The Sin of Deflection

deflectionAnother year, another incorrect prediction of the world’s end.

I often wondered how these predictors interpret their constant misses, until I went on the internet and saw for myself.

They deflect.

Instead of acknowledging their error and apologizing to those they mislead, a lot of these people simply hide behind the sins (or perceived sins) of others. They accuse you of unbelief. They speak of the “mockers” and “scoffers” outside the kingdom who will get their “just reward” when Christ returns. As if any of this somehow ameliorates their own false prophecies. Deflecting.

A coworker responds to correction by pointing out how awful X and Y are at their jobs, and thus how unfair the criticism is. Deflecting.

Teachers spreading poor doctrine complain of being attacked. Deflecting.

Political candidates play down their own flaws and talk about those of their opponent. Deflecting.

And I?

When someone calls me on a sin, one of my flesh’s first reactions is to glance furiously in all directions for someone or something else to blame it on. Like a drowning man seeking a lifeline.

Deflecting.

My parents raised me to own my errors. I certainly can’t take credit for learning this myself (or claim perfection). And honestly, perhaps my own motives are a bit self-serving: part of the reason I own my mistakes is because, somewhat paradoxically, it earns the respect of others and defuses tension in confrontations, whereas constant excuse-making brings you no favor. It’s one of the secrets of how God wired this world, and a test of your maturity.

But that’s not the best reason to confess.

A deflector:

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14)

That Pharisee wasn’t even showing off for men (as Matthew 6 warned us not to do); he was standing by himself as he claimed his works. Yet God found nothing there worthy of exaltation. His works looked like righteousness, but in service of the wrong thing. He wasn’t glorifying God; he was reaching for justification through his own power.

This is the fatal trap of legalism. Even if we (theoretically) eliminate every other sin without God, we will only run into pride. Our depravity ensures that.

This is why admitting sin is actually a wonderful thing. God doesn’t ask for our confession so he can grind us down or send us tumbling into self-loathing. He asks for our confession so he can offer grace. No grace can be offered where no sin has been acknowledged.

Many despise Christianity because it denies the adequacy of the law-abiding, decent person, and instead invokes God’s moral standards – perfection. But oh, how wonderful when we admit our failure to reach God’s standards and instead receive his love and grace, receive his forgiveness, receive the righteousness of Christ. What a wonderful gift!

There is absolutely no need to deflect. Nothing dreadful awaits us on the other side of confession. If it does, or if you think it does, you have not confessed with a Scriptural understanding. God is better.

Trust Luke 18 on that.

19 thoughts on “The Sin of Deflection

  1. Not only is deflection a common reaction to getting caught while doing wrong, it’s the very first reaction following the very first sin–“The woman you gave me,” and, “The serpent deceived me.” J.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Absolutely! This called to mind one of my favorite passages from G. K. Chesterton’s book, Heretics (it’s a bit long but well worth the read and highly entertaining, too!):

    “Every one of the popular modern phrases and ideals is a dodge in order to shirk the problem of what is good. We are fond of talking about ‘liberty’; that, as we talk of it, is a dodge to avoid discussing what is good. We are fond of talking about ‘progress’; that is a dodge to avoid discussing what is good. We are fond of talking about ‘education’; that is a dodge to avoid discussing what is good. The modern man says, ‘Let us leave all these arbitrary standards and embrace liberty.’ This is, logically rendered, ‘Let us not decide what is good, but let it be considered good not to decide it.’ He says, ‘Away with your old moral formulae; I am for progress.’ This, logically stated, means, ‘Let us not settle what is good; but let us settle whether we are getting more of it.’ He says, ‘Neither in religion nor morality, my friend, lie the hopes of the race, but in education.’ This, clearly expressed, means, ‘We cannot decide what is good, but let us give it to our children.'”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I so much agree with your post, and honesty about our sin is a theme of my book. I think the 20th century emphasis on positive thinking, self-affirmation, self-esteem (etc) contributed greatly to an inability to own up to our flaws and sins. It weakened Christianity and our lives of faith.

    “God doesn’t ask for our confession so he can grind us down or send us tumbling into self-loathing. He asks for our confession so he can offer grace. No grace can be offered where no sin has been acknowledged.” – Well said!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. owning your mistakes is definitely a sign of maturity. More importantly it gets you quicker to confessing to Christ so that you might receive forgiveness. That’s one of the reasons the enemy hates honesty.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great thought here: “Even if we (theoretically) eliminate every other sin without God, we will only run into pride. Our depravity ensures that.” Thanks for your powerful insights, once again!

    Liked by 1 person

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