Over the last couple of weeks our country has been immersed in another round of violence. It is devastating realize racially motivated attacks & counterattacks are becoming normal occurrences in our society. To be fair I can not (and probably no other white person) possibly understand the full weight & impact of racism against the African American community (or any other community for that matter). I have never been abused or rejected because of my skin color. I hope and pray I am the kind of person who sees beyond one's melanin and love every man, woman and child because they are God's creation - not because they look like me. Being the foster parent of an African American infant has been life altering - not for her (although that is very likely) but for me. I don't believe I am now or never was a racist - but I never imagined (or considered might be better) having a "black" little girl as part of our family.
I have tried to listen recently at what is being said in the aftermath of these violent outbursts - by those who feel wronged by the uses of force and those who used the force. What is striking to me is how you hear very little about personal responsibility. It appears, no matter the situation, the police officer involved is never wrong - I never hear acknowledgment of partial, some or all responsibility, an acknowledgement that perhaps too much force was used or an officer made a bad judgment. I am not suggesting police are always to blame or should receive most or all of the blame (their jobs are hard and split second decisions are probably not easy - I would not want to be in their shoes); but it would seem that on some occasions blame would need to lay at the feet of an officer involved - police officers are not perfect (none of us are) so why can't we hear from those involved or their immediate superiors - I or he was wrong. A little personal responsibility. Would that be so hard?
But this is also true of the victims - we will hear a victim painted in what is an obvious caricature - only hearing the most positive traits of their life - a good kid, never got into trouble, was always so kind, would not hurt a flea - but we rarely from those closest to the victim acknowledge a bad choice or choices, that they had a violent tendency, that they abused alcohol or drugs, that they should have listened or should not have been there or should not have been making threatening comments. Again, I am not suggesting that the victim is always wrong - but come on - some are. I am not suggesting lethal force is always necessary - but sometimes it is.
This is not unique to situations of violence - this is true of our culture in general, even from the most powerful people. Politicians, business men, & even church leaders are always looking for a way out of personal responsibility and guilt - that is why Bill Clinton forever changed the definition of "Is" for us, Lance Armstrong could sue people for slander even though the accusations of drug use were correct, why Donald Trump said he had nothing to ask Jesus forgiveness for or why one athletes wife could make anti-semitic statements & then blame everyone else for misunderstanding her anti-semitic statements - we don't take responsibility. This is true of Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, men and women, and, yes, even black and white - we hate to take full responsibility - because we hate the idea that we might actually be guilty.
One politician said in the aftermath of these most recent racial violence "this is not who we are". But the sad reality is - I think this is exactly who we are, we are just too afraid to admit. We are a people who have rejected God's authority and so we eagerly reject all other kinds of authority around us. We are a people who reject God's love in Jesus so we regularly reject love for hate. We are a people who reject God's law and we have become a people who systematically reject any law that gets in the way of what we want - even when it comes to something as basic as speed limits. We live in a society where acknowledging fault, accepting partial or all blame is frowned upon by some & outright rejected by others - this is why we hire attorneys to fight driving tickets when we know we are guilty, why there is a thing called no fault divorce (as if), & we can not even apologize to someone without the words but or if. What is so wrong with saying - I blew it, I messed up, I went too far, I bad choices. Perhaps part of it is this fear of litigation or prosecution - If I am honest someone might use that against me. But even more I think it is because we have convinced ourselves that in actuality it really isn't our fault, even if there is no one else around for 100 miles. We refuse to be the sole person responsible. We have been trained - from childhood, adolescence and into adult hood - "don't take the blame, don't acknowledge guilt, blame others".
Sadly this is also true in the life of the church. I regularly hear people make excuses, gloss over, ignore or simply outright deny any fault or blame when it comes to the impact of their decisions or actions - it is not my fault, you did not hear what she said, he made the first move - what ever. This is not just unwise or unhelpful - this is Anti-Jesus, Anti-Christ, Anti-Gospel. Followers of Jesus, of all people, should be the most willing to admit, acknowledge, confess & take personal responsibility for their sinful (could we say stupid) choices, in part because if we are disciples of Jesus, we have the Spirit of God in us and one of the Spirit's main tasks is to help us to see our sin, confess our sin & turn from our sin - we should be more aware of our own fault, more willing to acknowledge it an unqualified way & most importantly walk in a new direction. But perhaps ever more so, in fully acknowledging our sin for what it is & taking responsibility for it, we do so with the knowledge that in Jesus Christ, God has promised not to reject us because of our sin but instead to forgive us of all our sin & cleanse us from all unrighteousness. There is risk in the present time in acknowledging guilt - you might be fined, arrested, serve time, or lose your job. But there is no risk in taking full responsibility eternally because the judgment for all of your sin (past, present, and future) has already been paid on the cross - there is immense freedom for followers of Jesus to be more open, more accountable, more willing to absorb the full accountability of our choices because it has already been paid for in Jesus. In fact, one could argue, not confessing sin actually puts you back under a bondage of guilt & grief that is all together avoidable. Why should the temporary fear of man make us willing to turn away from the eternal confidence we have in God to judge us not according to our wrong doings but instead according to the righteous perfection of Jesus that was imputed to us because of his perfect atonement for our sins.
And yet - when was the light time you heard someone in church say - I have sinned against you and against God. We might be more likely to find big foot than to hear those words. There is very little open confession of sin in the church. Satan has convinced us to deny God's word, just like he did to Eve in the garden (and we saw how quickly the blame game and lack of responsibility crept into her life). What do we deny: that God has said he will forgive us and love us when we confess our sins to him. Satan wants you to think God is a liar and not to be trusted - don't confess your sin, God won't forgive you, if you hide it you will be safe (as if God does not know simply because we do not acknowledge it - He does by the way). When was the last time you confessed your sins to others - perhaps to those who were not even part of the issue but you felt a conviction to tell others about your sin simply for accountability. When was the last time you approached a person you had wronged - even slightly - to take full responsibility for your actions or words - with an unqualified I am sorry, I did it, I am an idiot, I have sinned. People who never take responsibility are living under a delusion that they are perfect and if you are perfect you do not have a need for a savior and you probably have never come to trust in Jesus Christ as your King and Lord. If you don't ever take responsibility for anything it is probably because you have never come to see yourself as God sees you - a sinner in need of Grace and to see Jesus as God sees him - a perfect substitute who died for sinners (like you).
Refreshingly, just the other day someone approached me and said - I need to confess something, I need some accountability, I need to share my responsibility and guilt with someone - this is not a sign of weakness - it is a spirit generated, God honoring response to sin. It is the kind of personal responsibility that should not just be found in pockets of the church - but it should be everywhere - we should be demonstrating to society - the way to find true healing from our sin & guilt is not in blaming others, it is not shifting the focus, it is not in distracting from the issue - it is by seeing our sin & guilt as fully ours, by confessing that sin to God & to others, and in resting in Jesus who died for that sin knowing he is sufficient for it all. Maybe as more followers of Jesus start taking responsibility for their sin, the world will be convicted of its sin by the Spirit too - a kind of conviction that leads them to trust in Jesus - and to have their lives changed by the power of a Savior who who took their full responsibility of sin to the cross and crushed it underneath his feet. And when you take responsibility you will discover that Jesus Christ will take that from you too, to give you something (eternal life) you had no responsibility or ability to gain - that is Good News.
This week - take some responsibility - confess one of the many sins you probably will commit - and enjoy the freeing power of salvation from one who took FULL RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOU!