Are we responsible to people or for people?
I got an email a couple weeks ago talking about how we can’t be responsible FOR people- only TO people. The point was that we can’t make people do things. We can only serve them, help them do what’s best for themselves, and give them opportunities to do what God wants from and for them.
I agree. We shouldn’t be enablers.
Yet, I also disagree. Dare we ask, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” as Cain did? If we are going to say we are not responsible for people, we better clarify our distinction between the KINDS of being responsible for people.
Not being responsible FOR people can mean anything. On one end of the spectrum, being responsible FOR people can mean expecting them to come to us on our own terms. On the other end, it can mean doing everything we can for people, bearing with their failures again and again, and reaching out to them often to return to God. Saying, “I can’t be responsible FOR people” can be the mantra of the self-righteous hypocrite passing the man on the Jericho road in the parable of the Good Samaritan, or it can be the final breath of prayer offered by the mother of an addicted grown child as she cries out to God for him in the bowels of the night.
Not being responsible FOR people can be a cop-out or it can be a truth that they can’t control the situation, they can only do their duty to act and to pray.
So what should the attitude of the church be to those who darken our doors? It’s true, we can’t be fully responsible for them. But in the same breath, we had better be responsible for them. And we’d better get what the difference is before we act and talk about that responsibility.