Are you old enough to remember Flip Wilson and his favorite line, “The devil made me do it.” Wilson had to be one of the funniest men to ever be on television. But a whole lot of what made it so funny was how close his lines came to what we tend to hear in every day life. Humans have always been adept at shifting responsibility for their actions to someone or something other than themselves. Now it is also true that if the very one we blame for our actions tried to force us to do anything we would object and refuse to do what they wanted us to do with all our power. Yet we will turn right around and blame the ones we refused to listen to for our actions.
Think about some well known Old Testament characters for a moment. Abraham was the great man of faith who became the father of those who walk in the steps of his faith. He was a great man of God about whom God said that all the nations of the earth would be blessed in him and that God would bless those who blessed him. God told him he would be a blessing. There were times in his life when the faith he demonstrated was absolutely remarkable. Anyone who reads the story of Genesis 22 will surely coming away thinking what a great man of faith he was. But along with the great actions of faith, there were also times when he made some terrible mistakes. Contrast the times when he received the command from God to take his son, his only son, the son he loved and make him a burnt offering to the Lord. He arose early the next morning to start the journey along with his son Isaac to make him the burnt offering God had demanded. Then think of the time he moved because of famine in the land and when he and his wife arrived in an unknown part of the world for them. Abraham suspicioned that there would be problems since Sarah, his wife was very beautiful. He knew that some man would look at her and think that if Abraham were just out of the way he could have Sarah as his own. To save his life he told Sarah to tell anyone who asked that she was Abraham’s sister, instead of his wife and she would be able to save his life. He was willing for her purity to be risked to save his life.
If you had been Isaac, the son of Abraham you would have received a great heritage from your parents. You could easily point back to your parents and talk about the faith they demonstrated even relating to your birth when he was 100 years old and Sarah was 90. You could tell the world about the faith it took for your dad to be ready to offer you as a burnt offering to God when you were a teenager. But there was something else that Isaac learned from his dad. He married a beautiful woman like his dad and when they went down to Egypt for a visit he followed the example of his dad and asked his wife to tell everyone that she was his sister instead of his wife to save his life.
What would you think of Isaac if he had picked out the failing of his dad to act with courage and faith and asked his mother to lie about who she was as his wife and have said that was what you learned from him and that it was his responsibility for you acting like he did? Did Abraham’s actions affect his son’s actions? Perhaps so. We aren’t told in the text of Isaac ever blaming his dad for his failings. But he could have done so.
How do you determine what you will get from your parents? Every person has somethings about his character that he isn’t proud of. We make mistakes and make right choices. If I focus on the right choices and actions of my life and focus on those all along I will help my child make right decisions. How you live isn’t determined by what your parents have done. It certainly won’t excuse my failings to blame my parents for them any more than if I give them credit for everything I do that that is right. We could inherit all kinds of blessings and benefits from our parents and grandparents. But the truth is that we choose which actions we will follow and do whether the example I have from a parent for good or bad. Certainly if my parents are evil and have made horrible choices throughout life their influence will affect how I live for good or bad.
Since I make the choice of which example I will follow, how is it the fault of my parent that I chose poorly? In just about every life there are both good and bad influences. Each person chooses which of those influences they will follow. Paul declared that evil companions corrupt good morals. In most parts of our life we have around us both people who are trying to do right all the time and those who are making no effort to do right and everything in between. How do we decide which influence we will follow at any given time? If everyone around me is living one kind of life, does that mean I have to live the same way whether I want to or not? I doubt there is anyone who hasn’t known someone in their life who was very different from everyone else in a crowd. Instead of feeling pressure to conform they seemed to relish being unique.
Does any of this lesson the power of influence one person has on another? Does it somehow deliver us from responsibility for our influence? The answer is absolutely not in both cases. We are responsible for influence even if no one else follows it. The fact others may not be moved by my influence doesn’t lessen the power of our influence. We are salt of the earth, light of the world and leaven in the bread.
The truth is we are responsible for our choices in life and we are responsible for our inflence in life whether it is followed by anyone else or not. It is only when we take responsibility for our actions and influence that we have the ability to change either one.
The Old Testament tells the story of two powerful kings over the nation of Israel. Saul was the first king and was blessed by God for his work. When he started down the road of disobedience to God he began to pick up speed all the time. God told him to take his army and march against the Amelikites and to utterly destroy them. He spared the king and the best of the cattle. When Samuel came to question him he first claimed to be obedient to God and when Samuel confronted him for his disobedience he blamed his disobedience on the people instead of taking responsibility. The other king was David. He was a man after God’s own heart but he also made some terrible mistakes in life. When he committed adultery and murder he moved away from God and right. God sent Nathan the prophet to confront David for his sin. When Nathan told David he was the one guilty, it is amazing the difference between his reaction and Saul’s. David declared, “I have sinned against God.” He would later write, “Against you and you only have I sinned and committed this great iniquity.” Both Saul and David made tragic mistakes and sinned horribly against God. But what a difference there was between how they each reacted to being told that they were guilty.
Blaming others just seals us deeper in our sins.