Ability versus Responsibility

“I don’t know what I should do.  I only know what I can do.”  And with that one comment much of my childlike zeal over a Sci-Fi hero died.  Of course, when belief in any objective Truth and Goodness is ignored or deemed dead, anything goes.  We saw that in the Easter shooting of four unsuspecting bystanders in the path of an angry man with a gun and a social media platform televising live murder.  Even more than the murders, the showing of the heinous crime has once again raised heated discussions over what “right” looks like…or at least the dilemma of imposing public restrictions while maintaining personal freedoms.

The Lord calls us to a very focus and approach:  others’ welfare, even at personal sacrifice.  Consider some of the following prompts and related Scriptures.

  • Referring to Matthew 23, paraphrase some of Jesus’ woes to the Pharisees who wanted to restrict others for their own personal gain.
  • How does God’s Word relate restrictions on others to our personal freedoms in the Body of Christ?  (Matthew 18:15-20, 1 Corinthians 8:7-12, Philippians 2:1-8)
  • When and why are believers to have different standards and approaches with nonbelievers compared to believers? (Romans 12:1-21, 1 Corinthians 5:9-13, Colossians 3:18-25, 1 Peter 3:8-22)

Now consider this week’s article.


Murder posted on Facebook prompts outrage and questions over responsibility                                          

“Ability versus Responsibility” by Chaplain Jeff Dillard (18 April 2017)

“On Easter, Steve Stephens drove around downtown Cleveland on what he said was a mission to commit murder — and soon he had an audience of millions for his shooting of Robert Godwin Sr., 74, which he recorded and posted on Facebook, the police in Cleveland said.  On Monday, the authorities nationwide were looking for Mr. Stephens, 37, with the police as far away as Philadelphia saying they had received calls about sightings of him in that area. Now Facebook is facing a backlash over the shooting video, as it grapples with its role in policing content on its global platform.” (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/17/technology/facebook-live-murder-broadcast.html?_r=0).  In a time when we can do so much, some seldom ask, “Should we?”

The human domain is often complex, but some things seem clear to me.  So at times I struggle to keep this series of articles free of ‘should’ so we can focus on facilitating reflection to grow in our own emotional intelligence and spiritual resilience.  And I recognize that it is impossible for finite and imperfect people to make unilateral laws with specific standards in all situations that please everyone.

…if I had only stopped three words short in that last sentence, we could do it.  But that would be a dictatorship ruled by whatever pleases the one or few in power.  This article will be more broadly philosophical than previous submissions.  At a minimum, I hope to leave you with a good dilemma.

The human alternatives to dictatorships (religion and AI aside) are 1) anarchy or 2) some form of democracy.  If you’re familiar with Hegel’s dialectic, you might also know that many have applied his principle to politics demonstrating how all three systems are inherently related.  Like pendulums swinging from opposite ends to eventually rest in the middle, societies begin in extreme positions of what Hegel called “thesis” (e.g., a sole ruler or anarchy) until there is a revolution toward “antithesis”.  Over time, the people recognize that neither is fully satisfying and gradually form a “synthesis” of the best and worst until the synthesis became the new thesis.  And the process starts over, ad infinitum.

A simpler analogy of “should” may help.  Suppose I want hot black coffee for everyone all the time, but you want iced flavored coffee.  One of us could force our will on the other, or we could mix them so no one is satisfied.  Then our kids would grow up on that lukewarm, slightly flavored “stuff” and repeat the same search for “should”.  That might work for a beverage. In fact, my kids do this at the soda fountain and call it a “suicide”. But if we mix opposing values and truths, what else might we kill?


If you’re interested in other posts from this series, “Topic Tuesdays”, you can subscribe to this blog.

gray line bigger

If you’d like to know more about who publishes the articles, videos, and other materials on tools4trenches, you can click on the picture of me and my wife.


This entry was posted in Topic Tuesdays. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s