Taking personal responsibility

This is a lengthy post, really article sized, but it is an important message for the body of Christ to grow up into His likeness.

We as Christians are familiar with the story of the origin of sin when Eve was tempted by satan in the garden to eat the fruit of the tree that God had forbidden, and then she and Adam ate.  God walked through the garden, asking, “Adam, where are you?” because Adam and Eve were hiding in shame and guilt, covering their nakedness with fig leaves. This passage is heartbreaking because God already knew what they had done. He just wanted to be with the ones He had created and loved.   But the man and the woman were both weighing guilty in the balances – not one more than the other.

When God confronted them about their sin, Adam blamed the woman and Eve blamed the serpent.  Since the beginning of creation, people have blamed others for their sins and refused to take personal responsibility.

Yet to take personal responsibility is a sign of spiritual maturity. Blaming keeps you in bondage; it holds you captive still to sin’s power. By not confessing your own wrong, you have no way of relieving yourself from the burden  – and from the inevitable punishment – of guilt. You continue to hide under a cloak of shame and guilt, never experiencing the wonderful freedom that comes with admitting, “I am sorry. I was wrong.”  Blaming is one of Pride’s haughty masks.

On the other hand, taking personal responsibility reveals your understanding of your own need before a holy and righteous God. Taking personal responsibility is the earmark of humility. It reveals a broken, contrite heart which God will not despise. It acknowledges that you have to stand before God one day, face to face. No one else will be there.

You can’t point to anyone else that day and say, “They did it! It’s THEIR fault!”  No, you will be naked and transparent and vulnerable before His eyes of fire, and will only be able to just cry out for His mercy – based on the blood of Jesus Christ.  There can be no excuses before God.  It doesn’t matter what anyone else did. He is concerned with only YOUR heart.

One example of someone who took personal responsibility is King David. The Bible calls David a man after God’s own heart. Yet this man, in his human weakness, committed adultery with Bathseba, killed her husband Uriah, and then took her as one of his wives.  He thought it was well hidden when God sent Nathan the prophet to confront him. Nathan used a story to illustrate David’s sin in 2 Samuel 12:

“So the Lord sent Nathan the prophet to tell David this story: “There were two men in a certain town. One was rich, and one was poor. 2 The rich man owned a great many sheep and cattle. 3 The poor man owned nothing but one little lamb he had bought. He raised that little lamb, and it grew up with his children. It ate from the man’s own plate and drank from his cup. He cuddled it in his arms like a baby daughter. 4 One day a guest arrived at the home of the rich man. But instead of killing an animal from his own flock or herd, he took the poor man’s lamb and killed it and prepared it for his guest.”

5 David was furious. “As surely as the Lord lives,” he vowed, “any man who would do such a thing deserves to die! 6 He must repay four lambs to the poor man for the one he stole and for having no pity.”

 7 Then Nathan said to David, “You are that man! The Lord, the God of Israel, says: I anointed you king of Israel and saved you from the power of Saul. 8 I gave you your master’s house and his wives and the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. And if that had not been enough, I would have given you much, much more. 9 Why, then, have you despised the word of the Lord and done this horrible deed? For you have murdered Uriah the Hittite with the sword of the Ammonites and stolen his wife. 10 From this time on, your family will live by the sword because you have despised me by taking Uriah’s wife to be your own.

 11 “This is what the Lord says: Because of what you have done, I will cause your own household to rebel against you. I will give your wives to another man before your very eyes, and he will go to bed with them in public view. 12 You did it secretly, but I will make this happen to you openly in the sight of all Israel.”

David Confesses His Guilt
 13 Then David confessed to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”
   Nathan replied, “Yes, but the Lord has forgiven you, and you won’t die for this sin. 14 Nevertheless, because you have shown utter contempt for the Lord by doing this, your child will die.”

 15 After Nathan returned to his home, the Lord sent a deadly illness to the child of David and Uriah’s wife. 16 David begged God to spare the child. He went without food and lay all night on the bare ground. 17 The elders of his household pleaded with him to get up and eat with them, but he refused.

 18 Then on the seventh day the child died. David’s advisers were afraid to tell him. “He wouldn’t listen to reason while the child was ill,” they said. “What drastic thing will he do when we tell him the child is dead?”

 19 When David saw them whispering, he realized what had happened. “Is the child dead?” he asked.

   “Yes,” they replied, “he is dead.”

 20 Then David got up from the ground, washed himself, put on lotions, and changed his clothes. He went to the Tabernacle and worshiped the Lord. After that, he returned to the palace and was served food and ate.

 21 His advisers were amazed. “We don’t understand you,” they told him. “While the child was still living, you wept and refused to eat. But now that the child is dead, you have stopped your mourning and are eating again.”

 22 David replied, “I fasted and wept while the child was alive, for I said, ‘Perhaps the Lord will be gracious to me and let the child live.’ 23 But why should I fast when he is dead? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him one day, but he cannot return to me.”

 24 Then David comforted Bathsheba, his wife, and slept with her. She became pregnant and gave birth to a son, and they named him Solomon. The Lord loved the child 25 and sent word through Nathan the prophet that they should name him Jedidiah (which means “beloved of the Lord”), as the Lord had commanded.”

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The first thing King David did when he was confronted by God through the prophet Nathan was admit that he had done wrong. He didn’t blame other people. He didn’t say, “It was the woman, Lord.”  He didn’t say Bathseba was just too sexy on that rooftop and lured him into a trap.  He didn’t say the devil made him do it!  He didn’t say he had done nothing wrong – that it was others who had done wrong.

He said, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Not against Bathseba or Uriah. Not against his own wife. Not against the nation of people he was leading. But against God, and God alone.

No blaming. No excuses. David took personal responsibility for his sin and repented, asking God for forgiveness.

The second thing David did was, after he heard of God’s judgment in response to his sin, was to fast and pray for the life of his and Bathseba’s child. He laid all night on the ground and begged God to heal the child. He knew that his own sin had brought about the child’s death.

This judgment from God seems so harsh to us, but the wages of sin is death.  David knew the consequences of his own sin were far-reaching. It went beyond his own little world. It could impact generations to come.

David knew he could not hide his sin from God. He knew God would accept no excuses or blaming. He had to admit what he had done wrong, and could not point the finger at anyone else before God’s eyes of truth.

The third thing David did after the child died was to comfort his wife Bathseba. He realized this life was not about him. He needed to love and help other people – despite his own great pain inside.  He needed to show others the mercy, the forgiveness, and the love of God – just as God had shown him.

Then God did an incredible thing. When David comforted his wife after their child’s death, Bathseba conceived another child (which in itself shows the favor and mercy of God, for it’s God who opens the womb) – and when they named him Solomon, God instructed them through Nathan the prophet to name the child “Jedidiah.”  This name means “Beloved of the Lord” or “Friend of God.”  How awesome is that!

God didn’t hold anything against David. He still loved David, despite his sin. He still wanted to bless him – and his children after him!

We can learn from King David’s example to own our sins. To take personal responsibility and not to blame others. To be broken and humble before Almighty God, a God who forgives, restores, and blesses –  despite our weak, sinful human condition.

When we take personal responsibility, we are being transformed more and more into the image of Christ who humbly took the ultimate responsibility for us all.  Today let’s search our hearts and ask God what we need to take personal responsibility for – to stop blaming others for, to say, “I have sinned against you, God.” And when we do this, we will find great freedom in Christ!

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