On Monday, I taped a segment with Maria Shriver for The Today Show about Eve, which will likely air on September 22nd. It was a deep and engaging conversation and I am so grateful to have spent a couple hours with this brilliant, perceptive and powerful woman. We share a love of words and she talked to me about constantly looking for new language to more accurately and adequately express what matters to us as human beings.
If you know me at all, you know that I love words. I figure if a Word can create the universe, perhaps our hearts and minds can be greatly impacted (if not transformed!) by words as well. I am intrigued by words, some of which are considered to be omnipresent and “holy” and very “Christian” …even if they aren’t even in the Bible. At all.
I am thinking of one word in particular at this moment that dominates the religious landscape and has a solid foothold in the rest of the western culture as well. This word is so powerful we assume it was one of those words that’s inherently tied to the character of God.
Sitting on my desk, right now are the following: Vines Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, Tyndale Publisher’s The Word Study Concordance (based on Strong’s Concordance) and Geoffrey Bromley’s 1,356 page Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. On my shelf is the massive, ten volume set of Gerhard Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament.
The word I’m thinking of is not in any of these. No derivation of the word is in any of these. This word is simply not in the Bible, although it has slipped into a few English translations.
What is the word? Responsibility.
Neither “responsibility” or any of its derivations, including “responsible,” make a single appearance.
The etymology of “responsibility” is French, probably a Latin derived 13th Century participle. It didn’t gain common traction until the time of the industrial revolution, when work and progress became paramount. From there it morphed into a performance production word.
Are we surprised that religion grabbed a hold of it as a very useful motivator? Even using it so proficiently that it is now assumed to be one of those holy words? I’m not.
Instead of responsibility, the Bible chooses to focus on a another action: the ability to respond. This is entirely different.
Responsibility is as set of expectations enforced from the outside. It’s a law or code of behavior and often used to define a good person and communicate shame for poor performance.
But a response arises from within. It is dynamic and relational. A responsive person may or may not give, but a responsible person is supposed to give. Because of who we are as human beings indwelt by Jesus (John 14:20), we have an ability to respond, not a responsibility. This has massive implications and is implicitly an invitation to adventures in living.
Remember that today. Your call is not a responsibility. It is your willing and joyful response.
The Eve press tour continues, with plenty of opportunities to stop by for a handshake or a hug in the coming weeks. Also, if you haven’t, you purchase Eve here: http://wmpaulyoung.com/eve-book/. If you’ve already purchased it, please stop by the Amazon page to let us know what you thought!