There is an old joke that goes something like this, “After being in counselling and therapy, I now know that nothing is my fault.” We chuckle at this and think of the people we know who think or act like this. The problem is, that a great deal of modern Christian singing, writing and preaching accepts this joke as truth.
At the heart of the joke is the recognition that there are in fact “therapies” which emphasize that we are passive, and that forces outside of us and beyond our control act on us. These “forces” force me to act in certain destructive ways. Since I am “passive” in these areas of my life, then it is really not my fault that I did these things. It is the “forces” fault.
Usually, evangelical Christians will disagree with what I have just said. When the position is put baldly and clearly, we recognize that the Bible teaches real human freedom and responsibility – not god-like total freedom – but real, actual and substantive freedom and therefore real responsibility for many, if not all of our actions.
However, it is increasingly common to hear the Christians faith described in terms like these. “We are all broken.” “The Lord comes to us in our brokenness.” “He came to deliver us from our brokenness and shame”. “On the cross, Jesus came into our brokenness and shame and took it upon Himself to redeem it.”
Now, there is a real sense where all of these statements are true. The problem is that statements like these are driving out of our preaching and singing the language of “you sin”; “you are at enmity with God”; “you have turned from Him”; “you suppress the truth about God”; “you have rejected Him”; “you have cast His words aside”.
Do you notice the difference? The language of brokenness and shame is passive language. It is describing something that has happened to you. The language of “sin” is active language. It is something you do. If the language of our singing, counselling and preaching primarily uses passive language, or uses the passive language to explain active language – well we are no longer being biblical, and have started to inhabit a world view where, “it is not my fault”.
The Bible acknowledges we can be broken and know shame, it knows we can be victims, but the primary and governing language is the language of sin – active language. Human beings are essentially active. We are not essentially passive. We choose. We do. We respond.
Another way to look at this is to see that the modern tendencies in singing and speaking reflect a tragic confusion between us being passive and active. The principal scriptural language is that when it comes to grace and mercy we are passive. God does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. When it comes to salvation, we receive, we are acted upon by the Lord who is full of power, mercy and grace.
Tragically, when we emphasize that with our “faults” we are passive, then we will believe that our salvation is primarily active – something we are responsible for. The Bible teaches this wonderful mystery that we are active in our sin, passive in salvation – and behold, our “passive” receiving of grace inflames our desire for active godliness.