Have you ever had the experience of being blamed by someone else for something you didn’t do? Blamed for saying something you never said? Maybe accused of something when you were actually innocent?
How about punished? Ever been punished for something you never did?
Now let’s go up the ladder one more step: have you ever been blamed or accused or punished by a group of people who seemed to all agree you were wrong………even when you were not wrong? When the blame game is played in a group or collection or community, we call it “scapegoating.” Can be odd man or woman or boy or girl out. “They” make “you” the outcast. As if you are even “blamed” or “scapegoated” for being different. By age, gender, race, religion, class, or whatever.
Then there is the next step higher when your whole group is blamed by another, often larger group. Ever found yourselves losers as a group based on your age group, or gender group, or racial, religious, sexual orientation, occupation, nationality, or such?
Chances are at least some if not all of this has entered your past life experience. So what was that like for you when it happened? What did it feel like inside? Did it anger you, hurt you, scare you in any way? All the above?
You don’t have to answer out loud. I think I may know your answer already. And that’s because I’ve been there, too, in my own life. Lots of times. Couldn’t begin to count. From early childhood on. I know first hand what it’s like to be blamed, accused, and even punished for something I didn’t say or do. I know what it’s like to lose at the blame game. Because these times of loss stir in my mind feelings of anger, hurt, and fear of being hurt again. Those emotions are not easily forgotten or written off.
What I have found in my own experience is that every blame game played against me began with a misunderstanding. Someone assumed something about me that turned out to be wrong, but he/she/they went with it anyway. As if it were true. And because others have misunderstood me, I have been blamed. Even for things I really did not do, or say, or in any way intend. I have fallen victim many times over the years to misunderstandings from which I received the losing end of the blame game.
I tell you who else has been misunderstood, then blamed, accused, punished. Yet innocent the whole time.
Jesus. The Christ. God incarnate, embodied, in human form. The Nazarene. A couple centuries back in human history. God. Became. A. Victim. Just. Like. You and me and everyone else.
The blame game caught up with God when he walked the earth in human form and made him the ultimate, big time loser. He came to earth to reveal what his Kingdom of Heaven would look like if it were to come about here on earth. If we had the Kingdom of God here on earth and Jesus embodied that role of King, we would still have our own political system and still render unto Caesar, but we’d offer universal healthcare for all, free education, food for all, the oppressed would go free, the outcasts would be included, the poor would experience good news. And in this kind of Kingdom, we’d all be invited to live and serve as followers of Jesus the Son who would run God’s Kingdom on earth just as the Father runs God’s Kingdom in heaven.
Do you get it? Do you understand?
If so, good. Because most of his own people all around him and his government with them did not understand. They thought he meant that he would take over Rome and become the new King over Caesar, and, almost as bad for his fellow Jews, he would take over Jerusalem and become King over the Chief Priests already in the Temple. May even drive them out of the Temple. And out of this misunderstanding came the blame game in full operation. Led to accusing him of insurrection against Rome, which meant the death penalty. By means of crucifixion. “They” blamed “him” as the ultimate outsider or outcast. They played the blame game out to its ultimate end, which is always group “scapegoating,” and so……… God. Lost. That. Game. And from there the group that went about following the way of the Christ, and the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven were…………you guessed it, themselves blamed and scapegoated. Misunderstood. Accused. Blamed. Punished. Many also killed.
The blame game.
Here in the United States we’ve just played out a huge one. The election campaign that ended with the winners taking all. Those who did the best job of misunderstanding, accusing, blaming, and promising to punish were declared our winners. The blame game is YUGE here. Winners win and losers lose. And we go on to the next round.
As with most games, the blame game can become addictive enough that we want to just play one more. And then one more. And just another. And another. Well, you get the idea. Any thought that our US elections will be different next time after this last grand game was finally ended so triumphantly is, how can I say this?, a highly irrational thought. Games don’t work that way. The winners want to play again. Sometimes the losers do, too. And so we line em up and play it again. And again. And again. So even as I write this the players in our US political blame game are already thinking ahead to the next campaign. The next strategy for winning……the blame game. The next “Gotcha!!” along our ever lengthening campaign trail.
We are, I believe, culturally addicted to playing the blame game. And not just the US culture, although we can play it with the best of them; just maybe even better than ancient Rome at the time of Jesus. But it’s a universal human game. Perhaps every culture plays it, and perhaps in every culture we learn to play it even at home. In families. In marriages. As siblings. As human individuals. And we endure all the anger, hurt, and fear that comes alongside it.
And now the good news. Are you ready for some? Finally?
The Christ refuses to play the blame game.
Jesus Christ counters human culture in this way: no more blame, no more shame, no more scapegoats, no more victims, no more punishment, no more death, no more losers. God, the One who always understands us and never accuses and never blames and never punishes us, is so opposed to this sinful game we humans play that he has taken the blame, the shame, the scapegoating, the victimhood, the punishment, the death, the loss for us. Game’s over.
This, my friends, is what the Christ of Christianity is really all about. It’s what the gospel or good news of God’s Kingdom of Heaven come to earth is all about. It’s the opposite of sin. It runs counter to our sinful culture. And our sinful election campaigns in places like 2016 USA.
No more blame game! Go and sin no more!
So here’s an idea for the Christian Church in 2016 USA. What if………we ran a little experiment and called it the anti-blame game, forming teams that gathered for mutual confession as to when we were last tempted to sin in this way, tempted to pay the blame game? Maybe at home. Work. School. Neighborhood. Facebook. Wherever. When did others play the blame game against us? Can we forgive them instead of retaliating? Can we experience God in that way? The Christ in that way? And what do we need do in order to end that blame game, like God through Christ ended it at the empty tomb we call resurrection? When we get back together as a team, can we celebrate each other’s resurrection in that same way? Can we as a team win this anti-blame game together? With the Christ on our side?
Please, if you are still reading along, let me close with one final thought. The world today, and especially those who’ve just lost in the 2016 USA election blame game to beat all blame games….it was so YUGE and so successful; yes, this world…….is angry, hurt, scared and so very much in need of the anti-blame game. Only we who can offer the world this new game will be able to offer the real Christ of counter-cultural Christianity.