Don’t be fooled by my extreme title, Christians don’t drag some poor victim to the top of a pyramid and lay him on an altar; we are more subtle. Picture a group of children who got caught doing something wrong. The most important thing to report to the adults is ‘who takes the blame for this one.’ If we can heap the blame on someone else, we are free and clear. Our sacrificial victim is more like a scape goat.
Among adults, this blame shifting can damage one person’s reputation, and it can damage families and churches. The destruction can last a life time.
In my family, I am ashamed to admit, I fell for this a few months ago. My Dad is very old, and Mom is gone, so we are all concerned about our old father. A few months ago we learned that something wrong had been done with Dad’s money, maybe. I easily believed what I was told and I started to panic. I can remember at least one phone call that I wish I could take back. But here’s the good news; we found one sister to blame for everything. It felt good.
Later we had some group meetings and apologies were made. The financial issues were all corrected and Dad is doing well now. I had to agree with the old truth, ‘It’s not my fault, but it is my responsibility.’ That did not feel so good.
Many years ago, I knew a young woman who was raised in a conservative and old-fashioned church. I won’t name the denomination, but you probably know a group like them. One Sunday morning, in the weekly service, her family was accused of doing something wrong, or one person was accused and they were all guilty by association. The whole church group stood up to vote against the family, and they were all shunned from that time. No-one in the church would speak to them. It probably felt good to put all that blame on one family, but I imagine the victims still feel the pain.
Possibly someone did do something wrong, but that young woman was destroyed by that vote. She lost her whole life, friends, worship in church, and employment. In our circle of friends, that was all she wanted to talk about. But somehow, that destruction seemed right and good in the church back home.
Recently, someone I knew lost their job and I was tempted to say “Well I saw that coming.” That is true, I did see it coming, but blaming them doesn’t make me a better person. I resisted the temptation to slander my friend, and the relationship is still good. You know how easy it is to see fault when someone else is wrong, like when they have problems in their marriage, or with their kids, or they lose a job, or someone has an accident in traffic. On the road, blame shifting and road raging is called bad defensive driving, and among Christians it is just heresy.
We are supposed to believe that our mistakes and failings are forgiven, my sins are gone because Jesus took them away, but it is so easy to make myself right by putting blame on a sacrificial victim.
The Bible is clear about this one; “Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself.” (Galatians 6:1)
We have these instructions because we like to do something else. Blaming to make ourselves good is not the religion of Jesus, but it is everywhere among Christians. I see this other gospel in me too often, and I know families and churches that are severely damaged. When the issue about my Dad flared up a few months ago, we almost fell into that pit.
(Proverbs 28) People who conceal their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy. (v 13) Blessed are those who fear to do wrong, but the stubborn are headed for serious trouble. (v 14) The blameless will be rescued from harm, but the crooked will be suddenly destroyed. (v 18) In the end, people appreciate honest criticism far more than flattery. (v 23)