The root excuse: I shouldn’t have come down so strongly on that guy—maybe I even should have just let him off the hook—but I’m only human. You can’t expect me …
to act perfectly all the time. I was having a bad day and had a splitting headache. Plus, my stupid car just broke down again. So great … I had my debt forgiven, but I still didn’t have enough money to get my car repaired. On another day, I probably would have been kinder in the way I approached the guy. But you need to understand I’m only human. It was the buildup of pressure.
to be someone I’m not. I’m hotheaded. It’s in my blood. It’s just the way I am. Actually, that trait is usually a good thing; it’s how I get things done. I’m aggressive in a good way. So when occasionally it works out in a negative way, cut me some slack, okay?
We do not give these excuses before we act poorly, but we use them to justify our behavior after the fact. We live in a culture that feeds us a steady diet of these kinds of excuses. We hear them on the news almost nightly. The CEO of a billion-dollar company gets caught on video using blistering epithets or racist language and defends himself by saying, “This is not who I really am. I’m not that kind of person.” A group of teens take a video of a drowning man and do nothing to help and the parents defend their kids: “That’s not who they are. They made a mistake.”
Even in Christian circles, people excuse their wrong behavior or lack of love as a function of their personality type or their place in the birth order or their love language (“That’s not my love language”). All these excuses boil down to this “I’m only human” idea with the implicit “You can’t necessarily expect anything different and certainly can’t fault me if I fall short of your expectations.”
Yes, we each have a certain personality type that makes it easier or harder to behave in certain ways for the better or worse. And yes, birth order, upbringing, and social experiences all shape us. But there is no UOC version of the Bible that allows us to insert the phrase “unless, of course” after admonitions to love people, as in “Love your neighbor as yourself, unless, of course, you’ve had a frustrating day.” Or “Bless those who mistreat you, unless, of course, you’re at the end of your rope.” Our God promises to conform us to His image as we by faith shed the “I’m only human” view of ourselves.
This famous parable that makes it so natural for us to join the onlookers and scorn the unmerciful servant should instead call us to look in the mirror, see our similarities to the unforgiving servant, and drop our stones. The spirit of forgiveness has no limit. No more excuses.
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