BROTHERS KEEPER
Excuses (for sinning)

Despite Jesus’ assertion that sin comes from within us, from out of our hearts, we strive to prove his words wrong:

He said, “What comes out of a person defiles him. For from within, out of the human heart, come evil ideas, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, evil, deceit, debauchery, envy, slander, pride, and folly. All these evils come from within and defile a person.” (Mark 7:20-23 NET)

Some of our more creative targets for blame-shifting include:


· Our upbringing – my parents made me do it.
· Our genetic makeup – my grandparents made me do it.
· Our society – Peer pressure made me do it.
· And if all that fails, you can take a cue from Eve and Flip Wilson – The devil made me do it.

Excuses are the clearest indicators of worldly sorrow. They betray a Christian’s desire to justify, rationalize or otherwise mitigate sin. How can you tell if a fellow Christian is on the destructive path of worldly sorrow? Listen for the excuses. What’s the easiest way to selfassess your own sorrow? Listen for the excuses. They usually come right after the confession or apology: “I’m sorry that I’m late again, but the traffic lights were all out of sync.” “I need to confess that I’m harboring bitterness against you because you never called me back.” “I am so sorry for forgetting our anniversary; it’s been crazy at work.”

Notice King Saul’s lame series of excuses, capped by an apology in which he cannot resist the final urge to excuse his sin because “I was afraid.” In the end, he’s more concerned about his reputation before the elders than before God. If only Saul had heeded Samuel’s response to his first excuse: “Stop!”

“Why haven’t you obeyed the Lord? Instead you have greedily rushed on the plunder. You have done what is wrong in the Lord’s estimation.”

Then Saul said to Samuel, “But I have obeyed the Lord! I went on the campaign the Lord sent me on. I brought back King Agag of the Amalekites, after exterminating the Amalekites. But the army took from the plunder some of the sheep and cattle - the best of what was to be slaughtered – to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal….”

Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned, for I have disobeyed what the Lord commanded and what you said as well. For I was afraid of the army, and I followed their wishes. Now please forgive my sin. Go back with me so I can worship the Lord.”

Samuel said to Saul, “I will not go back with you, for you have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you from being king over Israel.”

When Samuel turned to leave, Saul grabbed the edge of his robe and it tore. Samuel said to him, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you this day and has given it to one of your colleagues who is better that you! The Preeminent One of Israel does not go back on his word or change his mind, for he is not a human being who changes his mind.” Saul again replied, “I have sinned. But please honor me before the elders of my people and before Israel. Go back with me so I may worship the Lord your God.” (Samuel 15:19-21, 24-30 NET)

Moses said to Aaron, “What did this people do to that you have brought on them so great a sin?” And Aaron said, “Do not let the anger of my lord burn hot; you know the people, that they tend to evil. And they said to me, ‘Make us god’s that will go before us, for as for this fellow Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has happened to him.’ So I said to them, ‘Whoever has gold, break it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and this calf came out.” (Exodus 32:21-24 NET)

Aaron’s “and this calf came out” sounds pretty lame to our ears, but I wonder if it sounded plausible to him. Have you heard yourself offering up excuses that sound reasonable to you? Where there is an excuse, there’s persistent sin. So how do you excuse this sin – be it lust, deceit, gossip, pride, bitterness, lack of forgiveness or indifference to evangelism? None of us wants a Christian walk entangled in sin. Nevertheless, the sin remains as long as the excuse survives. And if your excuse is actually a part of your doctrine, then your doctrine isn’t sond.

persistent sin. So how do you excuse this sin – be it lust, deceit, gossip, pride, bitterness, lack of forgiveness or indifference to evangelism? None of us wants a Christian walk entangled in sin. Nevertheless, the sin remains as long as the excuse survives. And if your excuse is actually a part of your doctrine, then your doctrine isn’t sond.

Repentance, on the other hand, makes no provision for selectively. Jesus encountered a respected young man whose obedience was both wholehearted and selective. With love, Jesus challenged the rich young ruler to repent and rise above his selective righteousness. “At this statement, the man looked sad and went away sorrowful,” but unrepentant, because his worldly sorrow vaccinated him against full-brown repentance.”

Similarly, my twenty-something turn merely targeted select behaviors that I deemed incompatible with a man of character who sought the respect of his community. I never considered my greed, selfish ambition, envy and lusts because they caused me no cognitive dissonance. Instead, a repentant Christian embraces absolutes, even moral absolutes.

Moreover, when metanoia turns our life around, it involves both a turning from and a turning toward. We do not select one or the other. As Jesus commissioned Paul “to open their eyes that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power [domain] of Satan to God,” so Paul preached “that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds consistent with repentance.” Thus we turn from Satan’s dark domain of self and sin, and we turn toward service in the kingdom of God. Few Christians would cite my church attendance as proof of my turn toward God and his kingdom. Instead, repentant Christians serve the kingdom. Instead, repentant Christians serve the kingdom as ambassadors, pleading with the unrepentant to be reconciled to God. Cognitive dissonance, also known as keeping up with the Joneses, rarely prompts men and women to preach repentance – unless, of course, you’re surrounded by true Christians.

Perhaps you experienced a radical change in your life. If so, praise God for every sweet taste of righteousness. Also be diligent to discern whether the change was a selective conformation or a sweeping transfiguration. That is, did you become more like respected members of your community or more like persecuted disciples in the kingdom of God?

The answer to that question may prove to be one of the most important ones you’ve ever contemplated. Please know repentance or to cause unwarranted sorrow. I pray that I can imitate Paul and rejoice, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance.


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