Don’t Give Up on Your Dreams in the Face of InjusticeNovember 1, 2017
Greetings in the precious name of Jesus! This month marks the time of year in the United States when people especially celebrate their blessings at Thanksgiving and hopefully express their gratitude for every good thing in their lives.
It’s true that no matter where we find ourselves in life, there’s always something we can be thankful for. And as believers in Jesus Christ, this is doubly true. We can always be grateful — every day, for the rest of our lives — for what Christ did for us on the Cross. In His death and resurrection, He reconciled us to the heart of the Father and secured eternal redemption for us so that we can spend eternity with the Lord. Now that is something we can be deeply grateful for!
But what about the times when we’ve been treated unjustly and life just doesn’t seem fair? We’ve all felt like this at times in our lives.
This month, I’m going to share with you about what you can do in the face of such injustices. Becoming angry, bitter, and hard-hearted — forfeiting your peace and jeopardizing God’s plan for your life — is not the answer!
Has anyone ever tried to blame you for problems that you didn’t cause? Maybe it was a fellow employee or church member who blamed you for some failing on his or her part. Or maybe you can remember a time when your siblings pointed their finger at you for something they did, and as a result you were punished instead of them! Regardless of the situation, if you’ve ever been accused or blamed for something you didn’t do or that wasn’t your fault, you know what a miserable experience this is. There is nothing worse than being blamed for someone else’s misdeeds.
Shifting blame to someone else actually started all the way back in the Garden of Eden when Adam pointed his finger at Eve and blamed her for his failure to obey God. When sin entered the human race, one of the first manifestations of the sinful nature was Adam’s refusal to accept responsibility for his choices and his attempt to blame his wife for those choices.
Because people don’t want to face the consequences of their own failures, they often look for someone to blame. They point their finger at others and say, “THEY are reason I am in this mess!” By shifting the blame away from themselves to an innocent person or persons, they are endeavoring to avoid the punishment and negative attention they deserve.
Of course, this is unjust! Nevertheless, as long as we live in a world that has the devil and the influence of ungodly men, such acts of injustice will continue. When Jesus comes and sets up His Kingdom on earth, all injustice will come to a halt. But until that time, acts of injustice will occur. Therefore, if we are ever unjustly accused of something we didn’t do, we must know how God expects us to respond to situations like this.
Think of the early believers who lived in the pagan Roman Empire and who faced injustice on a daily basis. They were constantly blamed for things they didn’t do. If the weather was bad, the pagans blamed the Christians for the bad weather. If the empire had financial troubles, the pagans blamed the Christians for their financial woes. When the city of Rome burned to the ground — an event most likely instigated by Nero himself — rather than face the consequences of his actions, Nero blamed Christians for starting the fire!
Early Christians took the heat for a lot of things that had nothing to do with them. Because they were a threat to the devil and to the domain of darkness, Satan inspired people to hate them and to blame them for all types of heinous deeds that had nothing to do with them. They became “scapegoats” that society used to blame for all their problems and ills.
The apostle Paul and his traveling companions were also often charged falsely with deeds they didn’t commit. Paul tells us about this in First Corinthians 4:13, where he wrote, “…We are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.” This verse is a very powerful statement! However, it requires a study of the original Greek words to fully understand the message contained in it.
Not only does it tell us what Paul and his associates physically faced, but it also lets us know how they emotionally felt when they encountered these adversities. The phrase “filth of the world” is taken from the Greek word perikatharma, a compound of the words peri and kathairo. The word peri means around, and the word kathairo means to cleanse or to purify. It depicts the removal of disgusting grime, like the ring of grime that is left around the bathtub after the dirty water is drained out. If that filth is allowed to remain very long, it becomes hard, crusty, and difficult to remove. At that point, getting rid of that hardened “ring around the tub” requires determination and a lot of hard scrubbing. It means someone has to get on his hands and knees and really scrub to remove that offending mark! But after a great deal of persistence and nonstop scrubbing, that ring around the tub will finally be eliminated.
This is what Paul conveyed when he said that he and his traveling companions had been treated like “the filth of the world”! Instead of appreciating them for all they had done to bring light into darkness, the unbelieving world around them repeatedly tried to wipe them out. In the world’s view, Paul and his ministry team were the scum of the earth.
