Monday afternoon, my good friend Theron (from “Sharing in the Life“) posted a blog called “Unstructured (Fluid? Spirit Led?) Gatherings – My Responsibility“. This post was a response to meeting with a group of believers in my home last Saturday evening (see “Saturday Night…“). In the post, Theron concludes that it is his responsibility (and, by extension, the responsibility of every believer) to be prepared to encourage other believers when they gather together. Now, there will certainly be times when God keeps us silent in order to listen to others, or “dry” times when we have nothing to share. We should expect these to be exceptions, not the rule. But, if we are honest with ourselves, we would admit that most of the time we have nothing to say to other believers simply (as Theron says) because we have not spent time listening to God ourselves, or, perhaps even more likely, because we do not think it is our responsibility to bring a teaching or word or encouragement to other believers.
In his post, Theron also suggests that we may not be concerned about encouraging others because we do not believe this is our responsibility. Instead, Theron says that we hide behind structures that place that responsibility on other’s shoulders:
Second, I realized that it is real easy to hide behind structure. A common example of this might be having one teacher who teaches the entire time a group gathers. Since the responsibility to speak, share, or teach is placed on only one person. The others who are there can either study up beforehand and listen actively or they can just show up and not really listen. It is very difficult to tell the difference between the two since there is no interaction during the gathering.
In a previous post (“Representative Obedience?“), I dealt briefly with this concept by asking a few questions. Who is responsible for teaching? Who is responsible for admonishing? Who is responsible for discipling? Who is responsible for edifying the church?
I believe the numerous “one another” statements of Scripture show us that all of us bear the responsibility for teaching, admonishing, discipling, edifying, etc. each other. This responsibility cannot be abdicated nor can it be delegated. “Religion” always teaches vicarious obedience: i.e., the normal person is “obedient” when the priest makes a sacrifice in his or her place. However, we must never assume that Christianity is a religion, nor that we can obey God vicariously through others.
Thinking through my posts for this week, I recognize that God is teaching me about my responsibility in obedience. Showing hospitality (“Hospitality – vacancy or no vacancy?“) toward other believers and strangers is my responsibility to God. I do not obey when others in my group or others within an organization show hospitality, but I do not. Similarly, examining my life to see what God is doing is my responsibility (“What is God doing in your life?“). Others can help me understand what God is teaching me, or how God is using me, or even where God is using me; but, it is my responsibility to listen to God myself. I am not being obedient just because others in my Christian group are spending time with and listening to God. It is also my responsibility to encourage other believers (“Hebrews and Encouragement…“). I am not being obedient to encourage other believers when I sit with a group of people and only listen to someone else teach. Finally, it is also my responsibility “to show vigilant concern” for other believers (“What does a non-bishop oversee?“). I am not obedient when I leave this to others (even leaders) to carry out.
To put this in more concrete terms, I am not obeying God in spreading the good news of Jesus Christ simply because a church organization has an evangelism program. I am not obeying God in fellowshiping and encouraging other believers simply because I am attending a planned event – even if that event happens on a Sunday morning. I am not obeying God in loving others simply because I give money to a missions organization. I am not obeying God in caring for those in need simply because I put money in an offering plate. I am personally responsible for obeying God in each of these areas, and many, many more.
So, whether we are hiding behind structures (as Theron suggests), or we are hiding behind leaders, or we are hiding by Christian celebrities, or… whatever we are hiding behind… we should understand that God holds each of us responsible for obeying him. And, just as Adam and Eve were not able to hide their disobedience behind fig leaves, our excuses will not hide our disobedience from God.
You are my responsibility, and I am your responsibility. The poor and the lost are my responsibility. The widows and orphans are my responsibility. The immature are my responsibility. The hurting and grieving are my responsibility. The haughty and arrogant are my responsibility. I cannot handle all of these responsibilities – in fact, I cannot handle any of these responsibilities. However, God can miraculously work through me by the guidance and empowerment of His Spirit. Will he find a willing vessel? Or, will I once again tell God, “That’s not my responsibility?”