Summary: To learn to do the right thing: 1. You must take responsibility for your actions. 2. You must want to do the right thing. 3. You must know what the right thing is. 4. You must have a plan.
On the morning of August 2, a fired Columbus police officer, Hermando “Cliff” Harton, Jr., 39, shot his wife in their Prairie Township home. He then led the police on a chase on I-71 into Ashland County where he was shot and wounded by State Patrol troopers. His wife had informed him that she wanted a divorce, and he had just been fired from the Columbus Police force. I was shocked as I listened to several media accounts blaming his pending divorce and the stress of losing his job as being responsible for Harton murdering his wife. He is now suing the officers who shot him, even though he had killed his wife and had a gun in each hand — pointing one of them at the officers. The suit accuses the officers of “cruel and unusual punishment.” Too bad that killing his wife did not seem cruel and unusual to him.
Another officer, an FBI agent, was fired for embezzling $2000 and using it for gambling. Instead of admitting his guilt and accepting his punishment, he sued the FBI saying that his gambling habit was a handicap protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The amazing thing is that he won his case and the FBI was forced to reinstate him.
There is a growing trend in America to see everyone as victims who are not responsible for their actions. As a result, we tend not to see where we were wrong, but instead look around for someone else to blame for our behavior. Charles Colson writes that we have changed from acknowledging that we are a sinner to whining that we are a victim.
The first point I would like to make is, that if you are going to learn to do the right thing: You must take responsibility for your own actions. Jesus told an interesting story about ten young women who were bridesmaids. In the culture of Jesus’ day, the groom went to the bride’s home for the wedding ceremony and then led a procession back to his home for a grand banquet that evening. The bridesmaids were responsible for lighting the way for the wedding party. They were to come prepared with their lamps and oil for fuel. But Jesus introduces a ludicrous element to the story. Instead of being prepared, half of the bridesmaids came without any oil for their lamps. Listen to how Jesus tells the story: “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ ‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’” (Matthew 25:7-9). The foolish bridesmaids thought that the ones who had come prepared should make up for their irresponsible behavior. They wanted them to give up part of the oil they had brought, and thought they were mean for not doing so — even though it would have meant that there would not have been enough oil for anyone, and the wedding party would have had to walk part of the way in the dark.
In essence, they were blaming the others for not being able to be a part of the procession. They eventually wandered off to look for oil, but came back without any. Perhaps they figured it was too late for it to matter. Everyone was already at the groom’s house by now. So they went expecting to be let into the feast, but when they knocked at the door they were denied entrance. We are not told about their reaction to being rebuffed, but if I know anything about people they probably became angry at the groom and his family and blamed them for not being able to be a part of the feast. They probably spread rumors about what horrible people they were, and how terrible the bride looked anyway.
But Jesus’ point in telling the story is that this is what it will be like when Jesus returns for his bride, the church. We are to be ready. We are not to depend on someone else. We cannot ride the coat tails of someone else’s spirituality. We can’t stand around thinking that Jesus won’t really demand this kind of obedience from us. We cannot put off till tomorrow what we know should be done today. We must take responsibility for our own lives and be ready. No one can do it for us. We won’t be able to blame anyone else, for the Bible says, “So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God” (Romans 14:12). It also says, “Each one should carry his own load” (Galatians 6:5).
Perhaps this is obvious, but if you want to learn how to do what is right, the second thing you need to do is: You must desire to do what is right. Many people are completely capable of doing what is right, but they do not want to do what is right. They believe that doing what is right is not as much fun. It is too confining and restrictive. They are bent on what they want to do, and are not really interested in God’s will. They know the right thing, but they do not want to do the right thing.