Who sinned? blaming God for our troubles

Judge's gavelJesus died between two criminals. Did you realize that he died between two believers? The first one asked, “Aren’t you the Christ?” The expected answer to that question is, “Yes.”

But he was disappointed that Jesus wasn’t acting like he expected the Christ to act. In his hostility, he joined the unbelievers and scoffers and railed against him.

When something goes wrong, who do you blame? Or as the disciples asked about a man born blind, who sinned? They gave Jesus a choice of the man or his parents. The criminal on the cross blamed God himself.

Did God sin?

But what does it mean when we become bitter and critical and angry with God for not taking away our problems? We act as if we thought God sinned. That’s what Adam claimed in the garden when he blamed “this woman that you gave me.”

Let’s be honest. We have lots of ways to accuse God of sin.

Something bad happens to us, and we don’t see how we could be at fault. We declare ourselves innocent. We consider our situation a great injustice. We pray.

God certainly has the power to do what we want, but we notice that our prayers are not answered in the way and in the time we want.

Or maybe we’re upset with what happened to someone else.

Why did God permit a flood or a tornado or an earthquake to do so much damage?

Why did God permit a child to die of cancer or a sweet old lady to be murdered in her own bedroom?

Why is there any suffering in the world? A loving God, we reason, wouldn’t permit it.

So we declare God guilty, completely forgetting the whole problem of sin in general and our own sin in particular. He failed to come through as we expected.

I can’t help it. Can I?

Here’s something else we say all the time to deflect blame from ourselves:

This situation makes me so mad!!

And here’s what it means:  I feel and act as I do because of outward circumstances. If I’m in a foul mood, its because of what my boss did, or what my wife did, or what the President did, or what the greedy Wall Street bankers did.

They made me angry. Without them I wouldn’t be angry. I had to say what I said. I had to do what I did. Above all, I have to feel what I feel in response. I can’t help it.

Crucifixion by Hans von Tübingen showing the good thief on the right side of Christ, and the impenitent thief on the left side of Christ with a devil.

Crucifixion by Hans von Tübingen showing the good thief on the right side of Christ, and the impenitent thief on the left side of Christ with a devil.

That is as much a lie as the notion that it is somehow God’s fault. Look at Golgotha again.

  • How many people were being crucified? Three.
  • How many were being executed upon conviction of a violent crime? Two.
  • How many, then, were in the same circumstances?  Two.
  • How many got angry with God? One.

If outward circumstances can compel someone to feel something or say something or do something, how come both criminals did not feel, say, or do alike in the same circumstances?

Both were violent men. Both passionately hated the Romans. Both believed that Jesus was the Messiah. Both were dying on crosses.

One chose to focus attention on his own immediate needs and his own suffering. He railed at Jesus for not helping him. He wanted so much to win, and here he and his Messiah were losing.

The other chose to suffer with Christ and respond with humility. Jesus declared him a winner.

Jesus was also dying on a cross. His execution did not compel him to feel or act the way the first criminal did. The Bible tells us he was tempted in all the same ways that we are, but in every case chose not to sin.

He cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He could have given up. He could have decided to end his suffering. He could have done as the chief priests demanded and called on legions of angels to take him off the cross.

By winning that way, he would have lost. But his circumstances did not make him do anything. He had a choice.

Jesus chose the way of humility and obedience. He chose not to think only of himself and his own suffering. He chose to think of the promise of victory that he would win for all of us by staying on the cross until he died.

For that matter, he could have talked back to the chief priests and the first criminal and given them a piece of his mind. Instead, he chose to remain silent. He chose to respond to the kindness and faith of the second criminal, but to ignore the first and all who taunted or criticized him.

When we act as if God were on trial and we, as the judge, declare him guilty of failure to act like we think God ought to, he does not answer us.

When we wallow in self-pity and declare ourselves losers when the Bible says we are more than conquerors, he has no word for us besides what is written. He will ask us to explain ourselves when he sits on his throne in judgment.

Here’s a better way. Recognize we are on trial and guilty as charged. Turn to Jesus in true faith and humility. Then he will certainly answer us with the assurance of his love and the reward that our faith will eventually bring us. That’s the way to win.

The truth is we always have a choice. Circumstances tempt us to act in a certain way, but they do not make us act that way.

God’s ancient word to Moses is still as true as it was the day he first spoke it: I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing. Therefore, chose life.

Image credits:
Judge’s gavel. Source unknown
Crucifixion. Public domain from Wikimedia Commons.

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