Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Personal Responsiblity

13 No one undergoing a trial should say, “I am being tempted by God.” For God is not tempted by evil, and He Himself doesn’t tempt anyone. 14 But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desires. 15 Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death. James 1:13-15 (HCSB)
Why are we as humans so adverse to personal responsibility? It would seem that we tend to blame everything under the sun for our moral shortcomings. Christians will do this to greater or lesser degree than any other non-believer. That leads me to believe that it is embedded in the human psyche.

12 Then the man replied, “The woman You gave to be with me—she gave me ⌊some fruit⌋ from the tree, and I ate.” 13 So the LORD God asked the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said, “It was the serpent. He deceived me, and I ate.” Genesis 3:12-13 (HCSB)
I suppose that in light of the blame game being the oldest thinking error recorded that I should not be surprised that it is nearly universal to refuse personal responsibility for missing the mark in our lives. One of the profound problems of avoiding personal responsibility is that we remain hopelessly trapped in our thoughtless desires. That is to say as long as we make the responsibility for our bad decisions external to ourselves we will never develop the wherewithal to actually change. It will always be external to us. It will always be others or our circumstances that must change.

“I am tempted by God.”

Everyone ultimately wants to blame God for the evil in the world. He is either guilty because he is sovereign or because he was neglectful of MY situation. This leads to God is not good, God does not exist, or God does not care. But stepping back from the edge of the metaphysical cliff we can see that God in His wisdom (sometimes seeming foolish to us) created free moral agents in His universe. We can complain that he did so, but it was His Sovereign right to do so. He is the creator after all. He could have created God clones, but He did not. By doing this he made man and woman in His own image and empowered man to be personally responsible for the moral choices that he/she makes.

The nature of temptation

Temptation is not from God.  That is to say temptation to do evil is not from God. There are other places in the Bible when God allows for trials to come into a person’s life in order that some good would come from it. It is true that at the time this does not always feel good, but we do not have eternities perspective so we cannot possibly see what good comes from our perspective. That being said temptation to do evil does not come from God. Why should there be evil when God is good? Evil exists in the power of choice. The gift of choice is an awesome power for good and for evil. With great power comes great responsibility. Personal responsibility in this case.

Temptation comes from our own desires.

Temptation to do evil comes from our own evil desires. There is darkness in the human heart. We may not want to admit it, but the reality is that this darkness has plagued humanity from the beginning. Evil exists in this world because men choose to follow evil desire over choosing God.
Then the woman saw that the tree was good for food and delightful to look at, and that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate ⌊it⌋; she also gave ⌊some⌋ to her husband, ⌊who was⌋ with her, and he ate ⌊it⌋. Genesis 3:6 (HCSB)
Evil desires come in all sorts of packages. Evil desires are rooted in animalistic drives without regard for others, striving after beauty to the exclusion of spiritual beautification, seeking wisdom of things that go bump in the dark while fleeing the penetrating light, seeking power and control while refusing the strength of gentleness and submission. There are many more but it would seem to me that every evil desire could easily be contrasted with a corresponding godly desire that reflects the image of our Creator. Evil desires are in us. That is the knowledge of good and of evil is forged into our psyche so as to be inescapable. Why does evil exist? Because individually and collectively we desire it to exist. We have personal responsibility for the choice to follow evil desires.

When evil desire meets opportunity

Sin is conceived in the marriage of evil desire and opportunity. Often the opportunity to commit sin is regulated by external forces. Laws represent the attempt to limit the opportunity for evil desire to meet up with opportunity. Sometimes we even set up personal rules (laws) to regulate our days to limit opportunity from meeting evil desire. The fact remains that when evil desire meets opportunity then sin is conceived.

Sin unchecked leads to death

Sin once it is conceived is a bit like cancer. It grows at an expedited rate and in unpredictable ways. If it is not dealt with it will bring death. Sin will bring spiritual death, then emotional and mental death, and ultimately physical death. It is no surprise to me that a lifestyle that is contrary to God and exults personal (evil) desire leads to a shorter lifespan. Sin leads to death in the same way cancer leads to death if it is not dealt with.

Back to personal responsibility

Every step of the way we have a personal responsibility to break free from sin’s death grip on our lives. In dealing with desire we have a responsibility to cultivate godly desires. We have to choose those desires that are good and settle once and for all that we will not follow evil desire. We cannot do this in our own strength but it can be done in the disciplines of a Spirit filled life. This is an ongoing battle for the mind. We cannot let up or hope that we have arrived as some place of rest. It only takes a moment to kindle an evil desire.
We have a personal responsibility to keep evil desire and opportunity divorced from one another. It is an ungodly marriage and we need to do everything in our power to make sure they do not meet. This calls for extreme action, but necessary action if we are to avoid the aftermath of sin’s death grip. This effort must be taken on with a healthy understanding that this is not a physical battle, but a spiritual one. Creating physical boundaries will help keep sin at bay, but it will not provide lasting solutions to the problem of sin. This battle is won through (again) spiritual disciplines.
Finally if sin has already been conceived then only one action will do. You must repent. How do I repent? You have to have a change of heart and mind about this sin that you are sucked into (remember personal responsibility means that evil exists because I want it to). You must turn away from doing it. You also must put down (consider dead) the evil desire that led to its conception. Nothing but a complete change in disposition toward sin will rescue you. Thankfully you do not have to go it alone. God has provided a way. It is in a relationship with God, trusting in the saving power of Jesus, and being filled with the Spirit that will allow you to break free from the power of sin.