I have a friend who was so hurt over a broken relationship that she became obsessed with the offending party’s wrongs. In fact, she looked for new offenses, each new one a confirmation of her own “rightness.” In doing so, she was blind to her own ungracious heart, and by focusing all of her attention on the matter, she made it an idol. I’d like to say I don’t get it, but I do. There are times I’d rather be vindicated than obey God’s command to worship him only and to love others. After all, “worship” literally means to “ascribe worth.” How many pointless arguments and vain pursuits do we attribute worth by giving them attention and energy, and what lengths do we take to justify ourselves in the process?
The temptation of Adam and Eve began in their minds, as all temptation does. Did you catch the subtle, slimy tactics that the serpent used? At first, the serpent hints that God’s instructions aren’t reliable. “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
Then the suggestion that God is actually holding out on them is served up like a delicious dessert:
“God knows that when you eat of [this tree], your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Shadows are thrown on God’s character and motives. This divide and conquer tactic is extremely effective. You are off the hook for your own bad behavior, while doubts are thrown on the other person or on God. All you have to do is hint at someone’s shortcomings or failures, and you come out smelling like a rose. Commonly known as throwing someone under the bus, it ain’t pretty. The ensuing division is the loose thread that unravels the entire garment of community and friendships. Sometimes, we even throw God under the bus, rather than do the right thing.
I am most tempted in this way when I’ve been offended or wronged. Those are the times when that “love your neighbor” rule goes out the window, and I’m ready to drop-kick someone under the bus! I put more importance then on being justified versus trusting God to grow me past the offense.
What about you? Can you think of situations where it has been easier to blame and cast aspersions on others versus obeying the command to forgive, to trust, and to honor God first with our attention and energy?On a side note: If you find yourself tripping up over whether or not there was a real serpent, a real garden, or a real Adam and Eve, can I just offer a suggestion? Get past that argument and remember that the accounts in the Bible are given to point us to God and tell his story. They teach us about God’s character, God’s relationship to us, and how we can and should relate to God and to one another. So rather than getting all hung up in the “literal or not” argument, just ask yourself, “What can I learn about God in this story?”