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August 28th, 2006 | 2 min read

By Keith E. Buhler

A friend of mine once remarked that a certain paster at the Anaheim Vineyard is a very "responsible" man. I agreed, and thought nothing of it at the time, but later I became puzzled. I want to become more and more "responsible" as time goes on and the process of maturation continues, so I asked myself: Wwhat exactly does it means to call someone responsible? That is, what is true of a "responsible" person that is not true of someone who is more "irresponsible"?

We observe that responsibility, as a word, is a compound of "respond" and "ability,"  which could result in a clever definition of this church leader as one with the ability to respond to his congregations needs, to his fellow men in conversation, etc.

While clever, this is unsatisfactory. So what is it? When I observe the man, I consistantly notice how pleasant he is to be around. His company is enjoyable, it seems, because he is such  a loving man. He does to others what he would want them to do to him. That is, he loves us, his friends and parishoners, as he loves himself. Now here is the clue.

A politician, a pastor, a leader of some kind who finds himself neglecting and in some way slighting those whom he is leading is breaking the great ethical rule of treating others as we want to be treated. Who enjoys being neglected, abused, or slighted?  

Perhaps, then, what sets apart great leaders and the "highly responsible" is not as much their administrative abilities or motivational talent or eloquence, but the self-identification with those over whom they have authority. The responsible man, perhaps, is the one whose internal dialogue, in the quiet of the night, just before bed, consists of a deep conviction that he is not a leader over a church body or a body politic as much as he is the head of the body, inseparably attached and identified with it.

Perhaps as this paster drives to and fro throughout his week, in his mind he affirms, "I am the Anaheim Vineyard congregation, and they are me. We are parts of one body."  So self-identified, obedience to that highest rule of conduct becomes rolled up into the irresistable force of self-love. 

For what person hurts her own body? Even those who indulge in self-mutiliation, such as one of my friends from high school, will tell you that they do bodily harm for the overall emotional or psychological benefit (or perceived benefit). So no one willingly and knowingly harms themselves.

"Do to others what you would have them do to you," might not be an admonition as much as an expression of metaphysical fact. If so, then the irresponsible man is the one who is unaware of this truth, and the responsible, aware.