7th Sunday after Pentecost
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ, I remember it like it was yesterday, it was 4:15 in the morning, it was summer, I was in high school, my brother and I both had the same job- we worked for a porta-potty company that happened to be just ¾ of a mile down the road, one of the largest porta-potty companies in Southeastern Wisconsin. On this particular day all of the drivers- about 10-15 of us- were to start at 4 am because we were delivering hundreds of porta-potties to different locations for a breast cancer awareness walk. 4:15 am my dad walked into the room my brother and I were sleeping in and woke us up, your boss just called and they’re wondering where you are. Oh no! Immediately, I say, “Adam! Did you set your alarm clock!” We rush to work and everyone is standing there waiting for us, and I absolutely hate being late and I remember pointing my finger, “It’s his fault!” Do you do that? There are countless stories that I could relate from my life where I’ve said, “It’s not my fault!” It’s so easy to blame and blame and blame and refuse to take responsibility.
Just about every marriage counselor has witnessed this. And before I go on, I just want to say that if you have marriage problems, like we learned last week It is not easier to avoid them and I do offer marriage counseling and it’s free. But every marriage counselor knows that typically at the first meeting with a couple each spouse has this incredible ability and insight to confess the other spouse’s sins. Why? Because we believe, “It’s not my fault!”
But here’s another angle to this lie that we’re taking a look at this morning. Have you ever said to yourself, “Ooh, I’m just so mad! They make me so upset!” Maybe you’re waiting in line in order to go to some event that you’ve really been looking forward to and there’s this huge line, you’re waiting and waiting, the line is going so slowly, you’re getting really upset, then finally there’s one person in front of you and all of a sudden they let in 15 more people whom they’ve been saving a spot for. Really!! Or you’re driving your car and it’s been backed up for miles, you’re supposed to be in the right lane and car after car is zooming along in the left lane and nosing their way in. Ooh, that makes me so mad! Or you’re at the store, you’re just buying a few things and you get into the “speedy” checkout and the person in front of you has 2 carts piled high with things. Really! Ooh, that makes me so mad! In each of those cases, what we’re really saying, is my misery, my unhappiness is not my fault, it’s someone else’s fault. In fact, if you’ve ever said, “They make me so upset. Or they hurt my feelings.” You’re probably believing this lie.
The truth is, no one owns your feelings except you. No one can make you feel upset, no one can make you feel miserable, no one can make you feel anything. Why not? Because God hasn’t given your feelings to anyone except you. No one owns your feelings except you. No one can make you unhappy, but you can choose to feel unhappy, choose to feel angry, choose to be frustrated because of what so and so said or did.
Again and again in life we can try to shift the responsibility of our problems and responsibility of our feelings by blaming someone or something else. Do we constantly ask, “What did I do to contribute to this problem?” Or, are we saying, “If people would just listen to me then we wouldn’t be in this mess, if we did it my way it would have turned out, if my parents were better parents I wouldn’t be in the mess I am in today, if they didn’t do what they did I wouldn’t have yelled or become angry, etc, etc.”
And think about the ramifications of believing this lie. First, it will destroy our emotional health. Why? Because perfect me becomes the victim of everyone else. I place the responsibility for my lack of joy and peace in life in the hands of everyone else. “It was their insulting comment, it was my children’s behavior, it was that long line, that makes me so upset! You know what that does? It leaves us frustrated, angry and defeated and NOT able to do anything about it because we think it’s everyone else’s fault! Believing this lie will also hurt us spiritually. You see, if I don’t think anything is my fault I’ll find it more and more difficult to repent and confess my sins to God. If you find it difficult confessing you sins to God every day, you’re probably believing this lie. And then furthermore I have less and less of a need for God’s grace, God’s mercy, God’s forgiveness. Finally, believing this lie also inhibits our ability to grow. How can I become a more loving spouse if I don’t think it’s my fault? How will I grow and improve when it’s everyone else’s fault?
So where did all this blame shifting and fault evading begin? It began with our first parents, Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve had both sinned against God and then they heard the LORD as He was coming to meet with them. The fact that they recognized the sound of God as He came seems to indicate that they had previously met with God and enjoyed His company. But this time is now different. When they hear the sound of God they quickly scurry here and there to find a hiding place. The verb form in the Hebrew indicates this back and forth frantic searching. Like a mouse in a dark room when the lights are suddenly turned on it frantically searches for a place to hide. But how ridiculous! God created everything and they think they can hide from him! That’s what sin does- it makes us do foolish things. And when God questions them notice what Adam does, he tries to shift the responsibility off himself to the two people closest to him. First, it’s the woman. “The woman you put here with me – she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” But that’s not it- it’s not just the woman – it’s also God. “Hey God, if I remember correctly, this whole woman thing was YOUR idea!” Now that’s a scary place to be. But many people go there – maybe you and I. God had made Eve out of love and mercy and when God brought Eve to Adam he greeted her with utmost excitement and joy. Now he’s blaming God for his trouble. We see ourselves in that, don’t we? The alcoholic who is dying of liver disease often points his finger at God and says, “God did this to me, God made me this way.” What a scary place to be, trying to evade the responsibility of our problems by pinning them on God. Adam’s sullen, he’s angry, he’s frustrated. Eve’s not much better, she too blames the serpent.
But what is incredibly comforting here is watch what God does – He does not remain silent. What’s his reaction to His creature’s fall, to their sin, to their blaming? Notice how different it is from how he deals with the Serpent. He doesn’t confront Satan or seek Satan’s repentance, He has no time for Satan, He simply announces Satan’s condemnation- “He will crush your head.” But how different God deals with His human beings! He seeks fellowship with them, like a loving father He asks questions in order to hear a confession, and even before He explains the consequences of their sin, He assures them of someone who would deliver them from sin, “I will put enmity between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head and you will strike his heel.” It’s the first promise of a Savior from sin. Already God comes with grace and mercy to reconcile his wayward children in view of Jesus who would come to rescue them.
There is only one person in all of history who has walked this earth who could properly say, “It’s not my fault, I did nothing but speak the truth, I did nothing but love and live perfectly, I’m not responsible for this mess.” Only Jesus could say that. But what did He say instead? In amazing grace he said to his Father, “Don’t hold them accountable. Blame me. Place the responsibility of all their sin and problems and mess on me. I am the sinner. I am the one at fault.” And on the cross that’s exactly what God did for you and me! He took the responsibility for our sin and shame and placed in on Jesus- forgiving us completely.
And because of that we’re delivered from this lie. Instead of evading responsibility and blaming, we can accept responsibility for our sin, confess it, and then rely on God’s grace and mercy for us in Jesus knowing our sin is forgiven. Because of Jesus we don’t have to be the victims of anger and frustration and unhappiness caused by everyone else, but be filled with the joy and peace that comes from our gracious God. Because of Jesus we can each say, “It’s mostly my fault, but my Jesus has paid for it.”
Imagine a scenario where two people sit down- maybe a husband and wife, maybe two relatives – and instead of blaming each other the one says, “It’s mostly my fault. I’ve been so stressed at work that I’ve just been irritable and impatient, please forgive me.” And the other says, “It’s mostly my fault, I have unreasonable expectations, I should never have insisted on what I insisted, please forgive me.” All praise to God for He is working the freeing power of the truth in their lives: It’s my fault, but I’m forgiven. Amen.