LOOKING UP: Accepting responsibility pays in the long run
Thursday, 23 August 2012 by Joe Baisden
Human nature tends to shirk responsibility. The tradition goes way back.
Have you ever noticed the aversion Adam had to accepting responsibility for his waywardness in the beginning? The record in Genesis 2 tells how God put Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden with the following instructions: "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die."
When God later quizzed Adam about his sin, Adam replied, "The woman You put here with me — she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it."
Before Adam got to the bottom-line admission of guilt, he sought to shift the blame. First, he called attention to the role of the woman in his downfall: The WOMAN you put here with me — SHE gave me some fruit from the tree . . ." The second shift of responsibility was to God Himself: "The woman YOU put here with me . . ." In one sentence Adam blamed his wife and God for his misdeed. We will give him credit for his final admission: " . . . and I ate it." Many a modern would deny any guilt at all.
When Moses returned from receiving the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai, he found the people reveling in idolatry and debauchery. When he quizzed his brother Aaron as to the origin of the golden calf the people were worshipping, Aaron explained, "You know how prone these people are to evil" (Ex. 32:22). He did admit to collecting the gold jewelry and throwing it in to the fire, but he basically passed the buck with the age-old "the people made me do it."
Progress in a person's life virtually stops or slips backward until that person decides to be responsible. Notice that I did not say "perfect." I said, "responsible." No one is perfect, but we can all be responsible.
Turning to the New Testament, we find a boy in Luke 15 who messes up his life big time. When he comes to his senses, he does not give a hint of blaming others for the miserable mess he has made of his life. Surely others had taken advantage of him and had an influence on him, but he was willing to take the responsibility for his actions. He chose to leave home and squander his fortune in folly. The Scripture lets us see him hit bottom and, facing reality say, "I have sinned." Becoming responsible led him to turn his life around. "I will arise and go to my father and say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired servants."
The result of his humble admission and follow-up action was a beautiful reconciliation.
How many individuals, families, and communities could find healing from harm and hurts, if each person involved would just accept responsibility for his or her own actions. If we are responsible and others are not, we have at least done all we can do. We must continue to do the right thing, no matter what. We must not use the failure of others as an excuse to corrupt ourselves.
If we try to fool ourselves and others, while ignoring our responsibility we had better prepare for paralysis of progress.
If your life is on a frustrating plateau of less-than-rewarding progress, start looking for a time and circumstance in which you refused to be responsible for your attitude or actions. When you uncover the problem, take care of it. Do all that you can to clear it up. If you continue to cover your sin, do not expect to enjoy the freedom of a clear conscience.
The Wise Man in the Proverbs explains what I am trying to say: "He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy" (Prov. 28:13).
Peterson in the Message puts the passage this way: "You can't whitewash your sins and get by with it; you find mercy by admitting and leaving them."
"Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's might hand, that he may lift you us in due time." – (1 Pet. 5:6)