In addition to communicating the idea of actual filthy grime, the phrase “filth of the world” was also one of the lowest, crudest, derogatory statements that could be made about someone. To call someone “the filth of the world” was a terrible insult. Furthermore, this phrase was used to describe such low-level people in society that it depicted criminals who society deemed as not worthy to live. As a matter of fact, in that pagan culture, if a particular city began experiencing a chain of bad fortune, public officials would give the order for the “filth of the world” — low-level criminals — to be rounded up and publicly sacrificed! They believed that if this societal scum was exterminated, their sacrifice to the gods could reverse the bad fortune of that city.
So when Paul said that he and his fellow ministers were treated like “the filth of the world,” he was not just describing the insults they had experienced and the pain, discouragement, and discomfort that went along with that — he was also describing a situation that was potentially very dangerous to him and his team.
Paul was telling us that they had been blamed for many things that had nothing to do with them. Every time something wrong happened, someone screamed, “It’s the preacher’s fault!” Rather than thank him and his team for the many sacrifices they had made, these people viewed them like a dirty ring around a tub that needed to be wiped off the face of the earth! So in addition to leveling terrible insults at them, these unbelievers felt that if they could just get rid of them, it would somehow bring good luck to them again.
If this wasn’t bad enough, Paul went on to really emphasize his point. He said they were treated like the “off-scouring of all things” (1 Corinthians 4:13). The word “off-scouring” is a translation of the Greek word peripsema, which depicts the ardent and ferocious process of removing filth and grime. Almost no one wants to live in the middle of filth, and almost no one wants to take a bath in a tub covered with grime. When the filth gets bad enough, someone will eventually step forward to say, “Let’s do something about this sickening dirt! Let’s wipe it out!” The word “off-scouring” depicted that moment when the world cried out, “Enough of these Gospel preachers! They’ve brought too much bad luck to our lives! Let’s get rid of this filth!”
The Romans and Greeks frequently looked for someone they could blame for all of society’s problems and woes. They regularly pointed their fingers at low-level criminals — the so-called “scum of the earth” — and accused them of bringing them bad luck — plague, war, famine, and other catastrophes. Such “undesirables” were viewed as bad omens that needed to be exterminated. They falsely believed that scrubbing this scum out of society would put an end to their woes. Thus, these maligned and denigrated people often became the “scapegoats” that were blamed for the world’s problems. People of the world pointed their fingers at them and said, “Get rid of them, and our problems will go away!”
Paul used these phrases to tell us what the world was saying about him and his associates. Although he was preaching, ministering, and doing the works of Jesus, Paul tells us that the world viewed them as criminals — scum that needed to be removed. Unsaved people actually believed that the world would be far better off if these light-bearers were exterminated!
Has anyone ever tried to blame you for problems that had nothing to do with you? Have you ever been accused of doing something you didn’t do? Have you ever had your good name smeared by people who talked badly about you? If you have ever felt victimized by the wrongdoing and false believing of others, remember that you are not alone!
Others have faced more difficult times than you are facing right now, but they didn’t stop serving and loving God, nor did they abandon what He told them to do. They didn’t give up on their God-given dream. Instead, they kept their eyes on Jesus, “…the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).
In the same way, when we are facing unfair criticism or being blamed for something we didn’t do, it is imperative that we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. The Bible says, “…When he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously” (1 Peter 2:23). Certainly, it is normal and right that we do everything possible to protect our good name and to clear ourselves of false accusations that have been charged against us. We must do everything possible to maintain a good reputation. But in the end, if we are falsely accused, we must embrace the attitude of Jesus. That is why Peter told us, “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ suffered for us, leaving us an example, that we should follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:21).
A time may come when we have no recourse except to follow the example Jesus set for us, including His example of how to respond to false charges and undeserved blame without striking back. The word “example” in First Peter 2:21 is the Greek word hupogrammos, a word that described a schoolboy who carefully studied his teacher’s handwriting and then painstakingly copied each letter as closely as possible to the original. Similarly, we are commanded to study every detail of Jesus’ life — how He lived, how He responded to criticism, and how He suffered. We must make it our aim to carefully duplicate His attitude of love for and obedience to the Father.
I pray this letter ministers to your heart this month. If there’s a specific way Denise and I and our team can be praying for you, please contact our Tulsa office and let someone know. Our Partner Care team stands ready to pray and believe God with you for His highest and best blessings to be added to you. Don’t give up on what He has promised you and on the dreams He has placed in your heart!
We love you and thank God for you!
We are your brother and sister, friends, and partners in Jesus Christ,
Rick and Denise Renner
along with Paul, Philip, and Joel and their families