Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Excuses, Excuses

Today, I was reading a piece of scripture in Genesis chapter 37. I'll share that first before we get into anything.

Then Reuben returned to the pit, and indeed Joseph was not in the pit; and he tore his clothes. And he returned to his brothers and said, “The lad is no more; and I, where shall I go?” So they took Joseph’s tunic, killed a kid of the goats, and dipped the tunic in the blood.Then they sent the tunic of many colors, and they brought it to their father and said, “We have found this. Do you know whether it is your son’s tunic or not?” And he recognized it and said, “It is my son’s tunic. A wild beast has devoured him. Without doubt Joseph is torn to pieces." Then Jacob tore his clothes, put sackcloth on his waist, and mourned for his son many days. And all his sons and all his daughters arose to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted, and he said, “For I shall go down into the grave to my son in mourning.” Thus his father wept for him. Now the Midianites[a] had sold him in Egypt to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh and captain of the guard.

To give a little backstory, this scene occurred just after Joseph's brothers had sold him into slavery to the Midianites out of jealousy toward Jacob's favor toward his youngest son Joseph. If you want more backstory on Joseph and the intricacies of his story, then refer to the aforementioned chapter of Genesis and on (which I HIGHLY recommend...there are many good gold nuggets in the story of his life), but for now I want to focus specifically on the actions of the brothers. 

The brothers felt entitled and justified in their actions that ridded their lives of their favored brother. They must've felt "We're older, we deserve better treatment....We've worked longer for father, we should receive gifts like beautiful robes of many colors....Just because we're the sons of slaves doesn't mean we should get lesser treatment...", and an assortment of other excuses that permitted them to throw their brother in a cistern and sell him to slave traders. But if they really felt they had every right to get rid of him, and that it was the right thing to do...why did they cover it up? If they TRULY felt they were justified...why would they make it look as though Joseph's absence was caused by the murder of a wild animal rather than the cruel treatment of his envious brothers?

I believe that C.S. Lewis provides us an answer. In his book, Mere Christianity, C.S.Lewis addresses many philosophical and theological arguments that have been present within the Christian community for quite some time, but one of the most interesting that I have read so far (although I'm not very far in) would have to be the following concept. He states that there is always an accepted moral standard, and that no matter how fervently we deny it, that standard (the standard of God) is always there, and always present within us telling us what is right and wrong. Many disagree with Lewis, and say that such a standard is mythical, and standards of right and wrong are what we make them or simply vary from situation to situation. It is then that Lewis argues, if there were no such standard...than there wold be no reason for people to make excuses. He masterfully states that for someone to make an excuse, they must first acknowledge somewhere inside of them that what they have done is wrong, and requires explaining. After all, if we were truly right in a situation, it would not have any grounds for questioning that required an "exception" statement attached to it.

So, really, by creating a cover up, and by making justifications and excuses in their heads, the brothers of Joseph were proving that what they did was wrong...if they had simply acknowledged that fact sooner, Joseph might've never ended up in bondage...

Think this doesn't apply to you...bare with me ;)

How often do we make excuses? How often do we talk ourselves into making "exceptions" to the standard we know is right?...exceptions to the standard of holiness that God calls us to live? If "it's just ONE swear word...that doesn't make the whole movie bad", "He just wanted to show me how much he loved me, and it went just a LITTLE too far", "I'm just a teenager", "everyone expects me to do it", or "I just went to make sure he didn't drink too much, so what if I had one too" sound familiar...than odds are the speaker of such sayings has acknowledged what they are doing or what they have done is wrong...excuses just allow them to live in denial of that sin...a tactic that we use to live how we want, and the devil uses to keep us unrepented and out of communion with God.

My question is, if Joseph's brothers lead him into bondage by living in excuses and failing to accept their wrong doing, how many could we as Christians have lead into bondage through our excuses? 

They don't have to be as bad as the ones I previously mentioned...they could even include spiritually applied ones such as "They wouldn't listen to me anyway", "They've already skipped church for the past four sundays, it's not like me asking them to come again will change anything", or my personal favorite "I'm too young". 

How many have we lead down a wrong path because we were afraid to step out and tell them the truth? How many have we lead into bondage because we made personal compromises to live how we wanted?
How many of these actions have we simply "band-aided" with excuses so that we don't have to take the blame for what we truly know is wrong?

How many will go to hell as a result of our generation "excusing" ourselves from our responsibility as Christians?

In the beginning of this year, let's resolve to own up to where we've failed and live an uncompromised, outspoken, fully burning life for Christ in 2011.

Press out sin, Press into God, and Press on.


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