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Posts Tagged ‘responsibility’

Pilate washes handsWhether it was sending Jesus cross town to Herod (since Jesus was a Nazarene and in Herod’s district) or offering the crowd an opportunity to voice vote and release Jesus or just washing his hands of the entire event or sending a guard to seal the tomb of Jesus’s internment, Pilate did everything he could to avoid responsibility for Jesus’s death. Whatever happened, whatever Pilate had heard or feared, he did not want the buck to stop anywhere close to him. He was the consummate politician.

When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!” [Matthew 17:24, NIV]

not my faultProtecting ourselves from blame is a very common and contemporary habit. So often, people want to lay the cause for their troubles elsewhere, whether it’s their parents, their environment, or their limitations. If only, they think, if only things would have been different, I could have succeeded.

I heard someone say, just yesterday, “every time I try to do the right thing, it goes wrong for me.” As though the very act of doing “right” brings about doom and gloom. For them, living life is one streak of bad luck after another.

hard roadBut this is not the way of God. There are some paths that must be walked whether they are difficult or not. Jesus could have avoided crucifixion if he really wanted to; he had the power to escape. But for the sake of humanity and the fulfillment of prophecy, this was the way he had to go. Even his disciples dried to stop him and Jesus rebuked them.

God does not promise an easy road, merely that we will not have to walk it alone.

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serveBoth Jesus and Moses served God, but Moses out of the covenant of the law from without while Jesus served out of the nature of God within. Pick your way. Personally, my desire is to serve because it is a natural expression of my identity, it is a reflection of God through Christ.

Jesus was faithful to the one who appointed him just like Moses was faithful in God’s house. But he deserves greater glory than Moses in the same way that the builder of the house deserves more honor than the house itself. Every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant in order to affirm the things that would be spoken later. But Jesus was faithful over God’s house as a Son. [Hebrews 3:2-6, CEB]

Get_out_of_jail_freeI am contending a bit with the young adults in my house right now. We have all been through an ordeal, the death of a husband and the death of a father. But the sorrow, after a time, cannot be used as a “get out of jail free” card forever. The laundry still needs to be washed, the floor swept, the dogs fed, the meals prepared. It is not a hotel. When I suggested to one of them to wash our windows, the protest was immediate. But then, when I asked, who should do them? Nominate someone else to do tsave the earthhe work. Silence. The windows were done, and yet begrudgingly. Other times, I am given a report a what was done or not done. I have to laugh. I really don’t want to keep score. We all live here; we all have a responsibility to maintain our home.

Is this microcosm any different from the macrocosm of our earth, or county, or state, or county, or city, or neighborhood? We live here.

God is not keeping score. But the responsibility for our environment and the people who live in it is irrefutable. If we don’t serve, who will? Who do you nominate to the work you don’t want to do?

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head in the sandHow often do we blame someone else for our situation? In the extreme, it’s a victim mentality, but in small doses, it’s a type of laziness. If it’s not my fault, I don’t have to do anything about it. I also call it a “head in the sand” approach to life.

When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is that you, the one who troubles Israel?”
Elijah answered, “I haven’t troubled Israel; you and your father’s house have! You did as much when you deserted the Lord’s commands and followed the Baals. [I Kings 18: 17-18, CEB]

A young friend of mine demonstrated the extent to which blame can be stretched. Apparently, he had checked out a video game from the library and lost it or misplaced it or loaned it to someone else (I don’t really know the details). Since I work at the library, I know how these things work: a series of emails or texts or phone calls go out to the patron alerting them to a potential fine. At some point, the item is coded as lost and the patron’s cost jumps from a fine to a full replacement cost of the item (this takes several we reached my friend for his lost video game. He was livid at the cost: $75! And the next statement? It’s all that librarian’s fault for making me get a library card. His anger justified because it wasn’t his fault. He’s not the first library user to blame staff for fines and fees.

A more egregious example happened to my own daughter, who we adopted at fifteen and assumed she was an orphan since we had death certificates on both of her parents. Instead, it turned out the birth mother had hit the skids and lost all of her identity papers and did not surface again until some two years after our teen was adopted. And of all things, it was on Russian Facebook that they found one another. But instead of joy of discovery, the mother blamed our daughter for her losses and literally said, “If you hadn’t left, none of this would have happened.”

blameThese stories sound outrageous but are we any better? Am I? How many times have I kicked a chair after I ran into it or cursed a tree limb that connected with my head or bad talked the bank when my check bounced? And of course, while driving, it’s always the other guy!

The first step in changing the rules of the blame game is to identify the moment. If I can catch myself (that means close my mouth before the words come out), I might even be able to stem off the worst of it. And only then do I have even a hair’s breath of chance to figure out why I am passing the buck. Am I afraid of how I will be perceived by others? Do I feel that taking responsibility will diminish me? Does it make me feel better to shift the blame to another person?

In and of itself, the word “blame” has a negative connotation. It carries accusation and condemnation. Just the word alone feels like a burden. And I’m thinking that’s the problem. Instead of shifting the blame, it may be that the paradoxical Christian thing would be to simply accept responsibility (when true) and give God a chance to work with the truth.

