With Great Power...

“The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.”

Isn’t it interesting how the first sin is shortly followed by the first excuse? God sees Adam, Adam sees God, God asks Adam what’s going on, Adam says he’s ashamed because he’s naked, God points out that Adam isn’t supposed to know that he’s naked and the only way for him to know that was if he had eaten from the tree he wasn’t supposed to eat from, and then Adam blames Eve, and if that wasn’t good enough, he blames God too. “Well, you see, God, ultimately this is your fault. Things were fine until the woman came along, and didn’t you make her?” Adam is trying to deflect responsibility off of himself at all costs.

But God plays along. He turns to Eve, who proceeds to blame the serpent, which you can imagine ticks Adam off a bit, since it makes a lot more sense to blame the devil for your sin than it does to blame a holy and perfect God. Nevertheless, God continues to play along, and He turns to the serpent, who knows better than to provide an excuse. God reveals that it was in fact all three of them that were to blame, and their shared sin will affect not only them, but the entire world.

How often do we do the same thing as Adam and Eve? Especially in our present culture, I think it’s becoming increasingly common to throw our own responsibilities onto the backs of other people, justifying our terrible, unjust, or impure actions by blaming them on the person who “made us feel bad.”

“Officer, I only committed the crime because I’m a victim to this unjust system.”

“Teacher, I only cheated on the test because you didn’t teach us well enough.”

“Honey, I was only unfaithful to you because you failed to give me the attention I needed.”

Do you see how messed up this is? In our futile attempts to make ourselves seem good and holy, we try to tear down others instead of fessing up to our own iniquity. We hate the very concept of being wrong, so we will argue to the death even if we know that the other person is 100% right. We don’t like messing up, so we will try to play it off like we didn’t mess up at all. Heck, even whenever we stumble while walking down the road, we look around self-consciously because we don’t want people to think we are less than perfect!

Don’t we realize that being less than perfect is essential to our Gospel?

I think that it’s time we start owning up to our responsibilities once again. Think of King David whenever Nathan called him out on his sin with Bathsheba. He didn’t say that the blame ultimately lie with Bathsheba since she was the one who tempted him in the first place by bathing naked on the roof; instead, he exuded humility and righteous responsibility by saying, “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Sam 12:13). That’s it; no excuse, no diversion technique, no flamboyant wording. He is straightforward and owns up to his own mistake. Then he goes about the proper steps to reconciling the problem; punishment ensues (because there is a punishment for sin, even if you don’t own up to it), but He stays true to God even through this. This is how we need to be. Be responsible for your actions.

Second, I think we need to be responsible for our futures. Kids are taking longer to move out of their parents’ houses, get jobs, and get married – these rates are all higher than they have ever been before (I can’t provide you with the exact statistics, but I know that I’ve heard them to be true). Why is this? The most common excuse is “I’m still trying to find myself” or “I’m wanting to take my time so I can make my best decision” but the real reason is because they’re just irresponsible. We have more technology and more available knowledge than any culture before us (seriously, you can look up anything on Google), yet for some reason we need “more preparation” before deciding to grow up? We’ve got adults playing video games and getting plastered drunk day after day, yet they still live in their parent’s houses – do you not see how this is irresponsible? One might not think that the Bible has much to say on this topic, but if you take a quick look at John the Baptist you will see that the Bible is instead very concerned with us doing the proper things at the proper time. He spent thirty years of his life preparing for an extremely particular cause, and when the proper moment arose, he didn’t hesitate to do that which he was meant to do. And he didn’t do it for money or fame or anything, mind you; he was essentially a glorified hobo who knew that he had a specific calling: to pave the way for the Lord. And he never let somebody get in the way of that calling, even when it would have been tempting to let them do so (he was quick to step from the spotlight as soon as Jesus entered the scene, see John 3).

So yes, we need to enjoy the blessings of the present, but that doesn’t justify our ignorance of what’s to come. That’s why God gave us the book of Revelation after all, isn’t it? We aren’t supposed to beat ourselves dead worrying about what lies ahead, but we are supposed to meditate on it so that we are prepared. But I think I’ve said enough on this topic, so let’s move to my last point.

Your responsibility ultimately lies in the hands of God, not others. Often times, Christians fall into the trap of being a little too nice to people, mistaking “turn the other cheek” (Matt 5:39) for “let people stomp all over you.” Whenever people set massive expectations for us to fulfill, in our attempt to “love” we often try to look past those people’s assertive nature only to do their every bidding. If somebody tells us and expects us to change their baby’s diaper, we do it “out of love,” because “that’s what Jesus would want.”

But is it? I think we’ve mistaken Jesus’ call to love. If we are doing something out of the kindness of our hearts, that is loving, but if we do it purely out of obligation or because we have been bullied into doing so, that is in fact us submitting to an authority that God has not placed above us. Consider Jesus in John 2, when Mary approaches him about the recent wine outage at the wedding:

“Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come,” Jesus replies (2:4). He is not being rude here, but is merely stating a simple fact: he was now undergoing his public ministry, which meant that the submissive role he once played before his mother now had to change. Now, his only authority was God, so he was making it clear that if he did anything about the wine outage (which he did), it would be because God commanded him to, not because his mother did. He was not being cruel or rude in saying this to his mother; instead, he was being loving by pointing out that it was God who was in control of all matters, not her. Should we not do the same for others? When people try to bully us or stomp on our feet (which Mary wasn’t even coming close to doing, by the way), shouldn’t we use Jesus as our guide and lovingly point out that those people do not have authority over us? I’m not saying we shouldn’t obey our teachers or parents or pastors, because those are people who God has placed in authority over us, but instead that we shouldn’t mistake God’s call to love as a call to submit to every single force that opposes our will. We need to be responsible. R-E-S-P-O-N-S-I-B-L-E. Do you understand?

NOW LET’S BE HONEST…I’m not immune to being irresponsible myself. I make excuses, I’m unemployed and still living with my parents (though, admittedly, I am only twenty and am in college), and I do often choose to appease by others by giving them their wishes rather than confronting them about their unjustified expectations. But nevertheless, I think we are called to love, and if we should love correctly, this means to accept responsibility for all of our actions, whether that be sinful actions, future actions, or unneeded actions.

How do we start being responsible, you ask? Well, Ephesians 4 tells us to speak the truth in love, so let’s start there. When you find yourself in sin, speak the truth in love: admit you are wrong. When you find yourself ignoring the future, speak the truth in love: start speaking with people who might be able to help you figure things out. If you find yourself submitting to authorities because you don’t want to “hurt their feelings,” speak the truth in love: you ultimate authority is God, and while you would love to do things for them, it is only love if it is a gift and not an obligation.

So yes, we are called to love. But can you really love someone if you are not responsible for your own actions? For if you aren’t responsible for your own actions, how can you claim to be responsible for the love that you daily display through action?

Have a blessed day.