“If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.” (John 13:14-15)
My column last month was about love – the most important and most discussed topic in Christianity. This month we address a related topic that, while almost as important, is rarely mentioned. This column is about responsibility.
Like you, I am a huge fan of God’s unconditional love. (John 3:16; 1 John 4:8) We are all included, don’t have to earn it and can’t lose it, praise the Lord!
And like you, I am an eager recipient of God’s gift of salvation by grace and not works. (Ephesians 2:8-9) How could I ever do enough good to offset the many bad things I have done? Even if that was possible, how could I ever earn something as glorious as everlasting life? (Revelation 21)
The tragic truth, however, is that the Church’s imbalanced over-emphasis on what we cannot do has led to both de-emphasis and disinterest in what Christians are supposed to do. Like the children of indulgent parents, we take God’s love and grace for granted, believing we are entitled to reward without responsibility. But that is not what the Bible says!
First, as to the foundational issue of salvation, we are saved not by grace alone, but by grace through faith. (Ephesians 2:8). Faith is tied to repentance – a change of mind, heart and life direction. (Matthew 3: 2, 8; Acts 2:37-42) While not saved by good works, we are saved “for” good works. (Ephesians 2:10) And those good works are the evidence you have saving faith and not just an “inactive and ineffective and worthless” mental acknowledgment that God and Jesus exist. (James 2:14-26 AMP; Romans 2:1-8)
Simply put, we cannot have the Lamb without the Lord. If we want to be with the Lord in heaven, we must let Him be Lord of our life here as well. (Matthew 7:21, 25:14-30, 28:18)
This leads to the second and core issue – our responsibilities to this Lord. Jesus has clearly declared that we are responsible to serve God, Church and neighbor. (John 13:1-17; Philippians 2:1-13; Ephesians 5:25-27)
We are responsible to serve God. (Psalm 100:2) Loving God is the Great Commandment, not the great option, and we love God by our trusting obedience. (Mark 12:28-30; John 14:211-24) Jesus often taught through parables about “Master” and “servant”. In today’s self-centered culture, we would all particularly benefit from reading the parable at Luke 17:7-10 on who is supposed to be serving whom.
We are responsible to serve our neighbor. Love of neighbor is the second part of the Great Commandment, and again, not an option. (Mark 12:31) It applies to both friend and foe, and is to be expressed at home, work, and elsewhere with actions, not just lip service. (Matthew 5:43-48; Luke 10:25-37; 1 John 3:18) How well we meet this responsibility will play a significant role in determining whether we are classified as a “sheep” or a “goat”. (Matthew 25:31-46)
We are responsible to serve the Church, or more specifically, serve God and others through the Church.
For centuries, our problem was church attendance without ministry participation, leaving that to the so-called clergy. Now many consider even church connection and attendance entirely optional, with most churches either slowly dying or scrambling to say, sing and offer whatever programs will keep people in their pews. This is not how Christ builds His Church. (Matthew 16:18)
Despite her many past and present dysfunctions, the Church is the one Body of Christ. (Ephesians 2:22-23, 4:1-6) Every Christian is a member of His Body, with diverse spiritual gifts and ministry responsibilities that are to be honored, equipped and expressed, each of us doing our part and all of us doing it together. (Ephesians 4:11-16; 1 Corinthians 12; Romans 12)
We are to help fix the Church, not desert her. When we all start embracing our responsibilities to the Church, we will finally see what God’s royal priesthood and household of prayer can accomplish. (1 Peter 2:9; Mark 11:17)
Responsibility is about what we can do, not what we cannot do. It is also about accountability. The apostle Paul says we will all appear before the judgment seat of Christ to receive what is due for what we have done on this earth, whether good or bad. (2 Corinthians 5:10)
I cannot say for sure whether Paul is referring here to entrance into heaven, or treasures in heaven, or a simple (but not easy) time of review, reprimand and praise. (Matthew 6:20; Romans 14:12) I can only tell you what I want to hear when I stand before the throne.
“Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:21) “Well done.”
God bless you, and God bless our community.