June 17, 2012: Where Does The Buck Really Stop?

Let us pray: Dear Father in heaven, save us each day from the inroads of the evil one. Deliver us from his seductive voice of selfishness. Thwart his attempts to stroke our pride at the expense of Your love. Remove his lying and deceitful voice from our ear. Take away his lack of gratitude which infects all of us. And instead of all this evil, put into our hearts the honesty and joy of real repentance and life-generating forgiveness through the sacrifice of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, OUR FORGIVING LORD!

TEXT: Genesis 3: 8-15

Dearly Beloved by Christ:

I turned on the TV, watched a snippet of the evening news, and almost fell off my chair! Someone actually said, in public, on TV: “The responsibility rests with me.”!!! Jamie Dimon, chairman of JP Morgan Chase was in front of a congressional hearing. His company recently lost 2 billion dollars in London over faulty derivative trades on that exchange. No doubt, you heard a hue and cry over this on the news. The politicians summoned him to Washington and lo and behold he basically said: “The buck stops with me.” I was impressed. I cannot recall the last time I heard someone say those words publically. The politicians quizzing him didn’t really know how to respond, either. After all, when was the last time one of them uttered such a statement? Hint: never….It made me think of our text.

Pres. Harry Truman had a plaque on his desk which stated: “The buck stops here.” I’ve always admired that aspect of Truman. He didn’t give mealy-mouthed double-speak answers to tough questions. He didn’t shirk responsibility for the good or bad of his office. He faced up to the facts and the truth as he understood it. And all this ushers in today’s lesson which could well be encapsulated by these words:

WHERE DOES THE BUCK REALLY STOP?

I

The “buck” I’m referring to isn’t the American dollar, it’s ultimate responsibility for ones decisions, words, and actions in life. And the very question of responsibility begs the question, the issue of: evil in this world. The problem of evil is almost as old as the human race. The questions of: “Where does evil come from?” and “How do we combat it?” have plagued humans literally since Adam and Eve. Every philosophical/religious group has struggled with trying to explain it and all exceptone have failed miserably.

Does evil exist? Of course. Do bad things happen to seemingly good people? Obviously. You and I struggle with evil and its intrusions into our lives. Why did my good friend who’s a Christian develop stage 4 cancer? Why did my mother suffer a massive stroke—she didn’t deserve it? Why was my child born with a birth defect? Why does soldier Jones with a wonderful wife and young children die of an IED while murderers back at home get off on a technicality and go on enjoying life?

Historically there are two answers to this “problem of evil.” One is dualism. Dual, two, meaning good and evil exist alongside each other simultaneously—kind of like the ying and yang of ancient eastern thought. You can also think of the two faces of Janus—the one smiling the other snarling. Anyway, dualism says that both good and evil are of equal force and once we humans come into time we’re caught in the crossfire between them. We have no real hope and there is no real help, either. You just struggle along and then repeat the process. “Acceptance” has become the motto of those who adhere to dualism. Thus, there is no real “right” or “wrong” no battle between light and darkness other than our perceptions of our reality. Most religions and most people fall into this dualistic camp. Is it any wonder we’re so plagued by relativism today? If dualism stands than good never triumphs, heaven doesn’t exist, and we’re doomed to constant pain and suffering without any lasting hope.

The other answer to the problem of evil is Christianity. It teaches that good (God) is all-powerful. It teaches that evil (Satan) can never win any ultimate victory. It teaches that God sacrificed Himself in the form of His Son to suffer the ultimate evil, death, in order to save fallen human beings. Thus Christianity alone gives us hope for a better tomorrow and a reason to keep on struggling for good against evil. All this because the victory over sin that Christ won for us on the cross was total, complete, and is God’s gift to us through faith.

II

To the modern mind the story of Adam and Eve is a fanciful fairytale. Yet, its truthfulness rings out loud and clear in that it honestly deals with the problem of evil better than anything else ever written. We had to come from 2 distinct human beings. The Bible calls them Adam and Eve. Inwardly we all know that we could never have been created for evil. For the human soul yearns after God, longs for love, and doesn’t naturally seek out pain and suffering. The fact of life shows that death—none life—is an aberration. Genesis clearly teaches all these truths. So, we would do well to pay careful attention to the creation account in Genesis and also the fall into sin.Satan rebelled against God and evil was born. Then he tried to hurt God by corrupting humanity, God’s crowning achievement of creation. He tried to use Adam and Eve’s free will against them and against God by appealing to their inner pride. “Eve, you can be like God, knowing good and evil is you disobey His command and eat of this particular tree that God is denying you!” “Eve, you and Adam are missing out.” So, he used the body of a snake to set his trap and it worked. We’re told that immediately after eating “Their eyes were opened and they knew they were naked.” Immediately they felt shame. Shame over no clothes, or was it shame over feeling as if they had something to hide from God? Yes, “man looks at the outward appearance, but God gazes upon the heart.”

Both try to cover their nakedness (with fig leaves) and both try to cover their hearts by passing the buck of responsibility for what they have done. Adam blames Eve for giving him the fruit. Eve blames the serpent. Isn’t that always the way it is. The blame game goes round and around. That’s why having a confession of sins each Sunday is quite refreshing!

As a result sin, guilt, sickness, pain, sadness, and death come into this world. Adam and Eve wanted to “know” good and evil and now they do—while rueing the day it happened. They were now trapped in the paradigm of: living to die. But God is truly good and gracious. He never lets evil get the ultimate upper hand. So, God decided that they should be given a new lease on life through: dying to live! Since death was the punishment for evil, God used death to free us from evil and to conquer it. But, such a death had to be perfect, holy, and weighty enough to tip the Divine balance scale. So, God promised them, and us, that through the death of His Son Jesus Christ, we could and would be reborn, remade, and resurrected into new creations where goodness would reign eternally! Genesis 3:15 is that promise. The serpent must eat dust for being used. Every generation coming from Adam and Eve would battle with inner evil and the outer consequences of it. But one offspring of Eve would crush, destroy Satan’s power even while Satan would momentarily inflict damage on that Offspring. Well, we know the rest of the story. In death, Jesus Christ destroyed evil’s eternal hold upon us. And then in life—dying to live—He gave us the liberating knowledge that evil can never hold us and can never destroy us everlastingly! The buck of responsibility stops with Jesus Christ! So, why does evil still exist in this world? Simple. So that we can exercise our faith in Christ and show forth our love for God in how we handle it. Amen