ve seen (some less recent than others).

Is this inherently wrong?

Not necessarily. Although I would argue that most believers in countries that are actually physically persecuted for their faith would see our outcries of victimhood as interesting to say the least.

Is it forgetting some of the themes we see in Scripture?

Probably.

You see, as followers of Jesus, in my opinion, we should never play the victim card. Meaning, we shouldn’t really be loud about the ways that we may or may not be ‘persecuted’.

It’s expected that we should be ostracized for our faith.

Look with me at what Paul says in his first letter to the Corinthian church.

When we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we respond graciously. Even now, we are like the scum of the earth, like everyone’s garbage. – 1 Corinthians 4:12b-13

Honestly, and I guess weirdly, this is one of my favorite passages. Because it first reminds me that the entire story of Scripture says that we are never going to be popular for following God. What our country has experienced the last few decades is unique. It’s almost unheard of in Scripture. It certainly wasn’t normative.

Now, the church is finding itself headed back towards its rightful place. The bottom of society. Considered by at least some as scum and garbage.

Again, the ‘persecution’ I outlined above is not really persecution in the slightest. I personally have never gotten wrapped up in the fact that a non-Christian culture doesn’t put Christian values at the forefront of all that it does. Why would it? And why is the church so overly concerned with the fact that it doesn’t?

Look at what Paul said.

When they were reviled (I’ve never been hated for what I believe. At least not to my face. The closest thing to that is a lady who was cutting my hair giving me a half second weird look when I said I was a pastor), they BLESSED. They didn’t scream for their rights.

When they were persecuted (real, physical persecution), they ENDURED it. They didn’t put their hope in petitions to the government.

When they were slandered, they responded GRACIOUSLY, not enraged and ready to fire back.

When they were treated like SCUM OF THE EARTH AND GARBAGE, they accepted their role.

Church, it’s time we accept our role. Jesus was mocked, spat upon, beaten, tortured, and put on trial. He never once cried out as a victim. He never once petitioned the powers that be. He never once fired back in rage. He just went lower and lower unto death. It’s time that we become willing to ‘share in his sufferings’ (Philippians 3:10).

Does that mean we become a quiet partaker in unfair treatment? Maybe. Maybe that is what Jesus modeled for us.

When he was on trial and asked if he was king, he said this. And it’s fire.

“My kingdom is not of this world,” said Jesus. “If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would fight, so that I wouldn’t be handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” – John 18:36

MY. KINGDOM. IS. NOT. OF. THIS. WORLD.

If it was, His servants would fight.

Since it isn’t, His servants will give their lives in love.

Church, let us love our community. Let us engage our culture. Let us seek to be the hands and feet of Christ. Let us give up our rights (just as Jesus did in Philippians 2:5-8). Let us be more concerned with whether or communities know that we love them than we are whether or not our communities value all that we value.

Let me end with this quote from Mike Cosper, one of my fave authors.

We don’t love our cities well by withdrawing and doing nothing. We also don’t love them well if we waste our lives with political arguments about who has victimized whom. No doubt there is a need for legal battles, a need to fight for religious liberty and freedom of expression. But just as important – perhaps far more important  – there is a need for the faithful witness and faithful work of Christians in culture, putting themselves at risk for the sake of others and working in ways both great and small to make their cities more peaceful, flourishing places. – Mike Cosper

That’s gold.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

 

 

 

 

Where’s The Love?

I walked up to the youth room to get ready for youth group and came to notice that all the chairs were messed up for another week. Instead of having them in neat, well-manicured rows, they were in piles in the corner of the room. I frustratingly put them all back. This transpired for several weeks and my ire grew. I finally wrote a note and left it for whomever was using the room to please put everything back. I tried my best to be respectful in the letter, yet I realize that I was annoyed. What took place after that has been convicting and encouraging.

It’s a bummer sometimes that I notice after the fact how God gives me a perfect opportunity to immediately apply what I’ve been learning in Scripture to my life and I just don’t capitalize. This scenario was one such opportunity missed.

The last few weeks I’ve been attending an early morning Bible study here in town with a handful of men from the church I work at. We’ve been slowly, and I mean slowly, walking through Romans. Since I’m new to the study we’re already in Romans 12. We were dialoging just the other week about Romans 12:9-18.

Love must be without hypocrisy. Detest evil; cling to what is good. Show family affection to one another with brotherly love. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lack diligence; be fervent in spirit; serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer. Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. Be in agreement with one another. Do not be proud; instead, associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Try to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes. If possible on your part, live at peace with everyone. 

Wowza. That is a tough passage to measure up to for sure. Too many of our churches are full of infighting, disrespect, gossip, and slander. Too often my heart is prone to those things as well. Yet as Christians we should be fighting for one another, not against one another. We should be striving to love, bless, rejoice with, weep with, honor, respect, and be hospitable towards all who are in our faith community.

Instead, what tends to happen? When relational friction occurs, we go to other members of the church to talk all about it (seeking counsel and gossiping are decidedly different things, and we all know the difference). When someone else gets their way instead of us in something church-related or life-related we may put up a facade but are we actually rejoicing with them? For those who have any type of leadership in the church (elders, pastors, deacons, Sunday school teachers, etc.), are we loving our people or are we trying to control them?

Like I said, this passage is a lot to live up to.

And in this situation, I didn’t.

Instead of striving to respect, honor, and love those who were using the youth room, I instead got all bent out of shape for having to spend an extra seven minutes getting ready on Wednesday nights. Instead of trying to figure out who was using the room and approaching them in kindness, I hid behind a note and their anonymity.

