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Turning the Bible Into Behavior

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Responsibility

It’s Not My Fault

My family seems to like quirky movies. Recently we’ve discovered Disney’s Meet the Robinsons. It’s quirky and goofy. But this isn’t a movie review, so I’ll get to my point. There’s one scene where the hero confronts the villain. The villain holds the hero responsible for how miserable his life has become. The hero says that life could have turned out differently depending on the choices and decisions the villain made along the way. And then comes one of the best lines of the move. The villain declares:

 Let’s see – take responsibility for my own life or blame you? Ding, ding ding! Blame you win hands down every time!

It’s the kind of line that makes me want to laugh and cry at the same time. It sums up perfectly the attitude that many of us have. No matter what happens in life we will play the victim. We regularly have outbursts:

“My life is not the result of what I have done. My circumstances are not the consequences of my behavior. Oh, no! Don’t you know that this junk is happening because you are a terrible person. If you weren’t so mean I wouldn’t be facing what I’m facing. If you weren’t so terrible my life situation would be a lot easier.”

In fact, it seems that a good deal of social media posts revolve around this victim mentality and blaming others for life. We’ve become a nation of experts at avoiding responsibility; of accepting life as the consequences of our behavior.

But this is an immature view of life. It’s kid stuff. Just ask my six year old. If she behaves in a way she KNOWS she is not supposed to she will quickly tell you that she only did it because of her brother, or sister, or me (Daddy). Were it not for these outside forces acting upon her OF COURSE she never would have done something like that!

 

Kid stuff.

 

But it’s not the way that mature adults are supposed to behave. Well, not Christians at any rate. God calls us to be people of…dare I say it…responsibility. We are supposed to own up to our behavior and accept the consequences.

The New Testament letter of James tells us:

15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.

It’s there in verse 16: confess your sins to one another and pray for one another. Own up to your behavior. No victim mentality – it’s about grown ups saying, “I did this and I was wrong.” We don’t see a whole lot of that going around. But look at that Bible passage again (go ahead, it’s only the previous paragraph). Notice that James says that our ability to own up and take responsibility has spiritual significance. Forgiveness and healing come when we own up to our behavior. It would seem to indicate that passing the buck would then keep us stuck without forgiveness and without healing. Um…what?

John also talks about that horrible word: confession.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Yep – it’s a whole lot easier to say to the world, “Why are you doing this to me?” It’s easier to play the victim and pretend that we’re innocent. But, in fact, we’re not. The Bible is clear that we’re all broken people. That means that we all (even the best of us) will act out in broken ways. I’m not justifying it. God doesn’t give you the green light to act inappropriately just because it’s “human nature”.

So…bottom line ~ Stop playing the victim when it’s your poor behavior that has cause grief. Don’t blame others but confess and seek forgiveness and healing.

~ Time to accept responsibility for your behavior.

You spent HOW MUCH?!?

butterfly-effectWhen our oldest child was five she was playing a Disney game on Facebook where you have to develop your own animal preserve (like Farmville, but with rain forests, savannahs, etc. – a pretty cool game, actually). I helped her log in at the living room computer during my lunch break and then left for work. My wife went about the business of the house. I came back from work to discover that our sweet daughter had spent $200 on game stuff! She thought it was “game money” and didn’t realize she had been charging our account!

Humanity never really changes, do we? Even as adults we have a tendency to forget that there are real world consequences to everything we say and do. There is no bubble, no consequence-free zone. Life is made up of multiple ripple effects from human behavior.

Everything we say and do creates a new ripple that extends to the community around us and, ultimately, the world. I don’t think we take that idea seriously. I know I don’t, and I think I’m normal, so I’m guessing you don’t either! It’s easy to say or do something and then completely forget about forever. But there is no bubble around us. Our behavior produces results.

The Bible talks about it in farming terms: sowing and reaping, planting and harvesting. The Apostle Paul writes:

Don’t be deceived: God is not mocked. For whatever a man sows he will also reap, because the one who sows to his flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit. So we must not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, we must work for the good of all, especially for those who belong to the household of faith.

