Christian Responsibility and Accountability
teacher's guide Lesson 1

Lesson One

The Concept of Christian Responsibility

The objective of this lesson is to challenge Christians (1) to distinguish between being sober and being fearful, and (2) to acknowledge the spiritual value of being responsible.

The objective of these lessons is to extend the challenge to Christians to be sober. The objective is NOT to challenge Christians to be fearful. What is the difference? Soberness is an attitude that constantly moves in the direction of fuller realization and understanding of the seriousness of a consideration. Soberness generates hope. It does not attack or exclude hope. Fear is an emotion that constantly moves in the direction of inescapable danger. Fear often attacks hope. It frequently destroys hope. Soberness says, "This must be taken seriously!" Fear says, "This will destroy me!" Frequently, soberness motivates us to focus and try. Fear commonly motivates us to lose focus and give up. Soberness declares we have a choice. Fear declares we are a helpless victim.

Note and emphasize the distinctions between soberness and fear (the fear of terror). Commonly, the admonitions in scripture to 'fear God' do not focus on terror, but focus on holding God in awe or reverence. God has made great sacrifices that indicate God wants Christians to respect Him [hold Him in awe], but not be terrified of Him. Consider Hebrews 4:14-16 and note the emphasis in verse 16 on approaching God's throne with confidence expecting to receive help in the time of need because of (1) our perfect mediator and (2) God's grace.

While God wants followers to hold Him in awe and reverence, God does not want those who love Him to be terrified of Him. In His total holiness, He deserves profound respect. Yet, He does not want His children to be terrified of Him. Just as any loving father who seeks the best for his children [even when they do not understand!], God wants His children to hold Him in loving respect, not in the terror of danger. In Christians, He seeks love's commitment of loyalty, not fear's mindless, thoughtless control.

God seeks a father-child relationship with us. To the Christian, He is our Father (consider Matthew 6:9, I Timothy 3:5, Ephesians 2:19). Remind your class of the value God places on maintaining a secure, loving relationship with Christians by referring the class to Romans 8:31-39.

A key understanding Christians need is this: the fact that God loves us and in His love justifies us does not mean God's love wants us to live and act irresponsibly. As any loving, responsible father, God knows what is in our best interest. As any loving, responsible father, God sees and knows dangers we children do not see and do not understand. As any loving, responsible father, God seeks what is best for us even when we profoundly disagree with Him on what is best. As any loving, responsible father, God knows He cannot void the consequences of the children's foolish, thoughtless choices. As any loving, responsible father, God knows the certain way to eliminate consequences for His children is to encourage His children to make healthy, serious decisions [in contrast to frivolous, thoughtless decisions].

Stress the fact that God's enormous love for His people does not give His people the license or right to live irresponsible lives.

We as a society do not like responsibility. We as a society do not like accountability. How rarely do you hear someone in any arena of society voluntarily step forward early in any form of catastrophe and say, "X was my fault! That was my responsibility! I am accountable for this failure! I am to blame!" Such happens so rarely that our society is quite skeptical if such acknowledgments occur.

Ask your class to contribute examples of irresponsible behavior/decisions in the American culture. The objective is not to be critical, but to heighten awareness. Refusing to "accept my proper portion of responsibility" creates numerous spiritual and social problems.

In our society, it is considered foolish to acknowledge responsibility and accountability. To do so is to open one's self to law suits and perhaps criminal charges! Certainly, there are many relevant factors in any disaster. Consider how our society frequently approaches catastrophic happenings. "Who will 'take the fall' for this?" "Who will we make the 'scapegoat'?" Where will we place the blame--on a person or a circumstance?" "How will we manage damage control?"

In today's American society, it is more likely that people who are responsible are more preoccupied with 'how do control the damage' than with 'what truly is responsible'. Ask your class members why they think this is the reality now. Perhaps you can suggest that people frequently fail to analyze a happening because they are so preoccupied with escaping blame.

This is quite evident in the most personal of matters. For example, when a marriage fails [which occurs in about half the marriages], frequently she says, "It is his fault! If he would change Y, we would have no serious problems. Our marriage has failed because he refuses to accept his responsibility!" He frequently says, "It is her fault! If she would change Z, we would have no serious problems. Our marriage has failed because she refuses to accept her responsibility!" In matters of personal relationships, we are quite adept at giving 100% blame to someone else.

Evading responsibility goes far beyond corporate or political levels. It powerfully invades the level of personal thought. If 'I am fired' for improper acts, the situation is not 'my' fault. If a child fails to learn, with many it is automatically the teacher's fault. If a child is a discipline problem, it is automatically some authority figure's fault. More individual thought frequently goes into 'shifting the blame' than 'accepting the responsibility.'

Thus, rather than admitting "my" part in the matter, we learn to evade any sense of blame. What now you are asked to consider is not intended as insensitivity toward any victim. It fully acknowledges that stereotyping is an extremely cruel thing to do to anyone. Every situation is unique and should be approached as unique--few things "are true of everyone" in a given situation.

