The Monastery of the Temptation, above Jericho

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Blame Game

The Reading from the First Book of Moses called Genesis today is essentially Chapter 3, that marking of sin entering the world through the guile of the crafty serpent.

So, so often in our lives, sin does not jump in like a bomb dropped from the sky--unexpected, and immeasurably large.  Rather, sin creeps and oozes in.  The devil only requires one slight degree of change in our direction in order to divert us far from the Kingdom, especially if the road to the Kingdom is long.  Think for a moment about standing and facing a destination--perhaps standing on one side of the road and looking at a fire-hydrant to which you will walk.  If you walk a straight line, you'll hit it directly.  One small turn to the left or the right puts us off-trajectory, and we will miss the fire-hydrant.  In biblical words, we "miss the mark", the word for which in the Greek New Testament is "sin".  If the goal is the Kingdom (in this example, the fire-hydrant), to "come close" isn't sufficient.  "Almost to heaven" is still outside it.

So, we see that the devil didn't come in and start speaking to Eve with huge claims and bold directional changes from what God had said.  He simply asked a question, one intended to raise doubts.  "Did God *really* say....?"  And that was enough directional change for Eve to question, to wonder, to doubt, and finally, to turn from the Path.

Not long later, naked, ashamed, and knowing sin by personal experience, both Adam and Eve give us the first example of a game played ever since: the blame game.  Here is the dialogue (RSV)

{God} said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent beguiled me, and I ate.”

God ask Adam.  He blames Eve.  He asks Eve; she blames the serpent.

Anyone but me.
Anything but personal responsibility.
Any word but the truth.

The Lenten Season is given to us to confront such finger-pointing in our lives, and to accept on the one hand, the reality of our sins and sinfulness and to take responsibility for this mark-missing, and on the other hand, by and through confession, to receive God's great mercy and forgiveness, to make, as it was said by Abba Arsenius, a Desert Father, "Let me now make a beginning of good". And of another Father who was said to have "made a new beginning every day."

One of the hymns sung at Compline every night this week is a prayer we offer (at least in our parish practice) before confession:

Have mercy on us, O God, have mercy upon us, for laying aside all excuse, we sinners offer to thee, our Master, this supplication, have mercy on us.
"Laying aside all excuse"...

No "it was the woman you gave me."
No "it was the serpent."
No excuse.

In our personal confessions to God, and in our sacramental confessions offered in the presence of the Priest, let's lay aside the blame game, accepting only blame ourselves for our own sins--and if we would go so far, even the sins of our neighbors and enemies,

offering to our Master this supplication:  Have mercy on us!

And, in His mercy, He will.

1 comment:

  1. There is a line of before and after confronting the blame game in our own mind and actions. Thank God for his Mercy and illumination of the depths from which we struggle to lift our arm to meet His hand of salvation.