My friend Paul Tripp writes that becoming our own defense attorney is a dangerous and destructive practice. In less formal language Paul is warning about becoming an excuse maker. These are the words of a defense attorney in action:
• “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be angry.”
• “I guess I’m just tired.”
• “He was mean to me.”
• “If you were just a little nicer, it would be a lot easier.”
• “Being inside because of the weather makes me cranky.”
• “It wasn’t my fault, I’m just not feeling well.”
Whether these words come from you or your children they are the words of excuse making, defending ourselves from our own shortcomings and sins.
Excuse making keeps us from trusting God, erodes relationships and weakens our character and faith. The default mode for the excuse maker is to shift blame instead of looking to God in repentance. Excuse making is evidence of regret over sins. Excuse making is a way to conceal sin. The Holy Spirit warns against concealing sin in Proverbs 28:13:
He who conceals his sins does not prosper,
but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.
Here is alternate translation from respected commentator and scholar Bruce Waltke:
The one who conceals his transgressions will not succeed
but the one who confesses and abandons them will obtain mercy.
The message is clear and profound: Repentance brings hope. Excuses result in frustration and blame-shifting. The flesh acts as our defense attorney by continually offering a stream of excuses so that we can avoid addressing and confessing our sin. This leads to disaster. Waltke makes this insightful observation about concealing sin:
People may smash their consciences to avoid humbling themselves, but they cannot avoid the reality that God knows and will punish sin. How much better to give him glory by acknowledging this and to experience his mercy.
Concealing sins — making excuses — destroys trust in God. But repentance yields mercy and the blessing of God. There is no freedom in making excuses, only regret and frustration. However, if repentance is your first response you can be confident of God’s mercy. You don’t have to look for an excuse. You know that your are forgiven and can trust God for help to change. Repentance is the path of freedom.
Here is a definition of repentance you can teach your children: “changing my mind and turning around to do the right thing.”
Here is a prayer for repentance that will be a blessing to you and your children:
God, thank you for making repentance possible by sending Jesus to live and die in my place. Thank you that my sin doesn’t separate me from your love. But still, sometimes it is hard to repent, especially when I am stubborn and angry and I just want my own way. Please give me a repentant heart and help me to love you more. In Jesus name, Amen.
Don’t listen to your inner defense attorney! Embrace repentance.
Jay Younts is the author of “Everyday Talk: Talking freely and Naturally about God with Your Children” and “Everyday Talk about Sex & Marriage.” He blogs at ShepherdPress.com, where this article (reprinted with permission) first appeared.