During my youth ministry days I developed a character named Leroy, a lovable, Elmer Fudd type of guy with a fudd-like speech impediment. Leroy likes to tell how he went to “Detwoit” and got a job on the “assembwy wine.” One of the lines of this sketch has him recounting the instructions he receives from his foreman. “Weewoy, I had to way somebody off today. I’m gonna hafta give you some mowah weesposibiwity.”
The sketch uses motions to convey how Leroy juggles the various responsibilities that are placed on him as he takes on more and more. He has to “skwew skwews with his wight hand, skwew skwews with his weft hand,” etc., until finally he has it up to here with weesponsibiwity.
re·spon·si·bil·i·ty The state, quality, or fact of being responsible.
re·spon·si·ble Liable to be required to give account, as of one's actions or of the discharge of a duty or trust (dictionary.com)
We live in an age of irresponsibility. When I originally wrote this a few years ago we had witnessed the trial of a mother who drowned her children. Her defense was that, since she was mentally unstable, she was not responsible for her behavior.
There is a great tendency in our society to blame others for our misdeeds. It reminds me of the Flip Wilson character, Geraldine, who, when she got into trouble, claimed, “The devil made me do it.”
The truth is that, whether or not we are willing to assume responsibility for our behavior, we will each be held responsible for what we do. We will someday stand before God and give an account of ourselves.
I shared this idea with a group of public school teachers during an inservice on character development. I told them I wanted to give them another interpretation of the 3 Rs, an understanding that I had learned from the psychiatrist William Glasser. In his book, “Reality Therapy,” Glasser explains that his 3 Rs are reality, responsibility, and right-and-wrong.
The first R, reality, means that we live in a real world with real struggles and real consequences for our actions. We’re not in Mayberry or in Disney World. Children are kidnapped and murdered. There are wars and rumors of wars. People do inhumane things to each other. We live in a world that is often mean and ugly, because our world is fallen. The events of 9/11 and since make this all too clear.
The second R stands for responsibility. We have already touched on this, but let me share a quote to underscore my point. The need for personal responsibility was expressed eloquently by Vaclav Havel, the president of the Czech Republic, in a 1999 magazine article. He wrote, “The salvation of this human world lies nowhere else than in the human heart….The only backbone to our actions, if they are to be moral, is responsibility. Responsibility to something higher than my family, my firm, my country, my success—responsibility to the order of being where all our actions are indelibly recorded and where, and only where, they will be properly judged." (quoted in christianitytoday.com)
The final R is for right and wrong. The prevailing philosophy on many of our campuses today is that what is right or wrong depends on the situation – that there are no moral absolutes. Everything is relative. I hate to burst this bubble, but the Bible clearly states that there are moral absolutes, established by God Himself. After all, God didn’t give us “The Ten Suggestions” now did He? God has a standard, called the law, by which he judges everyone. In God’s eyes right is right and wrong is wrong. And whatever is wrong the Bible calls sin.
Now, concerning sin I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that you have already broken the law and done wrong in God’s eyes. “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) The good news is that Jesus has already taken care of our sin problem.