We are a culture of people who make excuses.

I am no exception. Given the opportunity, I can come up with a hundred reasons why I have not exercised all week, or why I have not worked on my book all day. I rationalize fear, laziness, lack of effort to communicate, and a neglect of showing love to others. I make these excuses internally to myself, and verbally to others, almost continuously.

Here it comes: I’m going to quote Eugene Peterson again.

Because of the ambiguities of the world we live in and the defects in our own wills, we will not do any of this [walking in the truth; making good choices] perfectly and without fault. But that isn’t the point. The way is plain – walk in it. Keeping the rules and obeying the commands is only common sense. People who are forever breaking the rules, trying other roads, attempting to create their own system of values and truth from scratch, spend most of their time calling up someone to get them out of trouble and help repair damage, and then ask the silly question, ‘What went wrong?’ As H. H. Farmer said, ‘If you go against the grain of the universe you get splinters.'”

This prompted my introspection and illuminated the daily excuses I make for not walking perfectly with my God, and for not perfectly loving my neighbors.

Peterson’s phrases about “keeping the rules” and “obeying the commands” appear to dance dangerously near legalistic thought, but they do not. He is not a legalistic Christian, and the rest of his book exemplifies a belief in grace and mercy, freedom and love.

He simply refuses to make excuses. There is no excuse for sin. That statement should never be mated with a pointing finger, but instead with a humble heart. There is no excuse for sin – no excuse for my sin.

When I make excuses for my lack of motivation, my lack of love, or my propensity for speaking unkind words, I am removing any chance to grow. Without admittance, without repentance, there can be no moving forward. Those weaknesses will remain with me, and I will make excuses for them again. And again.

The person who makes excuses for hypocrites and rationalizes the excesses of the wicked, who loses a sense of opposition to sin, who obscures the difference between faith and denial, grace and selfishness – that is the person to be wary of. For if there is not that much difference between the way of faith and the ways of the world, there is not much use in making any effort to stick to [Christianity].

I’ve been that person.

And I’ve done it in the name of grace. In the name of empathy, of lowering the bar to meet the common denominator.

It’s a tricky issue, because there is so much grace. And God is full of mercy, empathy, and tender love for every person who is wallowing in destructive thoughts and behaviors. He doesn’t look at me as a judge, and I should never look at my neighbor as a judge.

Yet as one who confesses Christ and has received spiritual rebirth, I am held to a higher standard. Not a law. An expectation. Like when your mom thinks you are the bee’s knees and expects you to paint masterpieces and write beautiful music and poetry, not so that she can be mad at you if you don’t live up to her expectations but because she knows you and she believes in you.

When I got in trouble growing up, my mom didn’t want to hear my excuses about why I’d hit my brother. There was no good reason, in her opinion, for me to hit someone. And she was right.

In the same way, God doesn’t want to hear my excuses. There are no good reasons for a critical spirit, for nurturing pride in my heart, or for laziness. It’s better if I learn not to excuse myself, which ultimately pushes Him away and prevents His renovating work. It’s better if I run to Him and confess, knowing that I am not a convict before a judge, but a daughter before a loving parent.


4 Responses

  1. I love your thoughts, Jess. Reposted a link here on my Twitter.

  2. I just came across your blog. Thanks for sharing what God is showing you. There’s so much to think about on this topic, isn’t there? Strange how there’s actually a great sense of freedom at recognizing and admitting how far we miss the mark. Lord, teach us to understand more and more of this balance of truth and grace. Blessings to you!

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