Settling Accounts

He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.

Isaiah 53:7

Sometimes I think of my blog as my apology tour.  James 5:16 encourages us to “confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”  I’ve found this to be true.  It is therapeutic to confess sins.  It releases me from the shame of the accuser of the brethren that would seek to lie to me about my sins.  By being accountable, I humble myself before the Lord acknowledging my need of His saving grace.   Yesterday, I had lunch with a dear sister-in-Christ and former co-worker.  Almost immediately, I had to apologize to her and repent for the time we worked together for which I had been toxic.  She immediately extended grace to me due to the circumstances and environment we were working in at the time.   As much as I appreciated her response, I knew I still had to acknowledge my sinful behavior and words from that time in our lives.  Although it could be argued that my behavior was justified, I’m not free from guilt because I was provoked to anger.  By the same token, admitting to reacting in a sinful manner doesn’t exonerate others’ abusive treatment towards me.  They aren’t absolved of their sins until they are accountable for their sins before God.  I can forgive, but they still have to settle their own account with God.   As a Christian, I can’t pretend that being sinful is acceptable even when provoked.

Christ was provoked to sin, but He sinned not.  The following from Isaiah 53 describes what Christ endured during His life as the Son of Man and on the cross….unattractive, despised, rejected, suffered, held in low esteem, considered stricken by God, pierced, crushed, punished for others, wounded, beaten, bruised, betrayed, oppressed and cut off from the land of the living.   When He was led to the cross like a lamb to the slaughter, He did not open His mouth in His defense.  He didn’t shout for all to hear about the maltreatment He had suffered.  He didn’t proclaim His innocence.  This realization has always astonished me.

I fear our society has adopted a victim mentality which releases individuals from being personally accountable for their own behavior.  The bar of expectation has been lowered for those that have endured any kind of hardship.  Unfortunately, there isn’t a biblical basis for excusing behavior based on wrongs inflicted upon the person.  Matthew 6:14-15 says, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”  Having been wronged by others doesn’t give us a free pass to sin against God, other people, our abusers, or ourselves.   We aren’t given a free pass to act out in sinful behavior because we were wronged at some point in our life.   We aren’t redeemed from our own sinful actions, behaviors, or words because we were victims of someone else’s maltreatment of us.  We are only redeemed through Christ as stated in Ephesians 1:7, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.”  By giving people a free pass to sin, we’re doing them a disservice.

When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require from your hand.

Ezekiel 33:8

By giving a free pass and excusing sinful behavior, we are negating the redemptive blood of Christ.  We are assuming we have the authority to judge, even a positive judgment, instead of recognizing the One Who has that authority.   Please hear me on this, this isn’t to say that we should scold, shun, or inflict further harm.  What I’m saying is that we should lead these individuals to the foot of the cross to lay down the burdens of pain that have been inflicted upon them and to receive the forgiveness promised to them through the blood of the cross.   If we ignore the obligation of the individual to settle his/her account with God, we leave them vulnerable to give an account for sins in the day of judgment.  Romans 14:12 says we will give an account of ourselves to God.   Our redemption comes through Christ, not through wrongs inflicted upon us.   Rebuking others for sins isn’t done for the purpose of shaming them, it is done in love so that they may stand before Christ without spot or blemish.  Christ endured the worst humiliations and abuses and sinned not.  He was not given a free pass to sin because He had been sinned against.

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12:21

Be an overcomer!  Having endured hardships does not lower the standard given to all.  Ephesians 4:31-32 says, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”  I don’t see the word “unless” anywhere in the verse.   By forgiving our trespassers, we are releasing a heavy burden that we weren’t meant to carry.  Sin can weigh us down and bring sickness to our bodies.  However, when we allow God’s light to shine in the darkness, the darkness will not overcome it (John 1:5).   I John 2:14 states, “…I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one.”  John also tells us “He who is in you, is greater than he who is in the world” (I John 4:4).  We don’t fight sin with sin!  We fight sin with faith, because “everyone born of God overcomes the world.  This is the victory that has overcome the world” (I John 5:4).

Christ made a way to have victory over sin and darkness without compromising our own salvation.  When we lack personal accountability, we cannot stand faultless before the Lord.  We must give an account for our thoughts, deeds, words and actions for which we haven’t repented.   By adopting a victim mentality, we allow burdens of abuse to bury us in sin and death rather than using them to build a strong foundation in faith.  There is no glory in being a victim.  Victory is through overcoming the world through Christ who strengthens us.  As Christians, we shouldn’t allow the world to weaken another person’s moral character and personal constitution by allowing them to be victims of their own sin; but we should encourage them to be more than a conqueror “through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:37-39.

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