In Paul’s letter to the Romans we hear: “For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.” (Romans 5:15b-19).
The bad news is that Adam ate the forbidden fruit. The good news is that Christ has brought abundant consumable fruit. A number of years ago I wrote a story about some people in high Federal Government places whom had done some questionable things. One gentleman in particular was a classmate of mine in college, and even though I didn’t know him personally, I felt a kinship to him. The story was published in the local newspaper and I had a variety of comments from people about the article.
One comment from a friend caught me off guard and I still ponder his statement today. He said, “I liked your article, but I disagree about one thing.” I had implied in the article that when things go wrong with the folks who rise to leadership in our country, that somehow we are all to blame. My friend said that he didn’t think of himself as responsible or to blame for bad things that other people do. I can still see both sides of this.
Thinking about St. Paul’s words to the Romans has caused me to revisit this ‘blame’ issue again. Adam did cause all after him to be of sin and die. So he is to blame for our sinful nature. As my mother used to say about one of my friends, “He is a bad influence on you, son.” St. Paul recognizes that we can be influenced in positive ways as well. He says, “For if the many died through the one man’s trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many.”
Are we as individuals to blame for the sin of others? If we are truly righteous can we be responsible? Most of us would have a hard time calling ourselves righteous. Our mission, however, is to follow Christ’s example and teachings, for he is perfect righteousness. Then, as the disciples were commissioned in Matthew 28, we are to carry Christ’s message to “all nations” of the world.
I guess that ‘blame’ may be the wrong word. We have a never-ending job to follow Christ and to be his messenger to all people. We have a responsibility that is never satisfied. One of my leaders at work often says something like this, “To do well in our work we have to be in a constant state of discontent, interrupted by brief periods of joy over a job well done.” We might say that when people go wrong, it reminds us that we have to work even harder. For me it’s a job just keeping up with myself. Help me, Dear Lord. AMEN.