Bread – Responsibility

January 25, 2012

Readings for Wednesday, January 25, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Gen. 16:1-14; Heb. 9:15-28; John 5:19-29; Psalms 49, 53, 119:49-72


In today’s reading from Genesis, we have something of an excerpt from what could be a soap opera. Sarai is married to Abram. Sarai does not conceive and does not believe she can have children. Sarai believe that she can build a family indirectly through Hagar, her maidservant. She tells Hagar to sleep with Abram and tells Abram to sleep with Hagar. Hagar becomes pregnant and begins to resent Sarai and get mad at her. Sarai gets upset at this treatment, which she did not expect, and goes to Abram and delivers these immortal words – “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering…” Gen. 16:5

Now if you were Abram and were writing the soap opera episode script, you would respond something like – “I am responsible. No, you are responsible. You told me I could sleep with her, you ordered her to sleep with me. You wanted her to get pregnant. She is pregnant. This is your doing, not mine. I am not responsible for this mess; you are.” This is not in the Bible, but how far off do you think I am?

Satan tells us we are too busy to pray today. We don’t pray because we are too busy. Who is responsible, Satan or me?

Our spouse tells us that he or she is too tired to go to church and they would like to read the paper. We don’t go. Who is responsible, my spouse or me?

A person needs help who has fallen in the street. We are late to a client meeting, so we walk on by. Who is responsible, my client (my schedule) or me?

We have permission from someone to do what we know is wrong. We do it to be “cool” or “part of the gang” or “to go along.” Who is responsible, them or me?

We are told by our boss to lie on a business report or we will be fired. We do it in order not to be fired. Who is responsible, my boss or me?

We are told by someone not to vote because it doesn’t matter anyway. We don’t vote. Who is responsible, “someone” or me?

Sarai hit the nail on the head. Yes, she was the initiator. Yes, she was the instigator. Yes, she was the encourager. Yes, she was the enabler. Yes, she started the ball rolling. But she was not responsible. Abram was responsible. He was the one who committed the act. He was the one who acted on the encouragement when he knew better. He failed to say “no.” He gave in. He is responsible. What Sarai said, “you are responsible,” is neither untrue nor unfair.

Those who are reading this are either Christian or likely on their way. You are responsible for reading this. You are responsible for your actions and words today. You are responsible for the outcomes your actions and words cause. There is no use blaming God, Satan, your boss, your spouse, your children, your next door neighbor, or anyone else.

What a heavy load! In fact, it is too heavy to bear when we think about the enormity of our responsibility and the enormity of our failures to properly exercise our responsibility. Good for us that we have a God who knows our failures and forgives us, who died for us to bear the price of our failure, who carries us in our times of need.

Built into today’s readings is a lesson in our responsibility. But also built into today’s readings is a lesson in God’s mercy, and the readings in mercy overwhelm the readings in responsibility. Psalm 49:15 – “But God will redeem my life from the grave; He will surely take me to Himself.” Heb. 9:15, 28 – “For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance – now that He has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant….so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and He will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those whose are waiting for Him.” John 5:21, 24 – [Jesus speaking] “For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom He is pleased to give it…I tell you the truth, whoever hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”

Because we are responsible, we are charged with our failure. Fortunately for us, the ultimate penalty for our failure – our death forever – has been forgiven for those whom God has chosen to believe in Him.

But we are still responsible. So how are we going to act today? Let us pray that is responsibly.


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