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Balm or Blame

Do you remember Hank? In our September 14 post, he gave us a glimpse of life under parole—released from incarceration, yet remaining under the watchful eye of the penal system. He is grateful for his new season of life; he uses it daily “to contribute to a broken society that [I] helped break.” While Hank views his parole experience as “a positive one” overall, it is not without challenges, for there is, in his words, an implied, “We’ll let you out, but . . . we’re going to remind you of what you’ve done and who you are.” Now parole officers have the difficult job of protecting society while navigating offenders back into it, and those who do it well deserve our gratitude. Yet Hank’s experience illustrates the human tendency to blame and criticize others for their moral frailties, even though we struggle mightily with our own. In our sin nature, we scorn theirs. There must be a better way.

Jesus once asked a gathered crowd, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”1 We all sin, then sin again in judging others, and in doing so, we hold them to a standard we, through our flesh, cannot attain. The apostle Paul speaks for us all: “I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.”2 Even we who are born into Christ struggle against our sin nature, “For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other . . .”3 We cannot live a godly life by our own power, nor can anyone else, so why would we heap accusations and judgments upon the already battle-scarred among us? They need balm, not blame.

James wrote, “Don’t speak evil against each other . . . If you criticize and judge each other, then you are criticizing and judging God’s law [of love].”4 Instead, life in Christ looks more like this: “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.”5 Then do we ignore sin? No, not at all. Sin is serious. But “if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently.”6 Apply balm, not blame. (It’ll feel better to you, too.)

Father, You have compassion on us, remembering that “we are dust.”7 May we be so merciful, bearing hope, not hurt, and balm, not blame. In Christ we pray. Amen.

1 Matthew 7:3
2 Romans 7:18
3 Galatians 5:17
4 James 4:11 NLT
5 Colossians 3:13-15
6 Galatians 6:1
7 Psalm 103:13-14