My wife sent me a text the other day that said: “Just because you did it does not mean you’re guilty.”
There was no context to this statement, so I proceeded to do what any good husband would do in this situation: I panicked and racked my brain trying to figure out what I had done wrong.
For once, I came up empty.
So, in response, I played dumb. Well, I guess it wasn’t actually playing, as I really was clueless. Not the best strategy, as any good husband will tell you, but unfortunately, it was the only thing I could come up with: “? ? ?”
As it turns out, I was not in trouble. It was a tagline she had heard on the radio from a divorce attorney’s commercial. So, I looked it up and, lo and behold, there are lots of lawyers around the country using that catch phrase. I even found an op-ed piece written by an attorney (who made it clear that this form of marketing was beneath him) explaining how this is sound logic within the context of the American judicial system.
Doesn’t that just about sum up the American way? I should be able to do anything I want, and there should be no consequences. And if you don’t like it, talk to my lawyer here, he’ll show you that I’m right!
The Bible also gives us examples of people who rationalized away their responsibilities. While Moses was up on Mt. Sinai communing with God, Aaron succumbed to the pressures of the Israelites and created the golden calf. Then, when Moses came down from the mountain he saw what was happening. “It came about, as soon as Moses came near the camp, that he saw the calf and the dancing; and Moses’ anger burned, and he threw the tablets from his hands and shattered them at the foot of the mountain. He took the calf which they had made and burned it with fire, and ground it to powder, and scattered it over the surface of the water and made the sons of Israel drink it.” (Exodus 32:19-20)
When Moses confronted Aaron, Aaron was quick to blame everybody but himself. He even claimed that the calf magically appeared out of the fire! “I said to them, ‘Whoever has any gold, let them tear it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf.” (Exodus 32:24)
King Saul also had the ability to rationalize his actions. When Samuel told him he was to “utterly destroy” the Amalekites, he was quite clear as to what that meant. “Now go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him; but put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.” (1 Sam 15:3)
However, Saul felt that utter destruction was unnecessary and kept the spoils of war. When confronted by Samuel, he appeared to have no regrets. Samuel came to Saul, and Saul said to him, “Blessed are you of the LORD! I have carried out the command of the LORD.” But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?” (1 Sam 15:13-14)
And just like Aaron had done, Saul blamed the people. Saul said, “They have brought them from the Amalekites, for the people spared the best of the sheep and oxen, to sacrifice to the LORD your God; but the rest we have utterly destroyed.” (1 Sam 15:15)
Have you ever heard yourself say things like this?
“Well, just this once.”
“But there were mitigating circumstances.”
“You would have done the same thing!”
Oh, how easy it is for us to overlook our actions, blame others for our own shortcomings, and find any way to excuse our own behavior!
In contrast to the above examples, we have king David, a man after God’s own heart. (1 Sam 13:14) By the world’s standards, David’s sin with Bathsheba and Uriah the Hittite would appear to be far more heinous than anything Aaron or Saul did. However, when Nathan confronted David, David admitted his guilt and repented. Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” And Nathan said to David, “The LORD also has taken away your sin; you shall not die.” (2 Sam 12:13)
David did not rationalize his behavior to Nathan, but repented from his ways.
Let us all be careful to not fall into the same trap as Aaron and Saul, but instead follow the example of David. And let us remember that God is always willing to forgive, so long as we are willing to repent: “And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.” (1 Jn 2:1-2)