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.