Taking responsibility when we err is no fun, but its merits outweigh the negatives in the long run. It’s part of the learning curve and character building. I am not encouraging anyone to become a scapegoat or to become a martyr, taking the weight of guilt when it’s not ours to take. But when our own mistakes and choices bring consequences, then we must confess that truth to ourselves first and thereby invoke the power of the Holy Spirit to bear it and eventually change.

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orphan babyI can certainly relate to little Prissy in Gone with the Wind who says, “”I don’t know nothin’ ’bout birthin’ babies!” I don’t either, not really. Having built our family through adoption, this aspect of womanhood has eluded me. And yet I know, there is potential for great mystery and anguish; joy and sorrow.

Genesis 29:31, 33a, 34a, 35a
When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved, he enabled her to conceive, but Rachel remained childless. . . . She [Leah] conceived again . . . Again she conceived . . . She conceived again . . .

In the example of Rachel and Leah, it is the unlovely and cast-off sister whose womb is opened from the beginning and she bears four boys in a row while her sister remains barren. Each child’s name is a message to Jacob (who isn’t listening):

  • Reuben could be translated to mean, “see my misery” or “see, a son!” (as in look, pay attention)
  • Simeon means “one who hears” referring to God who heard her prayers, perhaps Jacob would too?
  • Levi could be translated to mean “attached,” in a way that Leah had hoped Jacob would finally attach to her as the mother of his sons.
  • Judah could be translated as “praise” which appears to be her final understanding, that children are about God, not man.

I discovered, after many years of tears, that my inability to bear children had to be accepted as a reality before reality could change. Once I could thank God for who I was and our circumstances, we could move on to adoption and discover the family God intended.

You would think, after the debacle of Sarah and Hagar (surely that story was told through the generations), the women would know that God’s timing was God’s alone and could not niggled with. But they did not. One sister thought the births would change Jacob’s heart and he would finally “love” her while the other wife resented her sister’s fruitfulness. But nothing good comes from resentment or jealousy or envy. . . ever.

Women have not learned much through the ages, I’m afraid. There are still women who intentionally invite pregnancy as a solution to  their problems (perhaps that boyfriend will marry her or that husband will stay closer to home). There are women who see pregnancy as a curse and continually interrupt that cycle through abortion and morning after pills. There are women who have babies without thought to the impact of that child on their finances and futures; there are women who bring children into the world in hopes the grown child will for the mother in her old age. And now, there are even surrogate mothers, who carry a child for someone else or women who defy nature somewhat by artificially inseminating a child or taking hormones to increase their chances of birth and unwittingly produce litters of babies.

I am not casting judgment, not really, but it’s all a bit out of hand. Just as there are pets languishing in shelters, there are unwanted children in foster care and orphanages all over the world.

They are the responsibility of us all.

Yesterday, the Russian government, once again (for this is not the first time) has placed into law a ban on Americans adopting Russian children. This was a strictly political move and shows little concern for the children themselves. When we adopted our daughter from St. Petersburg in 2006, her orphanage alone had over 150 children and it is only one of thousands of orphanages in the country. In the United States, in 2011, there were over 401,000 children in foster care, many of whom could be adopted.

Babies are amazing, no doubt. Making babies can be an act of true love. But we must remember, there is a future to every child born that must be embraced by all of society, no matter their color or race, their health or disability. A child born is part of the family of God.

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Acts 6:3
Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility [feeding the poor] over to them.

We each have unique abilities and it’s important to know what they are and how they can be used to serve the greater good. But have we narrowed our vision too much?

Some have used this story about the apostles calling for the choosing of the seven as an excuse for leaving the mundane tasks of service to others. In some churches, these are the “deacons,” whose task it is to handle the day to day needs of the church: they are the worker bees.

This mindset has created hierarchical structures and divisions. The apostles, although concerned about their own call to teach and proclaim the gospel, were also concerned about the needs of others. They knew it was their responsibility, as leaders, to ensure that the needs of all were met. This is how they came up with selecting/anointing seven additional leaders whose criteria for leadership was the same as their own: wisdom and the full presence of the Holy Spirit.

These seven were not “below” the apostles nor was their job description less important. They were filling an important role in the body. If there are people going hungry in our congregations, our neighborhoods, or even our cities and towns, then this role has been lost. And of course, we know that’s true.

If every church cared for the poor, the widows, and the orphans within its geographical reach, all of their basic needs would be met. Instead, the church is more concerned about the mortgage on the building, the color of the carpet, and the cost of benefits for the staff, etc.

Leaders in the church: make sure all of the needs of your poor are being met and if they are not, then stop what you are doing and get it done. And if the body of believers in a particular church are well off, then it should adopt a church family in the poorer area and meet the needs of their poor, their widows & orphans, together.

Idealistic? maybe. I would love to see a map where every church is pinpointed, large or small. I think, at the very least, the U.S. population would be well-covered with such an abundance that there would be enough for others around the world.

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