This is No Time to Pray

RESPONSIBILITY.  It's a word we all learned as children but may not use enough in our daily adult lives, or our lives as the Church together.

The question of responsibility is: "When is the time for action?"  At what point does one person's IR-responsibility cause such detrimental effects on the whole community that the community or its leaders must respond?  

The Israelites have now taken Jericho, and they move on to a place called Ai.  But Joshua didn't know that one of his people, Achan, had broken the only rule God gave when they had taken Jericho -- to not take any of Canaan's "devoted things" (Josh. 6:18).  So when they're routed by Ai, Joshua prays and frankly blames God.  He's naturally perplexed as to why God's blessing from Jericho seems to have dried up!  But God tells Joshua, "Stand up!  What are you doing down on your face?...There are devoted things among you, Israel. You cannot stand against your enemies until you remove them" (Josh. 7:10-13).

In other words, God told Joshua this was no time to pray.  The cause of their misfortune was known, even obvious to God.  And once it was obvious to Joshua, the need for that particular prayer was over.  For Joshua to continue to pray would have been like praying for God's provision when I know I've foolishly maxed out my credit cards.  Sometimes we know that what is needed is action.

What can be hard is acting in response to one person's irresponsibility which has affected everyone.  One of the more frustrating things to read or hear in news or social media right now is white people claiming that societal racial injustice isn't "their fault."  What a skewed individualism.  The nature of any community, including a national one, is that the actions of a few can affect the whole.  So regardless of fault, it becomes the whole community's responsibility to respond and seek reconciliation.  This is NOT FAIR.  But it IS TRUE.  

So we cannot be tolerant of irresponsibility and still claim to care about our community.  We are called to hold each other accountable.  Read, read, read the Bible!  And you will see time and time again the misbehavior of a few, the consequences visited upon the many, and the prophetic voice calling for accountability.  

It can be uncomfortable to read.  It's really uncomfortable to do.  But confrontation is part of Christian spirituality.  Read Matthew 23.  Remember Paul's admonitions to the early churches.  Even consider the conflict between Peter and Paul around Acts 15.  Had Jesus and these early disciples avoided confrontation, it's safe to say there would be no Church through which the world might know God's love in Christ.  There may have been no Church at all.  

So we must ask ourselves:
- Am I taking responsibility for the larger community...really?
- Am I still praying about something God has already given me an answer for?
- Am I trying to pray my way out of something my behavior has gotten me into?
- Am I willing to act responsibly even though the situation is not "my fault?"

The sinful situation of the world was not Jesus' fault, but he acted, prayerfully, on our behalf while we were still drowning in sin, so that we would come to know him and start living the eternal life for which we were created in God's image.  If we are Jesus' disciples, we are called to follow his example and act responsibly for the world he loves.
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