Seward United Methodist Church
Friday, November 15, 2019
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Responsibility

Galatians 6:1-16

We are each responsible for our own conduct. A lot of people bemoan the lack of personal responsibility in our world, and probably with good reason. We all love to excuse ourselves from responsibility. I like to do it as much as the next person. When I do the wrong thing, I’m pretty good at coming up with an excuse for why it’s not really my fault. We probably all agree with that statement, but in practice, we’re all good at having reasons why we are not responsible for our own conduct.

But God makes it clear: We are responsible. No “The devil made me do it.” No “I’m a victim of my own circumstances.” We are responsible.

We are responsible for helping others in their times of need.

I think that’s probably a pretty hard sell. We are also quick to say, “You got yourself into that mess, so you can get yourself out.”

The thing is, the Bible doesn’t say it’s our responsibility that someone got themselves into trouble. But it does say it’s our responsibility to help others when they are in trouble, whatever that trouble might be. We are responsible for what we do for others in their time of need. If we see someone in trouble, in need, and we choose to ignore it, saying, “Not my problem,” then someday we’ll stand before Jesus and answer for why we could have helped but did not.

I think we should always be wise about how we help others. Sometimes we shouldn’t help people in the way that they want. Because sometimes people don’t want out of trouble, they just want help staying there. We might just be perpetuating the problem. Our community Ministerium has a rule when it comes to helping people. We don’t give people money. If they need food, we give them food. If they need help with rent or utilities or medical bills, we’ll pay toward a bill. If they need gas, we’ll meet them at the gas station and buy them gas. But we don’t give money, because we figure that way if the real situation is a drug or alcohol addiction or something like that, then we’re not perpetuating the problem. And I think that’s a good way to go. It’s not that it’s wrong to give someone money, but I think you had better know they are trustworthy, if you’re going to do that. And typically, we don’t have any way of knowing whether or not someone is trustworthy, so we just err on the side of caution.

We can’t ignore God and get away with it. I think that means that when we hear God prompting us to do something, we must do it.

And I think I’ve learned that lesson the hard way. There have been times in my life when I felt the prodding of the Holy Spirit, and for whatever reason, I didn’t do it. And then I felt regret, which is good. It’s good to feel regret when we know the right thing and fail to do it. And sometimes, the next time I felt the leading of the Spirit, I acted on it. I’m not perfect, but I’d like to think I’m getting better.

But someday, each of us will stand before Christ and answer for all the times when we just knew what we should do, and because it was easier or less costly or less risky, we didn’t do it. We are responsible for acting when God moves us to act.

And we are responsible for what we reap in this life because we are also responsible for what we sow.

You reap what you sow. That is a law of nature. If you sow apples, you reap apples. If you sow kale, you reap kale. Don’t do that, by the way. It’s awful. If we sow gossip, we reap broken relationships. If we sow selfishness, we will reap loneliness. But if we sow love, we will reap love.

Don’t get tired of doing good. The thing about harvests is that they sometimes take a long time to mature. The results of our actions might not show up for a long time. So every time we have the chance to sow goodness, we should, and especially to our brothers and sisters in Christ. Paul isn’t saying that we shouldn’t do good for everyone, but if we won’t do good for our fellow believers, then we are unlikely to do it for others.

If we consistently take responsibility for doing good, then we will enjoy the satisfaction of having done our work well. It’s not wrong to feel satisfied for doing the right things. It’s a problem when that becomes pride; when we compare ourselves to others. And we can always find someone against whom we are fantastic by comparison. If we get to feeling too high on ourselves, then we should compare ourselves to Christ, who is the true measure of the image of God.

I think this is a good text to hear before we celebrate the Lord's Supper, because we begin that liturgy with a prayer of confession. Our confession is not just how we have done wrong, but also how we have failed to do right. And this text reminds us that

sin is a matter of not only avoiding the wrong, but also taking responsibility for doing right.

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