Sneaking in under the radar this season is a new entry into the Dishonored franchise. Both titles in the Dishonored series have become critically acclaimed titles that touch on a theme that resonates with most of us: the story of a character who has been wrongfully accused and has set out on an adventure to correct this. In this case, as the former protector turned assassin Corvo you are implicated in a murder you did not commit and spend the majority of the game tracking down those who are responsible for the assassination you are framed for. This is a familiar trope in many game and movie experiences, and few feelings are more rewarding than when the protagonist finally stands tall in the end, typically having redeemed their good name while insuring justice has been served. But this self-gratifying journey for justice almost always involves a great deal of violence, collateral damage for other innocent parties, and rarely comes without a great deal of additional loss begging a critical question: was it worth it? Was clearing your name and taking your adversary down truly the right thing to do, or was it the thing that “felt” right to do?
I personally often feel a great sense of satisfaction when I see a wrong being made right. Many times I have felt the dark joy of observing a guilty individual receiving their come-uppance, or the rare occasion when a punishment actually fits the crime. Seeing the innocent suffer just begs the emotional response to see their tormentor receive the equivalent treatment, and we often celebrate fictional anti-heroes such as the Punisher, Batman, or the assassin Corvo for doing what we often secretly desire to do ourselves: make the bad guys pay. Sometimes it’s as simple as seeing the car that just passed you going 90 mph a few miles down the road having a chat with the local highway patrol, and other times it may be much more serious like the sentencing phase of a trial for a murderous criminal… either way these moments generate a profound emotional response that must be investigated.
As a Christian, I have often considered the implications of being a “vigilante” and weighed this against Scripture to find God’s opinion on the subject. And while there are certainly many entries in the Bible in which He has tasked an individual with carrying out his divine retribution (see Samson, Ehud, David, and so many more), I find quite consistently that with each of these individuals they were tasked by God specifically to perform these actions. These were not revenge missions taken on for any sense of personal gain, but rather were divinely orchestrated events to alter the course of history in a meaningful way. So to get a full Scriptural idea of God’s feelings on the subject, we have one principle place to turn… the man Jesus Christ.
Charged with FRAUDULENT IDENTITY: in Luke chapter 4 we find the familiar account of Jesus being tempted by the devil in the wilderness. What is notable here is that the devil was not content to merely tempt Jesus, but he introduced it with the mocking question, “IF you are the Son of God”. The temptation was not merely for food to ease His hunger, or to showcase His power… satan was directly confronting Christ with a challenge to prove He was not a fraud, but in fact the Son of God. It had to be quite tempting for Jesus to simply squash satan like a bug right there and drop the mic with authority, but He showed restraint. Jesus knew who He was, and that He did not have to prove that to satan or anyone else.
Attempted MURDER by his HOMETOWN: Luke chapter 4 is just not a good time to be Jesus. After enduring the wilderness battle Jesus goes to church and reads a selection of Scripture to the congregation. After informing them that He was the fulfillment of the prophecy He just read, the incredulous audience turned from passive listeners to violent murderers. In verse 28 we find those who knew Him only as the son of Joseph the carpenter leading Him to the top of a mountain to throw him off to His death. If you are a preacher, take heart… it is unlikely you will ever have a worse reaction to a sermon than the one Christ is having here. But rather than unleash the power that once swallowed up naysayers into the earth, He simply passed through them and went on His way without a word.
DISRESPECTED by family: This time, it’s personal. In John 7 we find the very kin of Jesus, his brothers by blood advising Him to leave home and go to an upcoming festival to proclaim His message. On the surface this would seem to be a bit of positive encouragement… until you read verse 5. In cold letters we see their true motivation, as Scripture flatly stated that even His own brothers did not believe in Him. So, if they didn’t believe in His message why were they sending Him away to speak it? I don’t want to engage in too much conjecture here, but if their motives were not altruistic to benefit His ministry than the most obvious consideration is that they were setting Him up for failure. Did Jesus “go off” on His family for not realizing who He was or genuinely supporting His ministry? No, in a theme that we will continue to see reinforced, He did not even confront their unbelief but simply informed them why he would not do what they suggested and encouraged them to go without Him. He DID end up going to the festival separately of them, but He went on His terms.
