Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Personal responsibility

Looking back to when you were a child, do you remember this phrase: "The devil made me do it?" I definitely do.
The idea of "the devil made me do it" shines light on a great fault of North American culture, and even one of the greater Western culture. I'm not sure about saying "world culture", because I don't know much outside of Western culture. The fault is this - irresponsibility. If I do something wrong, and when confronted with my mistake, I say "the devil made me do it", I am absolving myself of any personal responsibility for my actions. I am in fact saying "I did not do anything wrong. Instead, I was used by some outside force to commit its evil deeds". Does that seem right to you?
If I had to pick one thing that annoys me most, it would be irresponsibility. When people make commitments and break them, or neglect their duties and responsibilities, it really bothers me. Now, this probably stems from me being a "take-charge" person, a "do-it-yourself" kind of guy. If something goes wrong, it's my fault, and I am wrong to blame others. This doesn't mesh with the concept of "the devil made me do it". I believe that everyone is ultimately responsible for their own actions, both good and bad. Let's take a look at this a bit further.
Let's say that every act of sin in the world is actually caused by demons and devils forcing people to do their evil deeds. Where does that leave us? That leaves us completely blameless for our actions. If we are completely blameless for our actions, we are pure in the eyes of God. We have no need of redemption or Christ's sacrifice. However, that also makes us "robots" - if we cannot act of our own free will, we are robots. If we cannot sin except for some outside influence, then we are not truly free.
The solution to the problem of this lies here: Satan is known as "the great accuser". He accuses us of our faults before God. His place is not to cause us to sin, but to accuse us of our sin. If it was actually him committing the offenses, he would be accusing himself. So then it follows that we are actually responsible for what we do.
Also, sin is a willful act of rebellion against God. There are three key words here - willful, act, and rebellion. One could say "willful" isn't necessary, but it is, because act involves will. Working backwards, "rebellion" means doing what is contrary to God. "Act" means actually doing something. And, the most important for our discussion, "willful" means that it was a conscious decision, with full knowledge of the wrongness of the action.
Here is how I think that the whole "demonic intervention" thing works - the demons can influence us, sometimes to the point where resistance seems impossible, but ultimate responsibility for sin lies in our hands - NOT Satan's.
So, the old excuse "the devil made me do it" is just that - an excuse. A better excuse would be "the devil tried really hard to convince me to do it, and I went along with him". We are ultimately responsible for what we do. The good thing about that is that it means we are capable of doing right as well as wrong. We have a choice.

2 Comments:

Blogger Sarah said...

one of my cultural pet peeves is shirking personal responsibility for one's actions, as well. i wholeheartedly agree with this.

But I don't know if I'd even go as far as to blame demons for influencing us to do bad things. I mean, the demons that Jesus cast out had people acting totally irrationally and were reminiscent of mental or physical illness... doesn't bear much of a resemblance to deciding to do wrong of our own volition, then trying to pass the blame when we're caught. Frankly, I think we do a good enough job of influencing ourselves and eachother toward sin.

6:38 PM  
Blogger Nathan D.F. said...

You, my friend, need to read screwtape letters. I would go so far as to call that book 'splendidly horrifying'. Its scary to see how much that book matches up with my life...

Id agree with sarah when she said we do a good enough job influencing each other towards sinning. But Im willing to be that the devil hasnt stopped trying, hes just decided he doesnt have to try as hard anymore.

7:06 PM  

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