For the last few months I've been occupied with the ethics of responsibility and their intersection with human rights. See over here. This spawned an article at the Institute for Ethics in Emerging Technologies and some other discussion that crystallized my sense that God calls us to responsibility much more than she give us rights. I talk about this idea in depth at my other blog so I won't repeat it here.
This week's reading are about call. God calls Samuel to speak his word and Jesus calls Nathaniel to follow him. Samuel is given the word of God and Eli instructs him that he must speak that word even it means pain to Eli. This is when Samuel is still a child mind you. God doesn't tell Samuel "You have a right to live as you wish." Rather She gives him responsibility to chastise those who have mistakenly taken that right upon themselves. Samuel's first words from God are directed to Eli who has not taken responsibility for teaching his sons their responsibility as priests of the temple. It is this failure of responsibility that will result in the tragedy of Eli's son's death.
What words does God give us responsibility to speak? Do we watch passively as other abuse their positions and trample on the rights that we have decided belong to every member of the human species? A call from God is a call to responsibility. That is a responsibility for action, but also a responsibility to speak clearly and prophetically. If we are going to claim to belong to God, then we also need to be ready to be open to speak the words and live the life that God gives. As it was with Samuel, the words that we may need to speak will very likely not be words of comfort, but words that chastise and challenge.
If our world is broken and far from God's plan for creation, then we need to speak, and live the hard truths. We as a species are responsible for how we live with each other and with creation. We are called to be prophets. Like Elijah, if we are given words to speak warning and we refuse, we are culpable. On the other hand we are also responsible to bring the words of hope that God give us and speak them to the world. Not as an exclusionary hope for those who believe as we do, but a inclusive hope that says there is a purpose to creation and all of us are part of that purpose whether we understand it or not.
Jesus' call of Nathaniel is around the idea that Nathaniel has no deceit in him. He is truthful. The implication is that being truthful, he will speak the truth. As a witness to Jesus' ministry his words will carry extra weight because he is known to have no deceit in him. Our challenge is to be truthful, not just about the Gospel we share, but about our failure at time to share it well. The more we take responsibility for our failures, the more others will acknowledge the possibility of our success. No one in the scriptures aside from the person of God is perfect, yet we in the church strive to present a face of perfection to the world and thus fail at our real task of pointing the way to reconciliation between God and human.
There is a ministry and an authenticity in failure that can't be achieved by an artificial facade of success. Our responsibility as disciples called by the Christ to witness to the gospel is to witness to God's success in using our failures to bring good into the world. As we allow ourselves to be human, we allow God to be God, and we open ourselves to God working through us to bring hope and love into a broken world.