My wife is visiting family in New Zealand. She has been gone for several days. I miss her but if I am honest, I like the freedom to do what I want, when I want, the way I want, when she is gone. I don’t know of anyone who doesn’t like that feeling of freedom if they’re honest. In fact, you might say that is a definition of what religious people call sin, doing what I want, when I want, the way I want. And we are all sinners, right?
Admitting that this desire for freedom is what really drives our priorities, our behavior, and our use of money and time is where it gets difficult. It is hard to admit we are that self-absorbed. Therefore we fine tune the art of excuses. We seek ways of explaining to people we love, people we hurt, people who depend on us why we let them down; when if we we’re honest we would simple say, “I did what I wanted, when I wanted, the way I wanted.” But few of us are really that honest.
I have experienced kids of all ages try to make excuses for behavior that got them in serious trouble. If they were adults who took responsibility, they would simply say “I did what I wanted, the way I wanted, when I wanted, and got caught. The honesty would be refreshing. I have been with couples when someone begins to explain away their infidelity. It makes me want to yell “Stop, be honest, you were extremely selfish.” I have listened to people make excuses about why they didn’t show up for work, lost their job, and I’ve wondered if they really believed what they were saying. Why can’t anyone just admit they did what they wanted, the way they wanted, when they wanted? But honesty like that seems so rare.
I see this so much when it comes to sharing my faith with people. People have amazing excuses why they don’t believe in Jesus and come to church. My friend Keith and I have discussed that most people are just blowing smoke. In the end, when all the excuses are discussed, you discover that people made up their mind to do what they wanted, when they wanted, the way they wanted and then found a few excuses to make it sound like they had really thought it all through. I am sure there are some who have but neither Keith nor I have met them.
Here is why people have so many excuses. First, they would have to admit that deep down they are selfish, self-absorbed, and at times extremely uncaring. This would generally lead to the second reason. They would have to admit they are wrong. If honesty is difficult admitting being wrong takes on another level of resistance. Then, here is the kicker when it comes to Jesus and faith they would have to admit that they are sinful, need a Savior, and must let Jesus direct their lives. Jesus would get to tell them what to do, when to do it, and the way to do it. And who wants to be that honest?
The writer is the senior pastor at Sidney First United Methodist Church, Sidney.