Sermon Illustrations on Blame


Donne, Undone

While movies and novels often present stories of a budding love interest willing to give up everything for “true love” (Romeo and Juliet , for example), the renowned poet and, later, clergyman, John Donne really, actually did risk everything when he chose to secretly marry Anne Moore, daughter of Sir George Moore, at the time against the wishes of his father-in-law. 

Donne lost his position working in the office of the Great Seal, and the young couple had to flee their place in Sir George’s home, taking refuge in a house in Pyrford, near his father-in-law. Upon arriving at his new home, the first thing the poet did was write on a pane of glass:

John Donne

An Donne


Apparently it stuck, for prior to this episode, Donne’s last name was actually spelled “Dun.”

Stuart Strachan Jr., Source Material from James Prior, Life of Edmond Malone, 1860.

Haters of Humanity?

Most of us are aware of various persecutions that took place during the first few centuries of the church’s existence. One particularly brutal local persecution took place during the reign of Nero, who was emperor from 37-68 AD. It began with a fire, which many believed Nero himself began in an attempt to lay hold of a piece of land. To dispel rumors of his own guilt, Nero blamed this young, seemingly fanatical religious group known as the Christians. 

Their punishment was especially cruel. Those found guilty were convicted, not of starting a fire, but of “hating humanity,” and were punished by crucifixion, being torn by dogs, or being used as lights (by being burned to death) in Nero’s garden and the local circuses. Looking back, it’s hard not to see the true hater of humanity, whose gossip and lies were considered expedient, even if that meant innocent people would be put to death.

Stuart Strachan Jr.

There’s No Time for That

I don’t know how much the following episode was dramatized for a Hollywood script, but in the movie Gettysburg, General Lee is portrayed as being furious with General J. E. B. Stuart, who took his cavalry and left the Confederate forces all but blind (without sending in reconnaissance reports) during the early days of the famous Civil War battle in Pennsylvania.

When Stuart finally returns, Lee chastises him, forcefully informing Stuart that many officers believe Stuart has let all of them down. Stuart demands to know the officers’ names.

Lee responds with conviction: “There is no time for that.” Lee proceeds to scold the cavalry officer for leaving all of them woefully uninformed about the Union’s positions and says, to make himself very clear, “This must never happen again.”

Stuart flinches at Lee’s harsh words, puts down his hat, and pulls out his sword, a sign of resignation. “Since I have lost your confidence . . .” Lee slams his fist down on a table and screams, “I have told you there is no time for that! There is no time!” Their armies were involved in a furious struggle. Men were literally dying. Which men, and how many, would depend on choices they were making, even as they spoke. There was no time to worry about personal squabbles or hurt egos. All energy had to be focused on the task at hand. There is no time for that!

Gary Thomas, When to Walk Away: Finding Freedom from Toxic People, Zondervan 2019.

Mutual Accusations

In the mid-1980s, I helped facilitate a series of conferences between top Soviet and American policy advisers on the question of how to prevent a nuclear war. The times were tense and the accusations were flying back and forth between the two superpowers. Each time we held a meeting, the first session began with a long laundry list of attacks and defensive arguments. It poisoned the atmosphere and took up a lot of valuable time. By the third or fourth such conference, my colleagues and I tried a different tack. On the printed agenda, we labeled the subject of the first meeting “Mutual Accusations” and scheduled it before breakfast for anyone who wanted to show up. Everyone got the point. The blame game is the core pattern of almost every destructive conflict I have ever witnessed. The husband blames the wife and vice versa. Management blames the union and vice versa. One political enemy blames the other and vice versa. Blaming usually triggers feelings of anger or shame in the other, which provokes counterblame. And on it goes.

William Ury, Getting to Yes with Yourself: How to Get What You Truly Want (HarperOne, 2016)

More Resources

Still Looking for Inspiration?

Related Themes

Click a topic below to explore more sermon illustrations! 







& Many More