Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Blame Game

“And Saul said…the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen…the people spared the best sheep and of the oxen…the people took the spoil, sheep and oxen…I feared the people and obeyed their voice.” (1 Samuel 15:15,21,24)

        If you want to know what really happened, you’ll have to read elsewhere in the chapter. Samuel’s instructions to King Saul had been both plain and simple: “Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass” (v.3). Saul could not claim he misunderstood these clear-cut instructions; so instead, when he spared the king, along with the best sheep and oxen, his excuse was that “the people” were the real instigators. In reality, however, the truth is found in verse nine, where we read, it was “Saul and the people” who disobeyed. He could whine that it was fear of them that had driven him to disobedience, but the fact remained, he was the one who ended up losing the kingdom over it, though he fought tooth and nail to hang onto it. (Frankly, I, for one, would have been more inclined to cut him a little slack if it had been the women and children he had saved.)

        Trying to pass the buck when it comes to real sin or blame is so unsavory that even the devil refused to do it, in the garden. There is more hope for the worst sinner in town than for the man or woman who refuses to own up to any wrong-doing; or who, like Saul, cannot bring themselves to accept blame unless there is someone to share it with. Generally speaking, God forgives sinners on a one-to-one basis, and until we are willing to ask forgiveness as though we were the only sinner on earth, we have not truly repented.

        It is important for children to learn how to accept rightful blame, wholeheartedly, with the knowledge that forgiveness (and, with God, “forget-ness”) will be the reward. But it is important to remember that “the blame game” is not just a child’s game. I still find myself wanting to indulge this shameful trait. I have found, however, that I feel a whole lot better when I pray, “Lord, forgive me,” instead of “Lord, forgive us.” And mean it. 

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