As the world around us becomes increasingly antagonistic towards authentic Christianity, more and more believers are falling prey to the temptation of regarding themselves as victims of a hostile culture. It doesn’t help that similar cries of lament are regularly heard from the pulpit to politics and everywhere in between. To be sure, there is no shortage of evidence to demonstrate that we, as Christians, no longer enjoy the same sense of freedom and authority that we had in previous generations. But if we look around us and our first impulse is “woe is me,” then we’ve missed the bigger picture.
One of my favorite prayers in all of Scripture is found in Daniel 9:4–19. Often overlooked because of its position among all the prophesies and difficult-to-decipher passages that tend to capture our imaginations, it is one of the most practically applicable passages in the book. Please take a few minutes to click on the link and read it. It won’t take long, and hearing these words from one of the godliest men in the Bible is vital to understanding the proper perspective for us to take when looking at how to best live out God’s will in a non-Christian culture.
Daniel offers this remarkable prayer after spending more than sixty years enslaved in Babylon. While he’s enjoyed success and privilege as one of the king’s most trusted advisors, it’s been over six decades since he last saw his home or could call himself truly free. And despite those struggles, we don’t find a person outside of Jesus in the whole of Scripture who’s portrayed as more righteous and faithful than this man. If anyone had reason to look at his life and feel as though he’d been treated unfairly, it was Daniel. Yet, that’s not what we see here.
Instead of looking at his life and playing the victim, he spends most of the prayer asking God’s forgiveness for the sins of his people—sins that, by and large, he did not personally commit. He had legitimate reasons to bemoan his lot in life and complain about the punishment he’d received, but he didn’t because he knew it wouldn’t accomplish anything.
One of the chief problems with playing the victim is that it places the focus squarely on us rather than God. If our primary goal is to feel bad for ourselves, then the victim mentality will do just fine. But if we’d rather actually do something about our situation, then that mindset is solely counterproductive.
You see, while your sin and my sin may not have caused the problems with which we’re currently dealing, it will prevent us from being part of the solution. That’s why Daniel spent so much time asking for God’s forgiveness and seeking his mercy. He wasn’t worshiping false gods or turning his back on the Lord, but he knew that God couldn’t use him to help fix the situation until his heart was right with his heavenly Father.
In the same way, God can’t use us to help address the issues we’re currently facing in the way he desires until our hearts are right with him. Whether or not we’re at fault for our present circumstances is irrelevant. What matters is that God has a plan to set things right, a plan that requires his people to focus more on the solution than the problem.
American Christians are not the victims of some grand scheme to destroy our faith and way of life. That designation is reserved for believers in countries where claiming the name of Christ can be tantamount to a death sentence—and it’s telling that the Christians in such places rarely view themselves as people to be pitied, but rather as those who have been given the chance to demonstrate the quality of their faith.
Like them, we need to start seeing ourselves as instruments God can use to help fix what’s broken in our culture. The only people to be pitied around us are those going through life without the inherent blessings of a personal relationship with Christ. That’s where our minds need to be and we won’t accomplish anything of significance for the kingdom until we embrace that perspective. So how do you see yourself today?