Taking responsibility for our choices and behaviours

Dear BPCWA worshipper, I recently read of a case where a girl was strongly told by her dad not to travel overseas to meet her new online boyfriend. She wilfully chose to disobey. She got pregnant from that trip. Since the guy did not have a job, they could not even afford a place to stay in.  She then wanted her dad to let them stay with him instead. Her dad told her he would help them financially but did not want them to move in with him since he was old and could not handle the stress. But his daughter would not accept the dad’s offer and expected him to take them in. While there were mixed responses from readers to the situation, surprisingly, there were many who were upset at the father.

Society increasingly does not take responsibility for bad choices. People make choices every day, often even without much thought. We are happy when the choices we make turn out well. But on the other hand, things may not be so rosy when our choices don’t turn out well. Today, we live in a world where many push away personal responsibility for their choices when things don’t turn out well. Many also don’t take responsibility for their bad behaviour. Not only that, but psychology also blames an individual’s bad behaviour on past bad experiences and other such unfavourable backgrounds. Criminals blame drugs or society for their turning to crime. Adults blame their bad habits on childhood experiences. Children blame others or their circumstances when they are found to have disobeyed . . . and the list continues. Does the “it’s not my fault” attitude for choices and our actions sound familiar?  Of course, because it reminds us of the garden of Eden. Let us not forget that when Adam was confronted by God after he sinned, Adam said “The woman whom thou gavest to be with me” (Gen 3:12) caused him to sin. Who was Adam blaming? Not just Eve, but God! Eve’s response was the same, claiming that “The serpent beguiled me” (Gen 3:13). Essentially, both refused to take responsibility for their choices and actions.

The danger for Christians. The believer must not subscribe to the modern way of thinking that our past history, our environments, or others are to be blamed when we behave badly. Neither can we ease our conscience, believing that we are not to be blamed for our sinful choices to disobey God. If we allow ourselves to adopt these popular ideas, we will begin to excuse our sinful choices. Not only that, in refusing to take responsibility when we have acted sinfully or made wrong choices wilfully, we can begin to assume that others should “understand” our bad behaviour “because” we cannot help our choices and actions. Then, we may expect that others accommodate our sinful behaviours. And eventually, we may even demand that others provide for us to continue in our waywardness. With how increasingly common it is for the people of the world to refuse to take personal responsibility for their wilful bad choices and behaviours, and the society supporting such behaviours as “they are not to be blamed”, it is very easy for the Christian today to fall into such mindsets as well. So, instead of avoiding sinful ways, and instead of repenting and accepting the consequences, the believer can begin to expect that others support their waywardness. Instead of being different, we have embraced the world’s mindset and philosophies and “conformed to this world” (Rom 12:2).

Christians have the liberty of will to do good. Well, you may protest, we are born sinners, unlike Adam and Eve who were created perfectly able to choose to obey God.  It is true that due to the fall, every man born into this world has a will that is bent only to sinning and unable to do any spiritual good. However, when a man is saved, God “translates him into the state of grace, he freeth him from his natural bondage under sin, and by his grace alone enables him freely to will and to do that which is spiritually good” (Westminster Confession of Faith Ch 9:4). This is based upon what Scripture teaches – that once we have been saved, “as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.” (Rom 6:19). Even though we have the remaining corruption of sin while we live on this earth after salvation, yet believers are now indeed able to will to make choices that obey God, are pleasing to Him, and which will glorify Him. God gives us the grace of yielding and exercising our wills now to obedience to God and His revealed Word.  We only are to be blamed when we yield ourselves instead to the corrupting influence of sin that remains in each of us. When we do so, we choose evil, our own will, and disobedience instead of yielding ourselves to righteousness, doing good, obeying God, and doing His will.

We are in a constant spiritual warfare, but there is already a victor in the warfare – Christ. Through Him, we are assured of the victory which has already been won. This is why in the book of Revelations, he “that overcometh” is mentioned multiple times (Rev 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21). God has given us all that is needed to stop continuing in paths that will lead us to wrong choices towards sin and destruction for ourselves and our families. If we say “we cannot help it” when it comes to disobedient choices and bad behaviour, we make God a liar. Let us be honest with ourselves and determine to will to make the right choices and demonstrate the right behaviours. When we do so, instead of blaming others, our past experiences, or our environment, we can start to live a life that glorifies God in all we think, do, and say every day.

Yours in our Lord’s service,