It is no secret that western society is seething with a culture of outrage; and part-and-parcel with outrage comes accusation. Every day we hear or read about another person or group incensed over some injustice, screaming and frothing and gnashing teeth as they accuse others of a litany of abominations.
Now, nobody likes to be accused of anything, whether it is true or not. Accusation is a battering ram of blame and incrimination, stopping our breath and rendering our insides a hot, churning stew of fear and defensiveness. When confronted with evidence of our misdeed(s), we may feel like a kid who wets the bed and has their sheets hung out our bedroom windows to dry, our shame in plain view of all our friends.
And if we are falsely accused, it is worse. We are aware of our failures, both seen and unseen; but to be accused of something we didn’t do causes us to bristle with appalled anger against the unjust charge leveled at us. False accusations can throw us into defensiveness and anger, and despite our protests, we realize that others probably find our claims of innocence to be further evidence of real guilt.
Accusation has the power to render us depressed, even despairing. If we are innocent, the blast of injustice against us is nauseating. If we are guilty, we are forced to face our weakness and wickedness. But rather than respond with humility and sorrow, human nature wants to excuse–or at least justify–our behavior.
Then ADONAI Elohim called to the man and He said to him “Where are you?”
Then he said, “Your sound–I heard it in the garden and I was afraid. Because I am naked, I hid myself.” Then He said, “Who told you that you are naked? Have you eaten from the Tree from which I commanded you not to eat?” Then the man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me–she gave me of the Tree, and I ate.”
ADONAI Elohim said to the woman, “What did you do?”
The woman said, “The serpent deceived me and I ate.” (Genesis 3:9-13, TLV)
It is common to hear people mention (disparagingly) how “Eve ate the fruit”; but at least she put the blame on the serpent, unlike Adam who had the ridiculous arrogance to blame God Himself! This is the kind of panic that occurs when we sin and are caught. Ringing throughout our being is the cry But you just don’t understand what I’ve been through or I don’t know what happened to me. And right on the heels of that excuse is It’s not really my fault!
So often, we do not understand our own actions, and we try to console ourselves that we should receive, if not pardon, at least a level of kind understanding. But unfortunately, accusation generally carries a dose of contempt. We perceive the thoughts of others: How could someone do such a thing? Condemnation builds, until every veneer of self-respect and self-protection is stripped in the flood of remorse, regret, and shame. Now I’ve been found out! Most of us will do anything to “cover our tracks” to keep this from happening; or at least, we begin to set up excuses to minimize the damage to our ego.
So we have an innate, knee-jerk reaction to confrontation. We hate to be the recipient of another person telling us we have done wrong. We want to be the “good guys,” the people who have it together in their lives and who live by some sort of moral code–whatever it might be. But since that breakdown in Eden, we have all been engaged in the struggle to write our own laws and set our own standards for a life well-lived. We seek to rule our kingdom, even if it is a kingdom of one. The currency in this realm is I’m not really that bad; I’m not like those people!
Self-justification comes easy when I console myself by looking at the foul misdeeds of those outside my camp. It’s easy to preen and pat myself on the back with the congratulatory phrase At least I’ve never done _________ (fill in the blank). I run into a genuine problem, though, when I revisit the scene of Adam and Eve before the Almighty in the garden. God asks the first couple a legitimate question, familiar to anyone who has been a parent: Did you do what I told you not to do?”
How do you answer that with anything but the truth? Standing before the Creator–who knows everything in entirety, who knows every person intimately–none of us find stability standing on the platforms of rationalization we have constructed. Our foundations are rotting timbers and crumbling concrete. Our excuses, mist in sunlight, whisk away from the breath of His mouth. Truly, before His eyes of fire, all garments are incinerated.
And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account (Hebrews 4:13).
The LORD God does not judge unrighteously or from self-interest or self-protection. He will not accept even our best excuses, clever though we may think they are. His holy standards and desires for all His creation are pure and good and noble, and we have fallen short. We have all eaten that which He told us not to eat. And so, we are without excuse.
Mea culpa. Guilty as charged. I really don’t need anyone to accuse me, because my actions and my conscience already do a fine job. Adding to the mix, I have an enemy that also relentlessly seeks every opportunity to remind God and man how truly dreadful I am.
But into my mess, and into yours, steps the Son of God. He became one of us. He was–and is–fully human, while still fully God. I don’t understand it and neither do you, but that doesn’t make it untrue. Because Jesus bore our sin and took our deserved punishment upon Himself, we are freed from the stupidity of manufacturing excuses or trying to shift blame.
Our Messiah, the King of the universe, is the only person worthy to accuse and condemn. Yet, He doesn’t. Scripture teaches us that there is “no condemnation” for anyone who trusts in Him for salvation. Like the unnamed adulteress who stood torn and shamed before Jesus (John 8), we tremble with fear at the questions we are sure He will ask: “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten that which I commanded you not to eat?”
And wonder of wonders, instead our Lord asks, “Where are your accusers?” And we look around and realize that there are none. At the foot of the cross, anger and outrage are subsumed in the violent beauty of sacrificial love and outrageous forgiveness. At the foot of the cross, all power of sin and accusation vanishes.
And we hear Him say, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”
And because of grace, that is possible.