Human nature is to play the blame game and avoid responsibility. We see this right from the very beginning in the garden of Eden. Check out Genesis 3:9-13.
So the LORD God called out to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”
And he said, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.”
Then he 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 is this you have done? ”
And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
As we can see, human nature is to place the blame for our actions on someone or something else so that we can avoid being accountable, because we don’t want to face the consequences of our actions.
In Sin, We Avoid Responsibility To Escape Accountability
All of us probably have areas of our lives where we want to see change and growth. But when we are confronted with our need to change often our default response is to make excuses. For example, how many times have you been having a rough day or a bad week and someone says the wrong thing and you just unload on them? Then they respond. And before you know it, you are in the middle of a full-on fight. And because neither one of you is willing to take responsibility for your words or take responsibility for working towards reconciliation, you both just stay entrenched and the relationship becomes damaged. Marriages are often ruined.
Often we limit our growth because of a lack of responsibility. We see the ways we need to grow, we feel our shortcomings but’s easier to make excuses instead of taking responsibility. And as a result, jobs are lost. Opportunities are squandered. It’s so easy to blame our circumstances. It’s been a hard year. This is the way I was raised. If my spouse acted a certain way THEN I would… When my kids start behaving THEN…If my boss would only THEN….
But as long as we make excuses we will never experience the growth we want. As long as we make excuses we will never experience the change we need. As long as we are making excuses we will never live the life that God is calling us to.
Excuses are a lame attempt at avoiding responsibility.
Responsibility DOES NOT Equal Fault
Now we need to make an important distinction. There is a difference between responsibility and fault. All of us are profoundly shaped by the way we were raised. But if we are not careful, we can use the way we were raised as an excuse to stay entrenched in unhealthy, possibly even sinful behavior. We have all heard someone say “It’s not my fault I’m this way. It’s just the way I was raised.” We have all seen someone act like a jerk and then follow it up with: “This is just who I am. Take it or leave it.”
Sometimes traumatic things happen to a person that influences very unhealthy, even sinful behavior. Addictions are often formed because a person is trying to cope with something that should not have happened to them. It’s not that person’s fault that something traumatic happened to them. But, at some point, they have to take responsibility for their unhealthy behavioral responses.
Your Environment Is Influential, Not Controlling
You may have come from a broken home. That has impacted you. Your broken home wasn’t your fault. The fault lies with the person who caused the circumstances. The responsibility lies with the person who wants to move forward. Fault is past tense. Responsibility is present tense. Fault results from choices that have already been made. Responsibility results from the choices you’re currently making every second of every day.1
You don’t need to take responsibility for someone else’s sin. It wasn’t Adam and Eve’s fault that the serpent tempted them in the garden. You do need to take responsibility for how you move forward. We are responsible for how we respond to experiences that are not our fault.
While your environment and your nature, do influence you, they are not the sole reason for your behavior. Adam lived in paradise, in a world without sin, had the perfect job, and he still blew it. Jesus lived in a country that had been conquered, beaten, and broken, filled with corrupt religious and political leaders, and won our salvation. Now, here is the hope, we are no longer in Adam. We are now in Christ.2
We are not doomed to hopelessly repeat Adam’s sin because we are in Christ!
In Love, Jesus Took Responsibility For Our Sin
2 Corinthians 5:21 He made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
We can be reconciled back to God because Christ took responsibility for our sins. Adam did not take responsibility, Christ did take responsibility. Adam played the blame game for sin, Christ took responsibility for sin. And because we are in Christ and Christ is in us, we can take responsibility for our lives.
In Adam we blame, In Christ we claim.
We have all heard the famous quote from Spider-Man that his Uncle Ben said to him right before he died. “With great power comes great responsibility.”
Let’s flip that quote and say. “With great responsibility comes great power.”
The more responsibility you take for your life, the more power you have to change it for the better. The less responsibility you take for your life, the less power you will have to change it. Instead of acting like a victim of your circumstances, take responsibility for your life. You can take responsibility for your attitude, the way you think, your work ethic, or your walk with Christ. Because you have the Holy Spirit of God coursing through your soul you can live like Jesus. You may have been victimized, but you are no longer a victim.
Because Jesus is the ultimate example and empowers us, we can lastly…
Without Fear, We Take Responsibility For Our Lives
As we have seen, because we have the indwelling Spirit of God we, like Jesus, take responsibility for ourselves. Christ took responsibility for us, we can take responsibility for ourselves. He empowers us to “own up.” But I want also want to look at how Christ FREES us to take responsibility. Why can we do this without fear? Check out 1 John 2:1.
1 John 2:1 My little children, I am writing you these things so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ the righteous one.
The reason I can take responsibility for my life, my choices, even my sin, is because Jesus is my advocate. When I fall short, Jesus rises to my defense. Because I don’t have to fear the eternal consequences of my sin, I no longer have to weasel my way out of taking responsibility.
Granted, there are still consequences we have to face in the physical sense. If you speed, you get a ticket. Rob a bank, you go to jail. Consistently act like a jerk, you will lose friends. The Bible is full of sowing and reaping reminders. But we have an advocate who knows exactly how short we fall, and yet at the same time can make a better defense for us than we ever could. Jesus doesn’t need to make excuses for us. He doesn’t need to try and shift the blame. He just points to his all-sufficient sacrifice on the cross in our place. And now we are free. Free of the need to justify, or defend, or make excuses.
Jesus Is Our Advocate
In his book, Gentle and Lowly Dane C. Ortlund said “Do not minimize your sin or excuse it away. Raise no defense. Simply take it to the one who is already at the right hand of the Father, advocating for you on the basis of his own wounds. Let your own unrighteousness, in all your darkness and despair, drive you to Jesus Christ, the righteous, in all his brightness and sufficiency.”3
As a result, we can humbly, but without fear, take responsibility for our lives because Jesus is the one who is advocating for us. We don’t have to make excuses for continued sin – we can fight it. You don’t have to blame difficult circumstances for your struggles – you can grow. We don’t have to avoid accountability for our actions – we can embrace it.
What in your life do you want to see changed? Your marriage? Finances? Walk with God? Your health? Your friendships? You can make the changes you want to see in your life. The question is are you willing to take responsibility. Rest in your justification, stop making excuses, and start making progress.
- 2 Corinthians 5:10, Romans 14:12
- 1 Corinthians 15:22
- Ortlund, Dane Calvin. Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers. Crossway, 2020.