He will also strengthen you to the end so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1:8 NRSV).
When something goes wrong it is often said that there’s plenty of blame to go around. True enough. And most of us are pretty good at knowing exactly where it should go, who gets it and how much.
Two questions might be worth pondering and praying over today.
First, what is it in your life that isn’t working according to plan?
Second, are you blaming someone for that?
Blame Masks Pride
Sometimes we take the high road by answering that we blame no one but ourselves. That sounds noble, but it’s not always healthy. Blame is still blame, even when you aim it at yourself. Blaming the self is no less violent than blaming another.
When aimed at others, blame is a form of self-defense, a way of distancing oneself from a problem. Blame avoids personal responsibility, shifting the focus to someone or something else. Blame often masks pride, reflecting an inflated regard for “me” and a disregard for “you.”
One of the most remarkable features of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians is his refusal to place blame. He would have been entirely justified in doing so. He had invested a year and a half of his life in establishing a community of Jesus followers in that city, only to learn shortly thereafter that the church was falling apart. They were morally off the rails, doctrinally confused, and relationally fractured.
Placing blame on the Corinthians would have been so easy for Paul to do. They were in a mess and all of that had come about in Paul’s absence. Time for heads to roll. But Paul doesn’t do that. Instead, he begins his letter by doing the very opposite. The opening lines of his letter reflect a genuine affection for the Corinthian church. He’ll soon take up the pastoral work of correcting and rebuking, both of which have their place alongside care and compassion. But that’s not how he begins.
Don’t miss Paul’s language here. Paul calls the Corinthians “those sanctified in Christ Jesus.” He insists that they “lack no spiritual gift.” He maintains that they have been “enriched in every way.” He sees a time when they will stand before God “blameless.” The ESV translation uses the word “guiltless.”
Refuse to Accuse
Why does Paul talk this way? Here’s why. Before getting all worked up over what the Corinthians have done, Paul rehearses what Jesus has done among the Corinthians.
In Jesus Christ the Corinthians (and all believers) are indeed relieved of guilt. In Jesus the Corinthians are blessed, not blamed – and Paul will not presume to do what Jesus has not done. Paul is not in denial. Paul knows all too well that there are problems in Corinth, and he’ll confront them head-on soon enough. But what matters most is what God has done in Jesus Christ. Because of this, and only because of this, Paul withholds accusation and blame.
The moment you begin to see others as blameless is the moment you become a person who blames less.
Seeing Others as Blameless
Jesus didn’t come into the world to condemn (John 3:17). God didn’t send his son to assign blame for the wrecked condition of the world. Why are we so quick to do what Jesus never did and never meant for us to do, even if we do it in his name?
For today, make it your aim to blame less. Sure, there will be a judgment, but that’s not something you’ve been invited to help out with. God will handle that when it’s time. What we need to know is that the people who make you miserable, who did you wrong and might have done you in, are people who may one day stand with you before Jesus blameless. See them blameless, maybe you’ll blame less.
When was the last time you blamed or received blame for something? Is there someone in your life whom you need to stop blaming?
We give you thanks, Lord Jesus, that your work among us was not a mission of assigning blame. We give you thanks for the grace that exposes our sin and then cleanses us from it. We thank you for the way you make us a new creation. Knowing that we are blameless in you, we ask for the grace to blame less and to love more, just as you called and commanded us to do. Amen.