This is New Year’s Eve 2021. Commercials are flooding the media with “drink responsibly”, “call a cab”, etc. What does the word “responsibly” really mean? Some dictionaries say, “answerable or accountable, as for something within one’s power, control, or management”. Others define this word as it directly relates to our behavior. “When you do something in a careful, trustworthy way, you do it responsibly. If you spend your money responsibly, you’ll probably be able to save some of it.” Webster sums it up with, “able to be trusted to do what is right or to do the things that are expected or required.” This is a person who behaves responsibly. Okay.
Paul takes us farther down the road with what is right in the eyes of God who is responsible for creating us, giving us free will to choose what is right and good but with all the help we need when we ask for it. God gives us His Word who became flesh and lived on earth and taught us how to live responsibly, serving others from a heart of pure love, being our perfect example to follow. Jesus then became our perfect sacrifice for our sins paying the full amount of our debt of sins forevermore. God gave us His Holy Spirit as a gift at rebirth (our salvation) to come live in us to guide, correct, encourage, comfort and direct our thoughts that lead to subsequent behaviors.
Living responsibly is allowing God’s Spirit free reign to guide us to all that is good. God’s best life begins with us leaning into His holy guidance.
Many years ago, I would pray a prayer about this time of year to grow in one particular element of God’s character for the coming year. I thought it to be too hard to grow in all His traits at once time! I’m not that good, Lord! So, Lord, work on me, chip away what is not pleasing to you one blow at a time.
One year, I remember praying to be more gracious, to be a person who could extend grace before judgement. It is at this time that I begin to journal my prayers. At the beginning, my written prayers were messy but honest, complaining about those who irritated me, telling God what needs to be done, and asking Him to fix them so I could live at peace. What happened instead was by writing down the words from my gut to only God, I noticed I said less irresponsible words out loud to others. God was changing my heart which led to changing my mind.
God isn’t finished with me yet, for I am still journalizing my thoughts in prayer, going first through God’s “carwash”, cleaning up the words I say out loud. Leaning into God’s filter and clean up is living responsibly. I cannot do life without God. I cannot not mature in His character without His Holy Spirit. I cannot be gracious without His grace growing substantially, taking hold, in me.
Paul’s advice to believers in Jesus is valuable and so appropriate at this time of living under the oppression of the Roman government. Life isn’t fair, but Paul tells them to live as good citizens, while emphasizing to live responsibly as good citizens. Even under burdensome, unfair oppression, “Pay your taxes, pay your bills, respect your leaders.”
ROMANS—OUR CARE AND CALLING
Romans 13, The Message
To Be a Responsible Citizen
13 1-3 Be a good citizen. All governments are under God. Insofar as there is peace and order, it’s God’s order. So live responsibly as a citizen. If you’re irresponsible to the state, then you’re irresponsible with God, and God will hold you responsible. Duly constituted authorities are only a threat if you’re trying to get by with something. Decent citizens should have nothing to fear.
3-5 Do you want to be on good terms with the government? Be a responsible citizen and you’ll get on just fine, the government working to your advantage. But if you’re breaking the rules right and left, watch out. The police aren’t there just to be admired in their uniforms. God also has an interest in keeping order, and he uses them to do it. That’s why you must live responsibly—not just to avoid punishment but also because it’s the right way to live.
6-7 That’s also why you pay taxes—so that an orderly way of life can be maintained. Fulfill your obligations as a citizen. Pay your taxes, pay your bills, respect your leaders.
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8-10 Don’t run up debts, except for the huge debt of love you owe each other. When you love others, you complete what the law has been after all along. The law code—don’t sleep with another person’s spouse, don’t take someone’s life, don’t take what isn’t yours, don’t always be wanting what you don’t have, and any other “don’t” you can think of—finally adds up to this: Love other people as well as you do yourself. You can’t go wrong when you love others. When you add up everything in the law code, the sum total is love.
11-14 But make sure that you don’t get so absorbed and exhausted in taking care of all your day-by-day obligations that you lose track of the time and doze off, oblivious to God. The night is about over, dawn is about to break. Be up and awake to what God is doing! God is putting the finishing touches on the salvation work he began when we first believed. We can’t afford to waste a minute, must not squander these precious daylight hours in frivolity and indulgence, in sleeping around and dissipation, in bickering and grabbing everything in sight. Get out of bed and get dressed! Don’t loiter and linger, waiting until the very last minute. Dress yourselves in Christ, and be up and about!
SUMMING IT UP…
Live responsibly where you live, obeying the laws of the land. “God also has an interest in keeping order, and he uses them to do it. That’s why you must live responsibly—not just to avoid punishment but also because it’s the right way to live.”
Love each other. “Don’t run up debts, except for the huge debt of love you owe each other. When you love others, you complete what the law has been after all along.
Avoid all the “don’ts”. Love other people as well as you do yourself. You can’t go wrong when you love others. When you add up everything in the law code, the sum total is love.
Dress yourselves in Christ…live like He taught us to live—responsibly, for and to others with love, mercy and grace.
I love you with all my heart, mind and soul. I need you every hour. I love getting up each day to speak with you first, hear you, then be guided by you for the rest of the day. When I mess up, you are quick to realign my thinking and behavior. I am so grateful for your correction which brings peace, joy, love, mercy and grace to my heart and fills my soul. Thank you for not giving up on me. Thank you for your continued “finishing touches” on your salvation work in me. I can only live responsibly with you helping me.
In Jesus Name, Amen