ATTACKED for an act of kindness: Few frustrations match the feeling of trying to do something genuinely helpful with the purest of intentions only to have it blow up in your face. If this has happened to you, don’t worry, you are in good company. In John 5 we have the scene set for a miracle, with a healing pool surrounded by the sick and the disabled waiting for something supernatural to happen. Enter Jesus stage right. With the words, ” Get up, pick up your mat and walk” Jesus accomplished two things. He performed a life changing miracle for this disabled man, and he infuriated the Jewish leaders for performing this kindness on the wrong day of the week, namely the Sabbath day. Verses 16 to 18 record this as the point that His persecution by them truly began in earnest, with the chilling phrase that they now “tried to kill Him all the more” because He both healed on the Sabbath and claimed God as His father. And for doing nothing more than telling the truth and altering a man’s life through a miraculous healing He became public enemy number one.
BETRAYED and ABANDONED by His friends: Everyone has experienced the bitter pain of betrayal by either friends, family, or a significant other at some point. But to be setup by a member of your inner circle for false arrest and imprisonment while simultaneously being deserted by almost every other friend you have is a special level of pain that few can imagine, much less tolerate with patience and grace. And yet this is exactly what we find Jesus doing as He calmly explains to Peter exactly what he is about to do and even encourages Judas to move quickly with his forthcoming act of betrayal while feeding him one final time. Knowing what was coming from each member of His traveling group of disciples, Jesus enjoyed one final meal with them and chose to serve them by washing their feet one by one, lowering Himself like a household servant to honor those who mere hours from now will completely abandon Him.
FALSELY ACCUSED of blasphemy and EXECUTED: It is unlikely any of us have experienced this exact same situation or you probably wouldn’t be reading this, but this is the grand finale of Christ’s mistreatment during His pilgrimage on our planet. After multiple sham trials, physical abuse by both the police and the military, false accusations from multiple witnesses who could not even agree on their testimonies, and finally being sentenced to death by the entire representation of countrymen when clemency was offered, His path of disgrace and shame finally ended in a humiliating public death. As He was passing from life to death, He could not even receive the dignity of a quick and merciful end… no, He was displayed like a bloody trophy and continued to be mocked and verbally assaulted by those who watched Him give His final breath on their behalf to mutter the words, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”.
After a full review of not only these examples but so many more, it becomes obvious that clearing His good name was never on Jesus’s to do list. He was frequently misunderstood, often misquoted, and ultimately murdered, but when He was met with irrational hate He chose to show love. When His name was slandered and His good deeds questioned He let His loving, peaceful actions speak for themselves. When the choice to call 10,000 angels to save Him was present, He opted for sacrifice. He made the decision to die condemned rather than live justified, knowing that if He humbled Himself and carried the bitter cross He was given that our Father would honor this choice and that trillions of lives would be forever changed as a result.
Jesus died what was considered one of the most dishonorable deaths possible at the hands of the Romans. And while it is almost impossible for me to fathom the kind of strength that would allow someone to show such weakness and vulnerability, He did it. I struggle on a daily basis with the desire to seek justice for myself when I have been maligned, but Christ showed us how to absorb those attacks by offering grace to those who hurt Him even in the act of suffering. I hope that this encourages you in whatever way you may currently be suffering. We do not follow a Savior that cannot understand the pain and frustration that accompanies the disgrace of being dishonored. He knows, He understands, and He is a living breathing example of how we should deal with these situations as they arise. Whether your battle is with family, friends, your hometown, your neighborhood, your church, your government, or satan himself… Jesus has the same response for each and every situation: show grace to them and don’t seek to right the wrong yourself. Jesus stands tall at the end of His work on this Earth without any shame despite His mistreatment. And if you choose to follow the path of grace to those that wrong you, you will be standing right alongside Him sharing in His victory.