Emphasize the following examples are not an invitation to be insensitive, to stereotype, or to lose sight of the fact that each situation is unique. The object is not to be critical of everyone, but to height our realization of the importance of being responsible.

When a person dies from cancer produced by smoking, are tobacco companies 100% responsible? Was individual choice in no way responsible? Was the person powerless to make a choice?

This is basically a 'one person' choice. Often the person with these problems says, "If I am hurting anyone, I am only hurting me." Even if that justification were true [and it's not], the person rationalizes behavior because "it is only me."

Are all rapes a matter of random violence? Should no rape victim ever ask, "Did I by knowledgeable choice go to the wrong place at the wrong time? Did my actions or dress significantly contribute to this violent incident?"

Make certain your class clearly understands that no person has the 'right' to rape another person! Not as an act of violence! Not as an act of dating! Not as an act of pornography! Not as an act within marriage! People--both males and females--are entitled to others respecting them as persons, not treating them as objects. Never is the justification for a woman's rape, "She asked for this!" Also make certain your class understands that there definitely are many rapes that are purely random acts of violence that are chance occurrences. In no way are they provoked by victims.

This is a highly explosive, emotional example! However, all of us [Christian men and women] need to spiritually mature to the level that we neither resort to the horrible policies of past generations in stereotyping women ["It was her fault! It was 100% her fault!" to the horrible policies of immediately placing 100% of the blame on men. The responsibility sometimes lies in more than one place. Women need to realize the impact of their dress and behavior on men, and men need to realize women are always persons and never depersonalized objects to be used for personal pleasure.

If drinking destroys my liver, is 100% of the blame the brewery's fault? What role did individual choice serve in producing a horrific consequence? Do individual "rights" mean it is the responsibility of a government agency to protect me from every situation in life?

The objective is not to offend (these often are very sensitive examples to those who are responding to an emotional situation or are in grief. The objective is to realize that we often bear a portion of responsibility for the bad consequences caused by our choices.

Certainly, these are complex questions. Never is justice done in any situation by oversimplifying the matter. Certainly, no one or no group has 'a license' to ignore human well being by producing a dangerous product designed to exploit human addiction. Certainly, no one or no group has the right to reduce a woman to a 'thing to be used' and violently disregard her person. Certainly, each person should be respected as an individual. The objective of these questions is not to suggest otherwise.

Acknowledge that these are complex questions dealing with complex situations. The objective is not to assign or increase guilt, but to heighten awareness of responsibility.

The matter for you to consider is this: choices produce consequences. When bad consequences result from a choice made, we are not served well by seeking to absolve ourselves through trying to place 100% of the blame on other people or the circumstances. If that is the course we choose to take, then (1) we learn little or nothing from experiencing the consequence; (2) our spouses, children, and extended family learn little or nothing positive from our experience; (3) the part of society influenced by our lives learns little or nothing positive from our experience. Unfortunately, we do not regard bad consequences as a teaching vehicle. Typically, rather than learning from a bad consequence, people emotionally react against the incident. We are more likely to feel 'wronged' than we are to feel wiser.

Evading rightful responsibility is hurtful to society and to the individual. It often destroys the benefit of experience. It destroys a major component of wisdom.

Questions for Thought and Discussion:

  1. What is and is not the objective of this series on Christian responsibility and accountability?

    The objective is to challenge the Christian to be sober. The objective is not to challenge the Christian to view God with an attitude of terror.

  2. Explain the difference between soberness and fear [the fear produced by terror].

    Soberness is an attitude that stresses rightful seriousness and generates hope. Fear is an emotion that immobilizes a person and destroys hope. Soberness stresses the importance of choice. Fear makes a person a helpless victim.

  3. How does God want His followers to view Him?

    God wants us to view Him with respect produced by awe as a loving child does a responsible father.

  4. What key understanding must Christians accept?

    The fact that God loves us and in His love justifies us does not mean that God wants us to live and act irresponsibly.

  5. What things does a loving, responsible father seek for and understand regarding his children?

    He wants what is best for his children. He sees dangers the children do not see. He understands what is best for his children even when they disagree with him. He knows the best way for his children to be protected from bad consequences is for the children to make healthy, serious decisions.

    vIn our society, do people typically like to accept responsibility? Explain your answer.

    No. The explanations and illustration will reflect the individuality of the person.

  6. Discuss this statement: "Choices produce consequences."

    The discussion should include this understanding: commonly what we choose determines what will happen, and in some cases what can happen. Both that which is good and that which is bad begins with someone making a choice.

  7. What are the detrimental effects of a person refusing to accept his/her rightful responsibility in a matter?

    The bad consequence (or good consequence) of a choice fails to become a lesson. As a result, neither the family nor society learns positive lessons from the experience.

  8. Should bad consequences be a learning device? Explain your answer.

    Yes. The explanations will be as individual as the persons you have in the class. Each person could illustrate something specific that was learned--and never forgotten!--as the result of a bad consequence from something that had an initial appearance of insignificance.

Link to Student Guide Lesson 1

Copyright © 2005
David Chadwell & West-Ark Church of Christ

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