To hear my class of kindergarteners tell it, absolute chaos reigned the week I was out of town.

“They were naughty for the substitute teacher,” one innocent-sounding child told me.

“They broke all the chalk,” another added.

“And they used the special reward stickers for their art project,” a third informed me.

“I have just one question,” I said in response to these tales of juvenile delinquency.  “Who are ‘they?’” The class was silent until Jacob raised his hand.

“They are everybody else, but not me,” he said.

I’ve thought of Jacob’s definition more than once when the often-annoying and sometimes wicked “they” come up in conversations.  “They” appear at work, at church and at club meetings.  Wherever “they” are, they make trouble.  Whatever happens, they are at fault.  Who are they?   As Jacob so succinctly put it, they are everybody else, but not me.

The All-Knowing God doesn’t let us off that easily.  When Adam and Eve sinned at the very start of our human history, they tried to pass the buck.  But God asked,  “What did YOU do?”(Genesis 3:11, 13)  God knew it all already, but He wanted His children to admit their wrong.  That’s the start of fixing a problem — admitting your part of trouble.

Often I’ve been only 2% wrong and another person has really messed up the other 98%.  Doesn’t matter. I’m not responsible for them, only for my 2%.  When I realized that, it set me free from trying to straighten them out.  No need for me to be angry and hold a grudge.  Their wrong isn’t my trouble.  Only my own wrong actions and attitudes are my responsibility.

And they are my responsibility. God didn’t accept Eve’s, “The serpent talked me into it,” or Adam’s “It was HER idea.”  And He doesn’t accept our, “They started it.”

Our first parents had to face up to their wrong and take their own consequences.  Although those consequences were painful, God gave Adam and Eve precious forgiveness. It was precious because it cost Him a painful price.  He paid the penalty for sin, Himself.

We have the same precious forgiveness offered to us — but first comes the part where we admit our wrong to God.  We have the assurance that He washes away the sins of those who come to Him in true repentance. (I John 1:9, Psalm 103:12)

Then comes the harder part of admitting our fault to the one we wronged.  It’s especially important to use the words, “I was wrong” and “Will you forgive me?”

Often the other person will say, “I was wrong, too.”  Even more often I discover that pesky person who was 98% wrong had an entirely different view of the fractions and thought I had the bigger percentage.

It’s hard to humble yourself and say, “I did it. I was wrong.” But here’s a paradox.  Almost always the person who sincerely admits his wrong is honored, not reviled.  Perhaps we all realize how much courage it takes to say, “Not anyone else — me.”





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