7 Stabilizing Principles in a Chaotic World, Part 6


Written in 2018; read the series.

Number 6: Responsibility. You can and should control your reactions. You should resist being manipulated.

When Adam sinned, God confronted him. And in a really remarkable display of chutzpah (was the first language Yiddish?), Adam blamed his wife. And then, in the same breath, he blamed God himself: “the woman, whom YOU gave to me … “ (Gen 3.12).

From the very beginning, we’ve been blame-shifters. When we can be cajoled into reluctantly admitting that we’ve done something wrong, our natural reaction is to blame the whole thing on somebody else. Our children do it. And so do we.

You don’t understand. It happened this way, under these unique circumstances. This is different.

We’re really good at blame-shifting, because we’ve had a lot of practice.

And Scripture will have none of it.

Adam’s problem wasn’t his wife; it was his own willingness to ignore a direct order from his Creator (Gen 2.16)—and we now stand guilty not of Eve’s sin, but of Adam’s (Rom 5.12-14). Moses’ problem wasn’t the infuriating thanklessness and complaining of the Israelites (Num 11.11-12); it was his prideful rejection of God’s instructions (Dt 32.51). David’s problem wasn’t Bathsheba’s carelessness in bathing where he could see her (2Sam 11.2); it was his lustful eagerness to steal her for himself (2Sam 12.7-10).

Your sin, your failures, are your own fault.

Now, I’m not suggesting that only your sin is significant. Others have sinned against you and me, and their actions leave scars, sometimes life-changing ones. But how you behave is not their fault. You are not an animal; you can make moral decisions and carry them out. You can do the right thing despite what others have done to or around you.

You don’t have to be a victim.

So when people make you angry, or when they make false statements, or when they demonstrate that they’re just idiots, they’ve done what they’ve done; but now you need to decide what you’re going to do. And your responsibility is to act in a way that demonstrates love for God and love for your neighbor (Mk 12.29-31).


Some observations:

  • The poster has no right to tell you what to do. You are not obligated.
  • The decision as to whether Hillary goes to jail or not is not a matter of democratic vote. You do believe in the Constitution, right? 🙂
  • Further, the decision is not up to you, unless you get chosen to be on the jury. If there is a jury.
    • And even if there is a jury, and you’re on it, you may not be tasked with any decision for the penalty phase of the trial.
  • So sharing is a complete waste of your time.
  • And it fills a lot of other people’s timelines with nonsense, a complete waste of their time—which can hardly be said to be loving.
  • And it gives the impression that you care about that more than other stuff, stuff that’s really worth caring about.

You don’t have to share it.

So why do we do it?

Typically, one of two reasons. Rage, or humor.

Either we’re really ticked off about whatever, or we want to stick it to the other side.

I’ve commented before on the essential fleshliness of sticking it to the other side. And, for that matter, about the needlessness of being enraged by the professional agitators.

Some closing thoughts:

  • Things are rarely as bad as they seem. #freakoutthounot
  • There’s plenty of noise out there. Why add to it?
  • Don’t you respect the guy who stands in the middle of the maelstrom, clear-headed, focused on the solution, bringing order and calm and clarity to the chaos?
    • Be that guy.

Dan Olinger Bio

Dr. Dan Olinger has taught at Bob Jones University since 2000, following 19 years as a writer, editor, and supervisor at BJU Press. He teaches courses in theology, New Testament, and Old Testament, with special interests in ecclesiology and the Pauline Epistles.