To rationalize means to reason with logic. Used another way, it can also mean to excuse, justify, or vindicate. Whatever meaning we may use, the same brain can do both. Why? We are God-created, intelligent creatures. We determine our destiny. We make choices. Our decisions are ours. We have the will and spirit to behave and act as we desire. We are capable.
What a marvelous gift it is to think logically. Given the information, we can determine the difference between truth and error, good and bad, right and wrong. All we need to do is weigh the evidence, then make the choice to believe or disbelieve, act or refuse, obey or disobey.
Here is something to remember about the word “rationalize”: It is freedom. Notice its application in Psalm 51.4: “Against You, You only, I have sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You are justified when You speak and blameless when You judge.” This is what David logically and reasonably says when his heart is brought to the reality of his sin. He did not attempt to escape, excuse, or justify what he had done. He faces the truth with the desire to be washed and cleansed from his unrighteousness. He desired deliverance (freedom) which no one other than God could provide. He could have dodged the issue for the nine months Bathsheba was pregnant, but the truth would be born, literally.
David’s freedom was predicated on his rationalizing of his sin, the understanding of his crime before God. There was no one else to blame. He could not accuse his position. NO one took the stand in his defense. This God-given capacity to rationalize is what led to his freedom. It was a choice which led to being known as “a man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13.22).
What David did is out-of-date in a postmodern world where people feel the need to rationalize their mistakes with a disorder or victim mentality. The thinking is, “If you had felt what I was feeling at the time, you would have done the same thing.” Therefore, our feelings become our primary source of authority. Facts have been replaced with feelings as the standard for attitudes and behavior. This means there is no personal accountability or contribution to the fault. Personal actions then come from external causes, not God-given desires of the will to decide.
Wait! Before you give sovereign rule of your life to your feelings, ask yourself if those feelings are true. Are they a good basis for rationalization? Are feelings based upon personal happiness and pleasure? If so, certain actions will seem logical and reasonable.
Listen to the words of 1 John 1.8-9: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
The pressing thought in the above passage is fellowship with God. If your heart desires this, it will not come from feeling your way into God’s favor regardless of what you do. You will rationally seek to be cleansed from sin and renewed in fellowship with God through Jesus’ blood and confession of sin. There is no reason to kid yourself, pretend sin does not exist, or blame someone else for your transgression. To do so shuts off the light of God and your fellowship with Him and other Christians.
You can connect with other people who are behaving the same way you are in sin, but it does not justify you before God. Your horizontal relationships can be rationalized by others as okay. You can be depended upon their feelings, but it does not provide freedom. A person can consider himself okay by virtue of “others are doing the same thin.” It only turns into self-righteousness. Such feelings never provide the vertical relationship with God we need, which is made possible through the blood of Christ and our confession of sin.
The mind God gave us to rationalize should look at the truth of scripture. See the facts. We all sin (Romans 3.23). We cannot ignore the light. We cannot become so busy and callous that it blinds us to what the light reveals. We need to be dependent upon God to show us where we are and where we need to be. We all need His light to illuminate our path to God and righteousness. God gave us the rational mind to do so. Use it.
Keep in mind, the process of rationalizing is your personal stewardship, given by God to be used for His purposes. Fasten your rational mind upon principles which are just and right. If so, you will choose carefully and soberly. Become wise, not foolish.