With time running out and down by six points, the quarterback had his pass picked off and cost his team a win. The kicker missed a winning field goal on the last play of the game. After throwing a great game through nine and two-thirds innings, the pitcher gave up a walk off two run home run. Isn’t it is a little strange how we can blame one person or event for the failures of multiple people and actions?
Yes, if the quarterback had completed the pass to his teammate, they would have won. But what about the dropped pass in the end zone or the holding penalty that brought back a touchdown earlier in the game? Have we forgotten the blown defense that gave the other team a touchdown? We could ask the same questions when blaming the kicker for missing a game winning field goal. I know the pitcher gave up a walk off home run, but why do we forget about the four errors or the missed scoring chances?
There may be several reasons we focus blame more narrowly than we should. Perhaps we want the fault all wrapped up in a neat little package. Maybe the last breakdown sealed the loss or failure, and it is the one that stands out. Since everyone is not equally to blame and I don’t want people saying it is my fault, let’s find a scapegoat to put our troubles on. It is also easy to point the finger when I am not in the game and when no one is looking at me.
It is one thing to assign blame in sports, business, or in life generally, even when it is not always fair, but responsibility for our spiritual failures is personal. I can say it is your fault and you may bear some culpability, but when all is said and done I choose to do right or wrong. As Ezekiel said, “The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.” (Ezekiel 18:20)
Every person plays the game of life and victory is within everyone’s grasp, however most will lose. Why will so many go down to defeat when winning is so near? The particular answers may vary, but they all come down to heart, effort, commitment, and respecting the rules.
Who wants a team mate with a bad attitude and heart, someone who does not want to be there and does not think to highly about winning? Stephen confronted some Jews about their heart when we said, “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 7:51) Not only is the heart vital, it is all important because from it flows “the springs of life.” (Prov. 4:23) Even love, which is clearly the foundation for all that is good, must have a pure heart to live and grow. (1 Tim. 1:5)
How can we win without effort and commitment to our spiritual goals, especially when our opponent is so devoted and relentless? Peter describes the devil as adversary who “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8) Jesus said, “To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” (Rev. 2:7) John also records from the Lord, “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” (Rev. 2:10) Do not think you can give less than your best effort or be less than fully committed and please God.
There is a popular saying about following the rules, “Cheaters never win and winners never cheat.” While this little ditty states a good sentiment, I do not believe it is always practiced. Some people do cheat and win, however their victory is tainted if it becomes know. Have you heard of the steroids scandal in baseball or USC having their 2004 national championship stripped because of rules violations? We do not like it when people cheat and win, and many of us want to put an asterisk by those hitters or pitchers who records come while using steroids.
With such a stigma on cheating, why do we think God does not care when we break His rules? Consider what He says about following the rules and how cheaters will never find their way into heaven. “Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.” (2 John 9) Then again, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” Matthew 7:21-23
Christ will not get caught up in the blame game as so many of us do. He will judge everyone fairly and with perfect knowledge. Paul said, “On that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 2:16) He also said in the same letter, “So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.” (Romans 14:12)