Paul just took the Butterfly Effect to a whole new level. It’s not just about the earthly consequences of our actions. He tells us that there are spiritual and eternal consequences! This isn’t a unique concept in Christianity. Several places in the Bible God tells us that our relationship to him is helped or hindered by our relationships and behavior with others:

–          If you want forgiveness, forgive others.

–          If you’re at worship and remember that someone has something against you make it right with him before you get right with God

–          True religion is taking care of people who cannot take provide for themselves

–          A person who hates his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen

Starting to get the idea? It’s a divine Butterfly Effect. The little things we say and do in the here and now have consequences that carry far beyond the minutes that surround our behavior. So before you act pause to think about the consequences of your action. How will this action affect me? How will it affect others? Before you speak think about the possible ripple effect of your words. Will these words build people up or cut people down? If others heard that I was saying these things would it be beneficial or detrimental?

Fortunately for us, Facebook reversed the charges our darling daughter racked up. Real life isn’t always so gracious, and our behavior can hurt or heal, build or destroy. So be careful the next time you speak and act.

You never know how far the ripples go.

You’re Not Raising Your Kids Well

kids-church

In our family we have found that singing is a useful tool for helping the kids with certain tasks. We have a bedtime song. We have a teeth brushing song. The teeth brushing song is one of my personal favorites. It’s a Christian version of the ABC’s that I remember learning from my mom. It’s a catchy little tune, teaches kids the basics of faith, and happens to be a good length of time for an adequate brushing.

Not too long ago I was singing the song while helping our middle child brush his teeth and I got to a line that says, “Jesus died for sinful men.” My daughter (our oldest) was listening in and promptly responded, “He didn’t just die for men you know, women too.” While I taught her that the use of the masculine was (in the past) used to represent masculine and feminine and that “men” meant “humanity”, I affirmed her correctness. “That’s right, Sweetie. Jesus died for men and women. He died for everyone.”

The lesson ended right there as she was finished with her bathroom routine and turned and walked away. Not a “deep” moment, but a moment nonetheless. It reminds me of Deuteronomy 6, one of the most (if not THE most) repeated lines in Judaism – the Sh’ma.

Here, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

In Western culture today I hear a lot of people complaining about kids, teens, and the younger generations. “Kids today…blah, blah, blah!” But we can’t blame the kids. Kids do what kids do. The ones who should be accountable for the decline of society (or however else you care to phrase contemporary problems) are the adults. Yep – you and me. How can we expect future generations to hold dearly to our values if we have not been regularly and consistently imparting and teaching our values and faith to our kids?

Proverbs tells us:

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.

The other day on the radio I heard an interview with a clinical psychiatrist who told the interviewer that children are pretty much set on their course by the time they hit seven years old. That’s it. After seven the groundwork is laid and everything else in life will (usually) rely on default – the automatic responses set in place from our first seven years of life. Of course people can change – but usually we don’t. Our fall-back; our default, is already there. It’s no wonder we have difficulty reaching kids in middle school or late elementary. They’re default is set by 1st and 2nd grade.

We – the parents – have to do better at reaching kids when they’re young. If we want them to be responsible and moral citizens we need to work on those values early on. If we want them to be people of faith we need to plant those seeds so that, when they are out on their own, their default setting is a righteous and godly setting. Don’t pass the buck. It’s easy to complain about kids while never doing anything to solve the problem.

If you have no kids become a mentor to little ones, a surrogate parent or grandparent.
If you have kids don’t let them free to run their own lives. Kids running themselves only end in chaos. Teach them. Train them. Mentor them. Disciple them. Give them the foundation for a healthy adult life. And when we do what we’re supposed to be doing we can have confidence that the generations to come will be wonderful, caring people.

So let me teach you a little song that we taught our kids; that my momma taught me ~ I think she got it from the Gaithers:

ABCDEFG – Jesus died for you and me
HIJKLMN – Jesus died for sinful men, AMEN!
OPQRSTU – I believe God’s Word is true
V and W _ God has promised you
XYZ – a home eternally.

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