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Personal Responsibility

(Ezekiel 18:1-5, 7-13, 19, 20)

Lesson 9 -- fourth quarter 1996
October 27, 1996

by Mark Roth
© Copyright 1996, Christian Light Publications

Aren't my folks partially responsible for what and who I am?
What can I do about my bad spiritual heritage?

In contemporary popular psychology, plenty of people abound to saddle with the responsibility and blame for who and what a person has become. All kinds of people, that is, except the individual himself. Perhaps the mother or the father or an aunt or a cousin or a neighbor or a teacher or a teammate or someone else said the word, gave the look, or did the action that shaped the "victim's" destiny. That theory accepted, the individual can now excuse all kinds of behavior, attitudes and life styles. You see, "it's not my fault at all."

Nonsense. Foolish nonsense. Dangerous nonsense. Evil nonsense.

Oh, I do not deny the fact that the impact of others on the life of an infant or child (in particular) is phenomenal. Nobody but God can measure such influence. Neither do I deny that those who influence others bear responsibility and accountability for the influence they exert. And nobody but God can determine the extent of that responsibility and accountability. My contention is with heathen philosophy that tries to absolve us of individual responsibility, trying to place it on the shoulders of those who have influenced us.

Romans 14:12 leaves no doubt: "every one of us shall give account of himself to God." We are personally accountable for our lives. Period. I can't share that burden with anyone else, no matter what they have done to me, with me or for me. I just cannot reduce my penalty by establishing a link between their influence and my life.

The deep pool is quiet, still, calm, flat--impressionable. The toy boat floats placidly at an edge of the undisturbed surface. At the pool's opposite side, a young man raises a heavy rock over his head. With all the strength he can muster, he sends the rock crashing into the pool. Though twenty feet away from the point of impact, the little boat heaves and tosses on the suddenly-stormy surface. Why?

Ripples. The rock did not touch the boat directly. And the boat was quite a distance from the place where the rock splashed into the water. But the ripples reached across the pool and rocked the boat. This illustrates the effect of the spiritual influence that reaches across generations.

In an earlier lesson we noted the impact of an ungodly heritage on the lives of those who come after. Exodus 34:7 seems to refer in part to this, stating, "visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth generation." Can anything be done about this? I can't change what my forefathers were!

The little boat could have been shielded from the rock's influence. A barrier in the water would have accomplished such a task, much as a breakwater does for an artificial harbor.

I believe we can apply the same concept to ungodly influences from the past. First off, we must choose to reject in our lives any ungodliness embraced by our forefathers. Then we need to ask the Lord to protect us from any latent influences reaching us from them. We also need to erect in our lives the barriers of living godliness which directly contradict the ungodliness we desire to avoid.

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