They responded (I still don’t even know who was using the room) with love, respect, and kindness above and beyond that which I was hoping for. The day following my note they put the chairs back, put the cords to the Tv on the right inputs for my youth slides, put up all the Bibles on the shelf, vacuumed, wiped down the counters, and cleaned some downstairs as well.

I was amazed that they would go to that extent in showing love to me and our youth.

That love shines bright in the darkness of our societal and cultural norms. What I mean by this is that we live in a culture saturated with disrespect, disdain, and division. I can hardly stand to get on social media anymore as it breaks my heart that there is so much hatred in our world. One cannot disagree with another anymore without attacking them, slandering them, making fun of them, clapping back at them, or generally mocking them. It’s heartbreaking. Kids disrespecting leaders, those leaders disrespecting kids. Neighbors and ‘friends’ engaged in hateful speech towards each other, getting extra points if they’re particularly witty in their comebacks. This very week I read a comment thread where even politicians did just this.

In a world of hate and division, loving and honoring and respecting each other will go a super long way. Especially in the local church. We of all people should be the brightest example of love, even in the midst of not seeing eye to eye on all things.

Let’s all be more like this anonymous group of people that have been cleaning the youth room for our students.

Let’s love.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

Butterflies In The Stomach

I know very little about marriage. This makes perfect sense since I’m not indeed married.  Thus you could throw this whole blog out. But, don’t. Give it a chance.

I may know absolutely nothing functionally speaking about being married, but I can say pretty definitively that the picture of marriage or relationships that we see in movies and tv shows is ridiculous and far-fetched and is ultimately setting up a generation to fail in marriage because it’s all about emotion.

I have been stuck at home for the last 48 hours due to my respiratory system being ravaged by the flu (this stuff does not mess around). This has given me ample time to read, and one such book I’ve been digging into is Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas. This book was given to me by a dear friend shortly after I got engaged to my beautiful fiancee Jamie. I had every intention of putting it at the bottom of my to-read list but the tagline got me interested fast.

“What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?”

That sucked me in fast. Now I’m only a handful of chapters in, but this book has provoked a lot of thought in me about my upcoming wedding and lifelong marriage to Jamie. There’s one such aspect of the book that I want to devote this blog to, and that’s the false idea that our relationships should be built upon emotional highs or that we should value the feeling of chemistry more than anything else.

Thomas will devote an entire chapter to this ploy that media has thrown our way, saying “the concept that marriage should involve passion and fulfillment and excitement is a relatively recent development on the scale of human history, making its popular entry towards the end of the eleventh century.” It’s fascinating to me that romance or an obsession with feelings and emotion has not been a constant in conversations about love and marriage but has slowly entered the equation to eventually take over and dominate our thoughts about love in our modern age.

I grew up pretty obsessed with finding love, with finding this spark of chemistry and electricity and excitement with a girl. I was so wrapped up in this that I declared a girl my girlfriend at the ripe old age of seven. The more I watched the Disney Channel, read books, and watched movies, the more I wanted to have this cute happenstance meeting with a girl and then overcome insecurities to find a forever love. Real life wasn’t that simple. I’ve heard (although I haven’t researched this, but it sounds about right) that infatuation lasts 18 months at the most. I went through elementary school, junior high, high school, and college, being infatuated with different girls but never finding lasting stability with one because I would question the relationship as soon as the feeling wore off.

Then I met Jamie, and it wasn’t love at first sight. But then after a D-Now weekend in Weatherford, we hit it off and were infatuated with one another. This helped us to get through a stint of long distance in Portland and then me taking off to the West to go to Phoenix. But then something happened at the start of 2017. It was inevitable, but I was no less prepared for it. The emotional high we got from speaking or seeing each other began to wane. The long distance lengthened the timeline for these feelings we had for one another, but sooner or later they were gone and we were faced with questions of why we should keep going.

IS THIS NOT INSANITY. In all honesty it is crazy to think that I was conditioned to put so much stock in my feelings. It’s hilarious to think that we should base the most intimate of human relationships on the least reliable thing in the world. I think that Scripture shows us that God made marriage for so much more than getting butterflies in the stomach.

I think Genesis 2:18 is about holiness not happiness.

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”

 

I genuinely believe that all human relationships are designed to make us grow more like Christ. This applies to friendships, co-workers, neighbors, etc. That being said, a marriage relationship has got to give you the greatest opportunity for growth in Christlikeness since you spend so much time with your spouse. In every other type of relationship, you can distance yourself (or at least try to) from situations that challenge your character or provoke you to change. There’s no such option in marriage (well I guess you can try to avoid it here too).

That’s what makes Gary Thomas’ tagline for his book so intriguing to me. Because I want to believe that marriage truly was made for something greater than our feelings, than companionship, than sex or happiness. I want to believe that my relationship with Jamie in the coming decades will make me more like Jesus. Right now I am able to do pretty much whatever I want outside of my work obligations. That’s going to change in 149 days. That’s going to force me to become more like Jesus in laying down my desires and wants for the sake of my spouse.

Jamie and I got through last Spring by realizing that a relationship built upon the feelings we have when we’re around each other is like building a house on the sand. We’re striving to build our relationship upon Jesus, upon spiritual growth, and I can tell you that has bonded us together much more than butterflies in the stomach (which I still get around her periodically).

I’m not anti-romance. I’m actually a schmuck when it comes to it.

But I know that a relationship built upon the lies of modern movies and television is not a stable one.

Build your marriage upon Jesus.

Build your life upon Jesus.

In His Name,

Nate Roach