Blame Game

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Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 89:1-18; 147:1-11, Genesis 4:1-16, Hebrews 2:11-18, John (1:29-34) 35-42


The story of Cain and Abel is the original tale of sibling rivalry. Cain, the first child of Adam and Eve, was a “tiller of the ground” and made God an offering of his harvest. His brother Abel was a shepherd, and offered God the finest of his flock. God favored Abel’s offering but not Cain’s, and in jealous anger Cain slew Abel with a rock. Instead of killing Cain, God instead banished him east of Eden and placed a mark of protection on him so no one else would kill him either.

Stories of rivalry are seldom so extreme, but Cain made a common mistake: when things didn’t go his way, he assumed the role of victim.

When God noticed Cain was angry because his offering was not respected, he asked Cain: “Why are you angry, and why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted?” Cain never stopped to ask himself (or God) what he might have done differently. Instead he directed his anger toward Abel. God had advised him: “And if you do not do well, sin is lurking at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.” As God predicted, blaming Abel for his failure led to an even bleaker fate.

Our reaction to failure determines the course of our future. Not being honest with ourselves about our own contributions to a failed effort can have disastrous results for ourselves and those around us. Even when we feel someone has taken advantage of us, we can ask whether and how we made it possible. This doesn’t excuse the other person, but restores our sense of control over the situation and prepares us for similar situations in the future.

We’ll never know why God  rejected Cain’s offer, because he didn’t ask. When we bungle a project at work or handle a family situation poorly, it’s tempting, easy, and human to blame the circumstances, a co-worker, or a spouse. Once that’s out of your system, you need to look inward. In any situation, you are the only person you can control.

Comfort: When you make mistakes, God is not waiting to condemn but to help.

Challenge: Reconsider a situation – from a time when you were an adult – where you blame someone else for failure or problems. Ask yourself what you might have done differently, and what could you do differently in the future.

Prayer: God, teach me to see myself as I am, not as I pretend to be. Amen.

Discussion: How often do you play the victim?

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Someone Needs The Wood

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Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 56; 149, Nehemiah 13:4-22, Revelation 20:1-6, Matthew 16:21-28


You may have heard the expression, “Get off the cross; someone else needs the wood.” It’s generally used in response to someone who engages in showy, unnecessary, and/or self-inflicted martyrdom – probably over something trivial. It also implies the person is casting themselves in the role of a victim.

When Christ told his disciples “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” was he asking them to become victims? Perhaps if the only way we can define victory is through someone else’s defeat, we might think so. But the sacrifice Christ calls us to make is not just martyrdom to prove our loyalty to him. As his sacrifice was not for himself, but for others – for the world – so our own cross is not just about us.

In places around the world, simply declaring one’s faith may lead to a figurative or literal cross. In most of the western world, however, we are free to slap crosses on buildings, merchandise, jewelry, and even our own bodies without experiencing any real persecution. Since sacrifice is central to the Christian tradition, in the absence of actual crosses we manufacture persecution when we are forced to share public space and accommodation with people who do not believe or behave as we do.

Every year Christian culture warriors want us to believe a cheery utterance of “Happy Holidays” in the local big box store serving people of all faiths (and no faith) is an offense we need to confront with an aggressive “Merry Christmas” that represents Christ in an extremely poor light. It’s not enough to live our values, we want to force others to observe them as well. Did Jesus ever force anyone to do anything? We do it to accomplish the mental contortion necessary to bully our way to victimhood.

Focusing our attention on a cross no one asked us to build and draping ourselves in a shroud of victimhood may prove our loyalty to Christianity™ but not to Christ. The victory and sacrifice of the cross we are meant to carry is found in humility and service. In the absence of persecution, we are still fully capable of making loving sacrifices: patience, kindness, charity, not insisting on our own way, giving from our excess (and sometimes our basics) so others may have enough … all that Bible stuff.

Deep faith and witness don’t need to be branded with the cross like some product logo; when it’s real, people will want it without having to be sold on it. Tearing it down to give the wood to someone in need may be the biggest sacrifice of ego we can make.

Comfort: With Christ as our savior, we are never victims.

Challenge: Don’t look for reasons to be offended. Look for reasons to be merciful.

Prayer: O Lord, I put my trust in you. Thank you for the love that frees me from all other needs. Amen.

Discussion: Have you ever played the victim, maybe without realizing it until later?

Join the discussion! If you enjoyed this post, feel free to join an extended discussion as part of the C+C Facebook group. You’ll be notified of new posts through FB, and have the opportunity to share your thoughts with some lovely people. Or feel free to comment here on WordPress, or even re-blog – the more the merrier!