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I’ve been thinking a lot about a little word called justification lately. And not the good kind of justification where Jesus takes away our sins and makes us right in his eyes. The kind that whispers, “Well, it’s not so bad if I tell a little white lie. It’s harmless. I’m not really hurting anybody.” I’m talking about the excuses I make that let me take the easy way out and ignore the hard things that demand a higher standard in my life. That’s what my justifications are, excuses designed to allow me to do whatever I want to do which is usually completely out of line with what I know God wants from me.
What got me thinking about this, you might ask? I was recently confronted with the knowledge of something that caused my heart to grieve and I kept wondering, completely puzzled, “How could this person even think that what they’re doing is okay?” I just couldn’t wrap my head or my heart around it. I thought, surely they know better! And then I felt the Holy Spirit drop this word–the subject of this blog– justification into my heart. See, we can almost always come up with ways to justify our actions, even truly ugly ones, and the Holy Spirit reminded me that I do it all the time. Um, ouch!
When we were living in India as missionaries one of the things I justified, big-time, was my lack of compassion for people on the street. Whenever I felt a tiny nudge to reach out to a beggar I usually reasoned, “Well, I can’t make any sort of real difference. Since I can’t change everything, I should probably do nothing. This problem is just way too big for me. I don’t have the resources or the time to do anything significant.” Or at least that’s what I convinced myself was true. What I was really saying is, “I don’t want to do anything, stopping to help this person would be too inconvenient for me.” I’m ashamed to admit that the more I told myself those lies the more I believed them, until one day I found I could walk by people, dirty, destitute and broken, and not bat an eye.
1 John 3:16-17 (The Message) says: “This is how we’ve come to understand and experience love: Christ sacrificed his life for us. This is why we ought to live sacrificially for our fellow believers, and not just be out for ourselves. If you see some brother or sister in need and have the means to do something about it but turn a cold shoulder and do nothing, what happens to God’s love? It disappears. And you made it disappear.“
Justification allowed me to read that verse and say, “The number of people in need that I see on a daily basis is staggering, surely God doesn’t really mean this! I would drive myself crazy trying to live this out on the streets of India!” And just like that I could conveniently ignore it and dismiss it as too extreme and definitely too hard. I just want to say that is a scary place to live, picking and choosing the commands you want to follow, a place I no longer want to live in, and I’m sorry that I lived in it as long as I did. Truly sorry. I weep over the opportunities I missed, the people I could have helped, over the times that I made God’s love disappear in a place that desperately needed it to be tangible and visible. I truly hope you don’t relate to my story, but if you do, it’s not too late to change! Are you making excuses to justify disobedience? Ask God to help you change; he will!
Let me know what you think! Drop me a comment. I’d love to hear your thoughts!