One day, an elementary school teacher discovered two of her students scuffling on the playground. She immediately went over, broke up the fight and demanded to know what had happened. After a moment of silence, one of the little boys looked at his teacher and said this, “Well, it all started when he hit me back.” (Mending the Heart, by John Claypool, page 28)
That little story hits the nail on the head doesn’t it. Even at an early age, here was a little boy, who had already learned that one of the secrets to a successful life is finding someone else to blame while never accepting responsibility for our own actions. Genesis, of course, teaches that this “passing of the buck” has been a problem for human beings from the very beginning. The first sin, when Adam and Eve take from the only tree in the garden that God had commanded them not to eat from, is also a story of assigning blame to someone else. As our text points out, when God confronts the first couple, Adam blames Eve and Eve blames the serpent while neither is willing to simply own up to what they themselves have done.
Very quickly this morning, I want to say two things about our deep need as people of faith to be people who are seen as those in our world willing to own up to our responsibilities. First, I want to say that of all people, we must take responsibility for what we have already done. Second, I want to say that of all people, we must also take responsibility for what we are called to do.
Our text actually illustrates both of these truths. On the one hand, as we have already said, Adam and Eve were unwilling to own their past actions. Rather than admitting their sin and being honest about their mistakes they both had to find someone else to blame. Of course, we constantly do this too. Yet, growing up in faith is a call to simply be honest when we sin and to admit that we have no one else to blame but ourselves.
On the other hand, as Genesis 3 continues, God moves from calling them to be responsible for what they have done to also accepting a greater responsibility for what they will do. We forget that after Adam and Eve fail the test with the tree, they are banished from Eden. They must now take responsibility for their own lives – the growing of their food, the tending of their family, it now rests on their shoulders in a way it had not before.
This is also a good reminder that being responsible is equally about a willingness to accept what we are called to do. We must own our sin but we must also own our lives and not assume that the living of our days is someone else’s job.
We struggle with this. Just as we want to blame others for our sin, we like to make others responsible for our well being. That is why I applaud those of you willing to serve as deacons and the three of you – Kimberly, Kevin and Vickie – as you become deacons. In essence, what you are saying is that you realize that leading and serving in our church is your responsibility just as much as it is anyone’s responsibility. You are refusing to pass the buck, refusing to just let someone else do it, refusing to live without having skin in the game. You are willing to say that the well being of our church rests in all of our hands, yours included.
We need this kind of leadership in our church, in our community and in our world. We are very good at complaining, blaming others and critiquing while taking very little responsibility ourselves. We are very good at saying, “it is not my job”, “I am just not going to get involved” or “just let them handle it.”
Yet, from the beginning, God is clear with Adam and Eve that they must own their sins and they must own their lives. They are responsible for what they have done and they are responsible for what they will do. They can’t simply live by continuously finding someone else to blame or to hold accountable.
This holiday season, I read an article about a guy by the name of Laurent Duvernay-Tardif. If that name doesn’t ring a bell, don’t worry, I had never heard of him either. He is a football player for the Kansas City Chiefs. In fact, he played on their Super Bowl winning team last year. He was also the very first player to opt out of the 2020 season due to COVID 19. But, not for the reason you may think. You see, Duvernay-Tardif is also only the fourth player in NFL history to be a graduate of medical school. Rather than play football this fall, he felt it was his responsibility to use his medical training. He believed the hospital was where his most important battles were to be waged this fall and winter. As a result, while the Chiefs have been trying to get back to the Super Bowl, Laurent has been working as an orderly in a Long Term Care Facility in his hometown of Montreal. Why? Because he believed that rather than assuming someone else would take care of it, that he had to own his role and responsibility in this crisis.
So again thank you Deacons for owning your responsibility. In doing so, you invite all of us to ask if we are doing the same. Are we owning our failures? Are we owning our role in church, our community, our family? Or, are we simply spending our days looking for someone else to hold responsible? Amen.