Who’s to Blame? Finding Freedom in Humility and Repentance

One of the greatest delights during my tenure as a parent thus far has been hearing my children grow in the skill of putting thoughts into words. We’ve suppressed many a giggle as they’ve adorably articulated their thoughts, feelings, and the happenings of their days. And often God has used their heartfelt expressions to teach me about truths in my own heart.

On one such occasion a commotion had erupted between two of our children. Upon asking the offender why they sinned against their sibling, the reply was, “It wasn’t my fault—it was my brain’s fault!” (Did I mention the suppressed giggles?) After helping to resolve the situation, I pondered the response. In that statement I saw my own proclivity to blame reflected back at me—the same blame dating back thousands of years following the very first sin ever committed. 

The Blame Game

Then [God] asked, “Who told you that you were naked? Did you eat from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”

The man replied, “The woman you gave to be with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate.” 

So the Lord God asked the woman, “What have you done?”

And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” (Genesis 3:11–13)

One of the pieces of evidence that sin entered the world was the propensity to shift our God-given responsibility to someone else, as we see both Adam and Eve doing here. We’re blind to just how egregious our own sin is, while the sin of others is amplified in our mind’s eye. If we’re not viewing ourselves and the world through the lens of Scripture, we’ll see ourselves simply as victims of the faults of others, past situations we’ve walked through, or the current circumstances of life. Our knee-jerk reaction is to find some way—any way—to toss the blame to another like a game of hot potato. And just when I think I’ve “arrived,” I feel the familiar twinge of conviction when I find myself back in the blame game: blaming that snappy word on the bad headache or lack of sleep, blaming my bad attitude on the mountain of tasks I have to accomplish, blaming the choice to be lazy on the need for some down time or some other scapegoat. 

Don’t get me wrong: the sinful (or even just insensitive or misinterpreted) actions of others, health issues, or stressful life situations are often valid factors in the difficulty and pain we face. Taking responsibility for ourselves doesn’t mean we brush off these issues as “no big deal.” It’s important that we recognize the reality of what’s affecting us today or what has shaped us in the past. However, this never gives us a pass to sin. We are always responsible before God for our own obedience in the midst of our life experiences. When we’re right with God, we have greater clarity by which to process and handle the past or present actions of others, as well as any additional factors that are at play.

Be Quick to Repent

David gives us a wonderful example of what it looks like to acknowledge and repent of our sin before the Lord. In Psalm 51 after committing adultery and murder he writes, 

Against you—you alone—I have sinned
and done this evil in your sight.
So you are right when you pass sentence;
you are blameless when you judge. (Psalm 51:4)

We know that David sinned against others, and he knew it too. But David rightly understood that all sin is ultimately committed against our perfect Creator. He didn’t try to justify his sin: He repented of it by going to the only One who could cleanse him. 

He goes on to say, “God, create a clean heart for me and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (v. 10).

Jesus speaks to this as well. We cannot rightly see the sin of others or how to help them if we do not first repent of and deal with our own. He says,

“Why do you look at the splinter in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the beam of wood in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the splinter out of your eye,’ and look, there’s a beam of wood in your own eye? Hypocrite! First take the beam of wood out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the splinter out of your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:3–5)

Yes, there is a time to help someone with their “splinter.” But our spiritual sight will be distorted if we’re only focused on the sin of others. God grants us discernment and clarity when we first allow Him to take care of the sin in us.

Walk in Humility 

Psalm 25:9 says, “[God] leads the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.”

I love how the merriam-webster.com defines humility: “Freedom from pride or arrogance.”

Freedom is such a fitting word. Although our flesh would like to tell us otherwise, humility truly does free us from the restraints and burdens pride places on us. When we realize what the Lord has done for us—rightly acknowledging our own weakness and shortcomings—we are filled with God’s grace to walk uprightly before Him and others. 

James 4:6 says,

But he gives greater grace. Therefore he says:

God resists the proud
but gives grace to the humble.

When we’re walking in pride, God resists us. That should be a sobering reality for us. Because walking in humility actively resists our feelings and fleshly desires, it is an act of faith to believe that God blesses us when we walk in humility. But think with me for a moment of those who model to you a truly humble life. Do you despise them? I surely don’t. I esteem them and desire to glean from their wisdom.The world may despise humility, but it is precious to God—a fact that is evident to those who have spiritual eyes to see.

Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud; instead, associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own estimation. (Romans 12:16)

Make Jesus the Focus 

When we intentionally make Jesus the wholehearted pursuit of our lives, the reality of who He is and what He’s done for us will be ever before us. We cannot dwell on His sacrifice on the cross for our sake and make little of our own sin at the same time. 

Making a daily practice of seeking God through His Word and in prayer is transformative. Why? Because by His Spirit it renews our minds to think, act, and speak in a way that glorifies Him. 

Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.” As He renews our minds by His Spirit through His Word, we not only grow in our love for Him, but our desire to justify wrong actions or attitudes diminishes too. It’s both convicting and breathtaking to witness the fruit of a life that’s consumed with love for Christ. It’s apparent in one’s demeanor, speech, and choices when he or she can say with John the Baptist, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). 

Psalm 119:1–3 says,

How happy are those whose way is blameless,
who walk according to the Lord’s instruction!
Happy are those who keep his decrees
and seek him with all their heart.
They do nothing wrong;
they walk in his ways.

What makes a person blameless? Walking according to the Lord’s instruction. And what characterizes this kind of person? Happiness. Looking to Jesus is not drudgery. When Christ fills our gaze, we’re liberated from pride, quick to repent of sin, and we discover joy in obedience no matter what shape it takes in our daily lives. 

Have you been to a wedding this summer? There’s another wedding coming! Join Nancy as she explores what it means to be the Bride of Christ and how we can cultivate an intimate, loving relationship with our heavenly Bridegroom in the series “Here Comes the Bridegroom” on the Revive Our Hearts podcast, now through July 19. 

About the Author

Heather Cofer

Heather Cofer

Heather Cofer is a wife and mother of six living in northern Colorado with a passion for encouraging women to love Jesus. She is the author of Expectant: Cultivating a Vision for Christ-Centered Pregnancy, and has also written for Set … read more …

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