Essay / Blog

The Courage to Speak: Responsibility, Accountability, and Community

So often we talk about being responsible for ourselves. But responsibility is not limited to ourselves alone. Being responsible demands a willingness to speak the truth to others when necessary. 

Consider David when he was at the zenith of his reign as King of Israel. David had fought numerous military battles against Israel’s enemy’s and had come away victorious. He could not have been more popular with the people.

One spring, David sends Israel’s army out to destroy the Ammonites and the city of Rabbah. Oddly, David doesn’t go with his army as he normally does, even though the military threat from the Ammonites is very real. He stays in Jerusalem. It seems a little odd, but as he is the King, no one in the royal household says anything.

The writer of 2 Samuel seemed to think David’s non-combatant status is significant, as he points it out twice in one verse.

In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem. 2 Sam. 11:1 (ESV)

One late afternoon David sees a beautiful woman bathing when he is walking upon his roof. David does not shut his eyes nor leave the rooftop, but infamously allows himself to dwell on what he saw.

David did not send her a Snapchat, Instagram, or text message. He did not “friend” her on Facebook. Even after he was told she was Bathsheba the wife of his “mighty man” Uriah the Hittite, he was not dissuaded. When he decided to invite her to the palace his servants did his bidding.

And  no one in the palace said anything to the King.

David, yielding to temptation, committed adultery. It is pretty easy to guess that the majority of the palace knew of their sin. Everyone in the place knew that adultery was punishable by death.

Yet no one in the palace said anything to the king.

When Bathsheba, unsurprisingly, announced she was pregnant with David’s child, David attempted to lure Uriah back to sleep with his wife to cover up the pregnancy.

Yet no one in the palace said anything to the king.

When Uriah refused to sleep at his own house because the nation and his fellow soldiers were still on the battlefield, David conspired with Joab to have Uriah placed on the front line and have the rest of the soldiers draw back from him, causing Uriah to be murdered by proxy.

Yet no one in the palace, nor any of the soldiers involved in the plot, said anything to the King.

David’s choices not only affected him, but the whole nation. When David committed adultery and subsequently attempted to cover it up by murder, he acted with contempt toward God and his laws. One didn’t need to be a prophet to point this out to David, but God had to intervene for the nation by sending Nathan to confront David because no one else was going to do so. It is an act of God’s grace that he doesn’t let David continue in this sin.

How often do we not talk to people we know about their behavior because we don’t want to be judgmental, or feel it is not our place, or because we don’t want to cause a scene? It is true that we should be judicious regarding when and how we confront others, but if anything we are far too hesitant to act at all.

It is true that we are responsible for our own moral failures, but one’s moral failures can have catastrophic results that often affect not only ourselves, but those around us. Yet so often we watch others within our sphere of influence dive headfirst into a moral wasteland because of our systemic disregard of our communal responsibility to be speakers of the truth to each other.

We need to be willing to speak truthfully to those who are methodically disassembling their lives and the lives of those around them because of their pursuit of vain goods.

Proverbs 14:12 states, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” A readiness to confront with the truth can be an act of grace that leads individuals away from the path of death. We should live in such a way that we are not only willing to confront, but be confronted with the truth. Only then are we truly being responsible.

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