Blame No More

How many times have I cursed Adam and Eve.  How could they be so stupid and selfish to ruin it for the rest of us?  I like to think I would have been better.  I would have resisted the temptation.  If I were in the Garden of Eden with all of the goodness around me, where everything was easy and happy, I would never have been so stupid and so ungrateful.  I would have been satisfied with what I had.  I like to think that…  But I probably prove daily that I too would have fallen, indeed I do fall.

Today, I re-read the story we all know so well,  and what struck me is Adam and Eve’s response to God and God’s response to Adam and Eve:

When they heard the sound of the LORD God walking about in the garden at the breezy time of the day, the man and his wife hid themselves from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. The LORD God then called to the man and asked him: Where are you? He answered, “I heard you in the garden; but I was afraid, because I was naked, so I hid.” Then God asked: Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I had forbidden you to eat? The man replied, “The woman whom you put here with me—she gave me fruit from the tree, so I ate it.” The LORD God then asked the woman: What is this you have done? The woman answered, “The snake tricked me, so I ate it.”

Genesis 3:8-13

Wow!  Not only do they disobey God, but then they blame others for it.  Adam blames Eve and Eve blames the snake.  They almost sound like 5 year olds.  “It wasn’t my fault.”  “She made me do it.”  Our shame often makes us blame others for our actions.  Society seems to encourage us to ignore individual responsibility.  We fill the courts with lawsuits blaming someone else for things that “happen” to us.  It’s the gun manufacturer’s fault, the bartender’s fault, the drug manufacturer’s fault.  Social media, video games, movies and TV all cause us to do things we know are wrong.  Its hard to correct our behavior when we refuse to accept that we make the choices that lead to evil.  There are plenty of snakes out there, plenty of temptations, but we make choices.  And as much as I want to blame Adam and Eve for all of the misfortunes in the world, or blame politicians or media or others, I make choices everyday.  I cannot hide from my actions.

I do not want to be like Adam and Eve blaming others. When we blame others, it is easy to become victims and feel helpless.   I cannot control others, but I can control my choices.  I need to open my eyes to my choices.  I need to take responsibility, and seek God’s forgiveness, for my actions.

We often focus on the man and the woman in the story, Adam and Eve.  But the best part of the story is God. God knows His children have sinned, have disobeyed Him, have not trusted His goodness, but He does not turn His back on them.  He searches for them.  He calls for them.  Just as He calls us back to Him.  We think of this as the greatest sin, the original one, the one that started it all.  But look at what God does.  Adam and Eve have turned from Him, but God doesn’t give up on them, or us.  He comes down to earth to meet Adam and Eve.  He meets us where we are.   They are hiding in the darkness of the trees and God calls for them. God calls us out of the darkness.  He questions them about what they have done.  He helps us recognize our sin because He wants us to do better.  God does all of this for Adam and Eve, and He does the same for us.  We chose to know evil, and God keeps calling us back to know good.

Lord,

You show me again and again how great you are.  Your plans for us are good.  You know better than us what we need and what we don’t.  Forgive me for the times I have turned away, for the times I have thought I have known better, for the times I have blamed others.  I want to know good.  I want to know you.  I don’t need anything other than you and your plan for me.

Why Can’t We Follow the Law?

Yesterday, the Bible opened to Zechariah, and since I had never read this book before (or, honestly, even knew it existed), I read it all.  I was struck by this verse:

These then are the things you must do: Speak the truth to one another; judge with honesty and complete justice in your gates.  Let none of you plot evil against another in your heart, nor love a false oath. For all these things I hate—oracle of the LORD.

Zechariah 8:16-17

I was struck not because it was something new, but because it was not new.  We hear these same things in the ten commandments and in Jesus’ words to us.  And of course, we (or at least I) still struggle to comply.  Sometimes it is easy to think, well He doesn’t really mean that or it is ok if I sin because He will forgive me again.  And yes, I know God will forgive when we turn to Him, but couldn’t I do a better job actually trying not to sin, actually trying not to do the things that God hates, the things that pull us away from him, the things that essentially thumb our nose at Him.  After all, He tells us what we should not do.  He tells us what hurts Him.  How do we feel when our children, our spouse or our friends do something that they know we do not like or have expressly asked them not to do?

Sometimes it feels like in today’s world, we are quick to ignore the rules that don’t suit us or that don’t match with what we want.  The media is filled right now with the immigration issue and whether any punishment should occur when someone illegally crosses the border.  What always strikes me about this whole debate is that we get mad when anyone wants to enforce the law.  There is no dispute that the immigrants at issue are “illegal”.  In other words they have broken our laws.  I am not saying I necessarily agree with the law (but the fix is to change the law), but what happened to the idea of following the law?  We pick and choose what laws we will follow.  How dare anyone tell us what we can and cannot do.  How dare anyone tell our children what they can and cannot do.  (How many times do we see in the media stories where parents are outraged because a school enforced a rule against their child?) How dare anyone discipline our children when they violate a rule.

Do we display the same attitude to God?  How dare God tell us what to do?  Oh I hope I do not!

God,

Forgive me!  Forgive me for turning away from you, for not listening, for not following your commandments.  Forgive me for not always holding love in my heart, for listening to, and spreading, gossip.  Forgive me for judging others, for not being honest with myself or others.  Forgive me for not trying enough to do better.  I want to be a better reflection of you and your love.  Help me Lord.  I need you.

Sin is bad. Forgiveness is good.

Sometimes the Old Testament can feel fairly heavy and negative and a little bit scary.  But I like this one.

My child, if you have sinned, do so no more, and for your past sins pray to be forgiven.  Flee from sin as from a serpent that will bite you if you go near it; Its teeth, lion’s teeth, destroying human lives.  All lawlessness is like a two-edged sword; when it cuts, there is no healing.  Panic and pride wipe out wealth; so too the house of the proud is uprooted. Prayer from the lips of the poor is heard at once, and justice is quickly granted them. Whoever hates correction walks the sinner’s path, but whoever fears the Lord repents in his heart.

Sirach 21:1-6

“My child, if you have sinned, do so no more.”  What a great way to say it.  If you have (and of course who hasn’t)  just don’t do it again.  “And for your past sins pray to be forgiven.”  I feel the peace of being in a confessional.

And having spent the day dealing with the trouble created when someone cannot accept criticism and feedback, I appreciate the reminder that “whoever hates correction walks the sinner’s path.”  It is good to be humble and accept correction. We all can learn.  We all can do better.  And perhaps a little fear of the Lord is good, so we repent and accept the correction.  But I hope that I repent, not just out of fear but out of humbleness and our of love.

My God, I am sorry for my sins.  In choosing to do wrong and failing to do good, I have sinned against you, who I love above all things.  I firmly resolve, with your help and your grace to repent and to sin no more.

Turn Back

Today I started the Augustine Institute’s Forgiven series.  Powerful.  If you have not seen it, I highly recommend it (at least the first session, which is all I have done so far).

We talked about how sin separates us from God — not earth shattering news, I know.  But it’s not just the sin, but our response to it which separates us.  We separate ourselves from God by doubting his love for us when we sin.  Read more