Monday, May 19, 2008


This weekend we began the series Baggage…what we believe are the five most common dysfunctions in families. We’re using Jacob and his family in Genesis as the poster boy. For all five. Although if you looked closely at the baggage pictures on the projection screens, you would have seen my initials on several of the pieces. No kidding. Jacob, schmacob—I could have used the Workman family tree.

Though this week was about The Controlling Family, I wish I could have spent some time on blame. Blame is a power tool for The Controlling Family. I would have talked about genuine blame and false blame as it relates to both others and God.

For instance, when someone has authentically hurt you, it’s okay to assign blame. To not do that is to deny your own pain and reality. But blaming isn’t the destination. If you stop there, you stifle the flow of the Holy Spirit. And whether the controller/person was intentional or not, you still have to go through the same process: forgiveness. Whenever possible, let them know how they’ve hurt you; don’t enable people to continue destructive behaviors. But regardless of how they respond, you have to move toward the process of forgiveness. It’s releasing someone from a debt they can’t pay.

And if you’re on the blame God track, you might as well get off. You won’t get anywhere with that one. The way we have to relate to God is with truth. There are times when I’ve just had to say, “God, You’re good” when the evidence seemed to the contrary. It begins with openness to God—spill your heart out, vent, get angry. God can handle that. But there’s a point where we must admit we don’t understand…and stop questioning His goodness. Hey, I haven’t sacrificed any of my kids for convicted criminals, so I’m not even in the same moral universe as God.

On the other hand, if God can genuinely blame me for an intentional screw-up, I must have one response: repentance. Repentance is owning responsibility and asking God for forgiveness. God has installed a fail-safe reconciliation strategy in His covenant when we screw up: If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

And here’s how: Jesus became the Ultimate Blame-Bearer

My favorite prophecy regarding the messiah is Isaiah 53. Isaiah prophesied about a coming King who would rule the nations. But also be a man of sorrows, a king of pain. Isaiah writes: Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. Isaiah 53:4-6

God has somehow taken all of the blame that is rightfully ours and placed it on His son Jesus. Ever heard anyone called a scapegoat? That’s actually rooted in the Old Testament. On Israel’s national Day of Atonement, the high priest would be presented with two goats. The first goat would be sacrificed to make sure people understood the harsh cost of sin. Sin cannot be overlooked; what would you say of a local judge who simply dismissed rapists? Justice demands action. But then the priest would lay his hands on the second goat to symbolize the sins of Israel being transferred to it. The goat would then be led into the wilderness and unleashed...literally the escape goat. Israel’s sins were separated from them in symbolically.

This was all uniquely fulfilled in Jesus who became both: the sacrifice and the one who carries away our blame. We have been unleashed from blame and blaming others. We become mature people when we accept responsibility for ourselves. You can learn that watching Dr. Phil. But that doesn’t bring wholeness. We can’t rid ourselves of genuine blame. Only God can do that. The power tool God offers us is propitiation, the atoning sacrifice of Jesus. He became both goats: He died a sacrificial death, but came back to life to carry our sins away. Jesus, the Ultimate Scapegoat. It unleashes us from the blame that’s genuine. We receive forgiveness for ourselves...and we offer forgiveness to those who are rightfully blamed for what they did to us.

And we no longer blame ourselves.

That’s when we become whole people. And move toward whole relationships.


  1. Dave, as always your weekend message and your blog speak volumes to me. I took plenty of notes on Sunday's message, but I am left with a question I hope you can answer.

    I do think there are some people, myself for instance, who fall into both categories of controller and controllee. My role depends on which relationship we are talking about. But at least I can ADMIT that I do both, which I think is a great first step: acknowledgment.

    When you said the first week of the Baggage series is The Controlling Family, the person sitting next to me on Sunday morning (who is part of my family) leaned over toward me and named another person in the family who is controlling. Meanwhile I was thinking, "Have you looked in the mirror lately?!". This person who was sitting next to me, might very well be a victim of someone else's control. Yet, this person either CANNOT or CHOOSES NOT to see when he or she is being the controller. The problem I'm facing is that when this person is the controller, my immediate family are some of the controllees.

    So, do we let someone know that they are a controller if they are unaware or in denial about it? Or do we simply distance our level of intimacy from them as if they are a non-believer?

    I'm hoping you will see this and respond. Thank you, Dave, for all your hard work and dedication to VCC and our mission.

  2. I think the most important piece of your message, is that I can not change anyone. I can only change, ME, my response. Belonging to a 12 step group for several years now, surrender is key to beginning a new life. Either in a 12 step program or as a Christian. Without surrender I hold on to self centered ideas and that the world should unfold the way I would like.I moved away from my family when I was 18, only to marry someone who was an enabler just like my mother. After several years of the 12 step program,it is easier to let people be who they are and not judge them, and pray. For years a certain family member blamed our parents for everything wrong in her life. She was a very unhappy person during this time. As crazy and dysfunctional as it was, my parents did believe in Christ which I eventually found my way back to those roots. Maybe it's perspective too. I could write about my family someday, I have been given tons of stories that I dream writing about or maybe, just maybe someday (or already have) be able to help someone else someday with a kind word of hope, because I survived my experience. Blame is an bitter root. Quite frankly a 4th step could be done by all of us now and then.
    I understand more how Christ is my advocate on a daily basis, I realize the good I have comes from him. It's when I compare my family to what I think is the perfect family that I fall into the trap of feeling neglected and pittiful and start to blame. Thankfully I have a rich funky history that allows me to be who I am. As a perfectionist,at times,I have learned to let it go or else I will never be satisfied. The story of Joseph is my favorite, how he loved his family, his brothers even when they wanted to harm him, his example of forgiving and protecting his family changed my heart toward people that I can not control. Who have hurt me, who do things I don't like.
    As a rebel, it's a foreign concept to let go, but I am learning to let God heal relationships, and help me communicate with love and not judgement. That's his healing spirit.

  3. baggage = control freaks, people who look through there own experiences and education see that things need to follow a perscribe way of doing things their way. Structure beyond reason to wring all chaos out of a situation but brings total staleness to whatever situation.


  4. This series is the first time (in 22 years of attending church) I can remember a church taking such an in-depth look at families. Which just seems ridiculous because our families play such a huge role in who we are, what we do, how we see the world, how we act, etc.
    I am enjoying this series quite a bit, despite the fact (or maybe because of the fact) that it is challenging me and stretching me quite a bit.
    I really hope you write about the message from this week. It was exactly what I have been needing to hear and I knew that sitting in that auditorium on Saturday night was exactly where I needed to be. God gave me both a peace and a command for action that I have been searching for and praying for for a long time now.
    So, I would really like to hear more on the subject :)