Chapter 4: Lies Women Believe About Sin
Day 4: Taking Responsibility
Lie #16: “I am not fully responsible for my actions and reactions.”
Let’s review what we’ve learned so far about sin.
First, we looked at the reality that we can’t escape the consequences of our sin. It’s impossible to “sin and get away with it.” Then we discovered that there are no small sins. Every sin is a big deal. Even so, we learned that there is no sin too great for God to forgive when we repent. These are all crucial to our understanding of our current topic on personal responsibility. You see, just as each lie builds on the previous one, each truth also builds on the previous one.
Each of these truths lead us into the importance of personal responsibility when we sin. If we don’t take personal responsibility, we can’t repent; if we don’t personal responsibility, we minimize sin, and we minimize consequences. And now that we understand God’s perspective on sin, consequences, and repentance, we cannot continue to avoid taking responsibility for our sin.
Minimizing sin quickly spills over into the blame-game. “Okay, maybe it is a big deal. But it’s not my fault – this person/this circumstance made me do it. I would never have done this/said this, if this person hadn’t cut me off on the interstate/been rude to me/etc.”
The truth is that people and circumstances do not make us who we are; they merely reveal who we are.
Unfortunately, the belief that someone else made us the way we are, or made us behave the way we did, is particularly difficult to overcome due to the fact that modern psychiatry is all about removing guilt by removing responsibility. But it doesn’t work – ask anyone who’s gone to a psychiatrist. The first step: remove responsibility. When that doesn’t remove the guilt, the next step is medicine to numb the emotions. Neither things remove our guilt; and even if they do somehow lessen the guilt a little, removing responsibility or numbing ourselves to our guilt does not make us any less guilty. The only way to remove our guilt is through taking personal responsibility and repenting of our sin.
Our parents did make us who we are, our boss didn’t make us sin, and our husbands didn’t do all the damage. Regardless of what happens to us, what circumstances we face, or what people say to us, we are all always responsible for the way we choose to respond.
No one can make you sin.
“But you don’t understand! She humiliated me in front of everyone!”
Consider the aftermath of the first sin. In Genesis 3:8-13, we read:
Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”
He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”
And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”
The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”
Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”
The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
As soon as Adam and Eve sinned, God came looking for them. God does that a lot. We’ll talk more about that tomorrow. But how did Adam and Eve respond to this? They tried to hide. How silly is that? We all know we can’t hide from God. But when has that ever stopped us from trying?
When hiding didn’t work, they tried another tactic. God asked Adam, point blank, if he’d disobeyed him. And Adam blamed Eve. But God had not asked Adam what Eve did. He asked him what Adam did.
So God turns to Eve. “What did you do, Eve?” And just like Adam, she plays the blame-game. “The serpent made me do it.” Is this true? Technically. Or as my good friend Karah would say, “Partially.” But partially true, technically true, is not all true and it’s certainly not right.
God came to each person to hold them accountable to their own behaviors. And God does the same thing with us. When someone humiliates us we have two options: obey our flesh or obey God. Let it go and forgive them, or get angry, try to save face, or try to retaliate. And when we obey our flesh instead of God, he comes looking for us. “What have you done?” And then it begins. Excuses. Blaming. But God didn’t ask about the other person. He didn’t ask about the traffic, he didn’t ask about your childhood or your medication. He asked what you did. Because you alone are responsible for your own attitudes and actions.
God does not hold us accountable for the sins of others, but for our own sins. And God does not hold us accountable for things that we truly cannot help. For instance, it’s not a sin to have a certain hair color or eye color or skin color. It is, however, a sin, to lie. Always. It’s always a sin to deceive. It’s always a sin to insult. It’s always a sin rebel against authority. It’s always a sin to curse. And that’s the other part we like to believe. We’d like to think there are exceptions, but there aren’t. God doesn’t say “love your neighbor as yourself unless she humiliates you in public.” He doesn’t say “do not take my name in vain unless someone cuts you off in traffic.” And he doesn’t say “submit to all authority unless you think they’re being unfair.”
When God comes calling, he’s not looking for your report on the sins of those around you. He’s looking at you and only you.
We tend to have a mindset that it’s a really bad thing to be accountable, to be personally responsible. We think admitting our wrong-doing and guilt will make things worse for us, when in reality, it’s only when we own up to our actions and attitudes that we can begin to experience forgiveness and freedom.
We also tend to think that admitting our own guilt lets the other person off the hook. But the other person is none of our concern. What if it does? Are you really willing to offend God, live in rebellion, and suffer the consequences because of someone else’s attitudes and actions? We need to stop making our sin and obedience about the people around us and start making it about us and God.
You always have a choice. You can choose to indulge the flesh or to submit to God.
- When you struggle with depression, you can choose to focus on God, be thankful, and trust him though it, or you can choose to indulge in your emotions, feel sorry for yourself, and isolate from your family, friends, and eventually God.
- When anger flares up inside, you can choose to submit to God, set down your pride, and calm down, or you can choose to lash out, get violent, or use your words to create catastrophic damage so that everyone knows how you feel.
- When you struggle with pain, you can choose to take appropriate medicine, trusting God for his grace, or you can focus on the pain and find justification for drug or alcohol use to find relief.
- When someone rubs you the wrong way, you can choose to love them anyway, and let God smooth you out with this “sand paper person,” or you can resist them, provoke them, and become bitter.
Your friends cannot make you sin. Your enemies cannot make you sin. Your boss, your roommate, a stranger on the street, your genetics, your brain, food, the weather, your pain, or losing your job cannot cause you to sin. Only you can choose sin.
Our fear is that by taking responsibility for our part, we’ll feel worse. But it’s not true. It’s a lie. When we take responsibility, we find freedom. We find relief. We find forgiveness. We don’t have to be controlled by our past, by our friends, by other drivers, or by our circumstances. We don’t have be reactionary. We can be obedient regardless of the difficulties we may face and the obstacles that arise in whatever shape they may take. And when we commit to be obedient, regardless of the obstacles in the way, that’s where we find grace for our time of need.
Sin is the best news there is. Because if your problem is sin, there’s hope. You can make a change. You can repent. You can find freedom. But if your problem is everyone else, there’s hopelessness. You can’t change it. It’s out of your control. And you’ll always be this way.
Let’s refuse to be a victim any longer. Choose personal responsibility. Choose freedom.
- No one can make you sin.
- God holds us accountable for us, not others.
- We are each responsible for our own attitudes and actions.
- Freedom is found in taking responsibility, not avoiding it.
- Sin is good news because you can repent of sin to find freedom.
- Only God can remove your guilt.
- The Power of Personal Responsibility
- Do You Want To Be Free?
- And So We Mourn…
- You Don’t Have To Be Your Family Tree
In a word: passionate. About Jesus, church, ministry, music, reading, family, friends, and sometimes even iced skinny soy mochas.