Personal Responsibility (1)

When conversations focus on family problems, social problems, national problems, or church problems, the one thing which comes to mind is responsibility. Who is responsible for these problems? Then answer to that question not only receives various answers, it becomes the subject of argument and debate. The reason for the argument and debate comes because blame dominates the cause while apologies are cast aside. Where is personal responsibility? Who is going to be accountable? Will the neglect of doing the right thing be a problem at the final judgment? At the moment, some have no fear of judgment and its consequences. God’s grace appears to be what people depend upon as as “soothing ointment” for their carelessness and “I did know” mistakes. Is this the view we should have?

The biblical answer to our “problems” - whether they be societal, familial, or church-related - often hinges on my personal responsibility. What I am currently doing or not doing can be considered a problem for me and others. It can also be a blessing. It depends on the source of authority I use to base my decisions. The worldview which has rapidly increased its influence upon individuals and the nation idolizes personal autonomy at the expense of everything else. At the top of the list of values is the claim that every single human being is in effect a universe unto himself or herself. It is this form of personal “autonomy” or independence which leads to a cultural push for the acceptance of assisted suicide, euthanasia, abortion, sex changing, and the exploiting of individual rights “for being born.” People demand this. They count on it. Such views are promoted, funded, or allowed by everyone from grandparents to politicians to preachers to the media.

All this causes me to think biblically, not from a worldview. It also brings back a thought from my raising. It was a comment my dad said about raising his three boys: “I raised them to be independent.” Not independent in terms of anti-God or selfishness, but learning the need to be responsible. It is parallel with what Ezekiel 18:19-20 says; “Yet you say, ‘Why should not the son suffer for the iniquity of the father?’ When the son has done what is just and right, and has been careful to observe all my statutes, he shall surely live. The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself” (ESV).

It did not take me long to understand this as I grew up. With each passing year of my life, I realize it more. The destiny of my decisions is in my hands, not those of my father or anyone else. Blaming does not count. Excuses do not hold water. Forgetting does not receive an “I understand” from God. Very few take each day with the seriousness of which God speaks of heaven and hell. We may not fear the sickness and death as people did years ago without antibiotics and modern medicine, but we have fatal car accidents and shootings with great frequency. Without the fear of being in hell, personal responsibility escapes us. Personal autonomy should be our greatest lifelong achievement. Jesus said our lifelong desire should be to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33) and to love Him with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength.

What does seeking first look like regarding personal responsibility? Note the example of 1 Corinthians 12:12: “For the body is one, and hath MANY MEMBERS, and all the members of the body, being many, are one body.” It is imperative the church be considered a body with persons in that body. Persons who believe and understand personal responsibility. The benefits of being in the body come from knowing what I must do once having received the blessings of salvation which come from God’s grace and my faith and obedience. Verse 18 says, “But now hath God set the members, each one of them in the body, even as it pleased Him.” Being set in the body does not mean come into a worship assembly, find your seat, sit quietly, and then leave without regard to understanding, transformation, or spiritual growth.

The church is not a body of people where you are liked and accepted because everywhere else people do not like you. It is not a function of the church to accent your lust for entertainment with an unforgettable re-creation of Jesus’ last Passover meal. The body of the Lord is where each member knows he/she is “...his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God afore prepared that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). Christians are not to go to bed at night and rest easy about the fact “at least I’m baptized.” Ephesians 5:14 says, “...awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall shine upon thee.” 

Personal responsibility is not about how “soft” it is going to be as a Christian. It is the work of the Lord - labor (1 Corinthians 15:58). Our culture is seeing the consequences of being “oft” on so many social and moral issues now. Being “soft” is sleeping. Being part of God’s workmanship is “hard.” As I was told growing up, “Hard work never hurt anyone.” What that phrase did for me was create responsibility in life, which translates into biblical terms as Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I that live, but Christ liveth in me: and that life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

Those who look at life in “soft” terms like laziness, sitting, relaxing, easy, and free should stop standing (or sitting) and watching others serve and labor for the Lord. Look at your selfie and see the one who may be causing the immoral and spiritual problems. Then look at your selfie again and see the person who needs to act first...