A Leader's Responsibility
David (the psalmist) was in a unique position. Because of his role as king, his sins had a profound effect not only on his own life, but on the lives of all who followed him. When he fell, so many others fell with him. There is tremendous pressure for those who lead, and when they fall, they fall hard.
If you are a leader, you know how challenging it can be to be perfect all the time; to be better; to do better; to hold yourself to a high standard. You also know how devastating it can be to fail. You know all too well that your failure affects more than just you. Every action has a ripple effect on those around you.
You know what? That's part of being human. Being human means living in community. Living in community means our words, thoughts, and actions affect others. This is true whether we are leaders or not. Every human has community -- people who fall when we fall, but also who rise when we rise. This means that you are not the only person responsible for the words, thoughts, and actions of others. Yes, what you do affects others. Just like what they do affects you. And what others do affect others.
Yes, we live and act in community. But we are also all only responsible for the things we think, say, and do. We cannot take on the burden of saving everyone, and we cannot be responsible for making others choose wisely. Sure, as a leader you have an influence on others. But they have an influence on you, too. You only need to be responsible for you. Equip them, empower them, and then let them be responsible for themselves. For at the end of the day (and the end of this psalm), it all comes right back to God -- to our relationship with God, our acknowledgment of our behaviors, and the loving grace of a God that forgives and loves.
Narrative Lectionary Text: Psalm 69
Save me, O God,
for the waters have come up to my neck.
I sink in deep mire,
where there is no foothold;
I have come into deep waters,
and the flood sweeps over me.
I am weary with my crying;
my throat is parched.
My eyes grow dim
with waiting for my God.
More in number than the hairs of my head
are those who hate me without cause;
many are those who would destroy me,
my enemies who accuse me falsely.
What I did not steal
must I now restore?
O God, you know my folly;
the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you.
Do not let those who hope in you be put to shame because of me,
O Lord God of hosts;
do not let those who seek you be dishonoured because of me,
O God of Israel.
It is for your sake that I have borne reproach,
that shame has covered my face.
I have become a stranger to my kindred,
an alien to my mother’s children.
It is zeal for your house that has consumed me;
the insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.
When I humbled my soul with fasting,
they insulted me for doing so.
When I made sackcloth my clothing,
I became a byword to them.
I am the subject of gossip for those who sit in the gate,
and the drunkards make songs about me.
But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord.
At an acceptable time, O God,
in the abundance of your steadfast love, answer me.
With your faithful help rescue me
from sinking in the mire;
let me be delivered from my enemies
and from the deep waters.
Do not let the flood sweep over me,
or the deep swallow me up,
or the Pit close its mouth over me.
Answer me, O Lord, for your steadfast love is good;
according to your abundant mercy, turn to me.
Do not hide your face from your servant,
for I am in distress—make haste to answer me.
Draw near to me, redeem me,
set me free because of my enemies.
You know the insults I receive,
and my shame and dishonour;
my foes are all known to you.
Insults have broken my heart,
so that I am in despair.
I looked for pity, but there was none;
and for comforters, but I found none.
They gave me poison for food,
and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.
Let their table be a trap for them,
a snare for their allies.
Let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see,
and make their loins tremble continually.
Pour out your indignation upon them,
and let your burning anger overtake them.
May their camp be a desolation;
let no one live in their tents.
For they persecute those whom you have struck down,
and those whom you have wounded, they attack still more.
Add guilt to their guilt;
may they have no acquittal from you.
Let them be blotted out of the book of the living;
let them not be enrolled among the righteous.
But I am lowly and in pain;
let your salvation, O God, protect me.
I will praise the name of God with a song;
I will magnify him with thanksgiving.
This will please the Lord more than an ox
or a bull with horns and hoofs.
Let the oppressed see it and be glad;
you who seek God, let your hearts revive.
For the Lord hears the needy,
and does not despise his own that are in bonds.
Let heaven and earth praise him,
the seas and everything that moves in them.
For God will save Zion
and rebuild the cities of Judah;
and his servants shall live there and possess it;
the children of his servants shall inherit it,
and those who love his name shall live in it.