Summary: When we fail to take responsibility for our own mistakes, we fail to recognize that we too are sinners. By taking responsibility for our actions, we repent and receive the gift of forgiveness.
It wasn’t me!
Dorthy Sayer wrote in “The divine ‘scheme of things,” as Christianity understands it, is at once extremely elastic and extremely rigid. It is elastic, in that it includes a large measure of liberty for the creature; it is rigid in that it includes the proviso that, however created beings choose to behave, they must accept responsibility of their own actions and endure the consequences. (Dorthy L. Sayer, “Dorthy L. Sayer: A Rage for Life” at
Last week we looked at how people sometimes feel entitled to receive things from God. But, in the end, it’s through His mercy and His grace that we’re able to receive all the gifts we’re blessed with.
This week, we’ll continue with a similar and related theme. Through the Exodus passage, we can see that people can easily stray away from the simple direction that God gives us. They often choose to go their own way and do their own thing. They’ll continue to do this until they’re caught. And when they’re caught, it isn’t just a matter of saying I’m sorry, repenting, and accepting the forgiveness of a gracious Father, many times it’s failing to take responsibility for what’s been done. We see stories like this throughout scripture. But, it’s not all the problem of people in the past. We’re often those people as well.
Listening to God’s Direction
It all starts with our listening skills. Listening is one of the biggest overlooked skills. It’s one of the easier things to learn, but one of the more difficult things to master.
Listening is not something people are naturally good at. Franklin D. Roosevelt did his own test which proved this point. He often endured long receiving lines at the White House while serving as the President of the United States. It’s said that he complained that no one really paid attention to anything that was said. One day, during a reception, he decided to try an experiment. To each person who passed down the line and shook his hand, he murmured, "I murdered my grandmother this morning," in a cheerful voice. The guests responded with phrases like, "Marvelous! Keep up the good work.” “We are so proud of you.” “God bless you, sir." It was not till the end of the line, while greeting the ambassador from Bolivia, that his words were actually heard. When addressed, the ambassador leaned over and whispered, "I’m sure she had it coming." (http://www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/l/listening.htm)
It’s pretty common for people to ignore what is really being said. As a group, we just don’t listen. If we don’t listen to the people who are standing right in front of us, how many more fail to listen to God who has a stronger message, but less of a physical appearance?
In our first reading this evening, we see where the Israelites chose to put an inanimate cow in front of the living God. They chose to create a god with no power rather than continue to worship the God that had just rescued them from Egypt. They couldn’t wait for Moses to come down from the mountain and present them with the Ten Commandments.
There’s a fine line between not listening, and not caring. We often cross that line depending on how we feel and the importance we place on following directions.
When we do cross that line, we’re aware that we’re going against the grain. We’re aware that we’re not doing the right thing, but we do it anyway. The Apostle Paul struggled with doing the things he knew were wrong, and we do too.
Demanding our own timeline
So, it all came down to a lack of patience. Aaron and the Israelites struggled with their lack of a leader. Moses disappeared for only 40 days, but that was too long for them to bear. Instead of patiently waiting for his return, they moved to take some sort of action. It was their lack of patience that led the Israelites to create the golden figure. They rebelled against the God that saved them from Egypt and instead tried to re-create the sacred cows of the Nile.
Sometimes, we need to wait for God to lead us. Sometimes the answers don’t come when we expect them. Sometimes, the answers may not be what we want to hear, but the direction is still there.
Often, instead of listening to the direction God gives us, we decide to do our own thing on our own timeline. We choose to take an action that we know is against His wishes. But when we do, we need to be take responsibility for our own actions.
Taking Responsibility for Your Actions
Look at how our society attempts to shift blame from the individual. In 1980 a Boston court acquitted Michael Tindall of flying illegal drugs into the United States. Tindall’s attorneys argued that he was a victim of “action addict syndrome,” an emotional disorder that makes a person crave dangerous, thrilling situations. Tindall was not a drug dealer, merely a thrill seeker.