A drunk driver careening down the highway is a threat to not only himself but everyone else in his path. He is jeopardizing his life as well as the lives of any others who, by chance, are on the road. Drunk drivers are responsible for many of the accidents, injuries and deaths that occur daily on the highways. Because of the actions of drunk drivers, families suffer, with parents or children being killed or maimed. Numerous lives may be wantonly affected by the selfish, foolish actions of one individual. This type of driver grossly violates God's commandment to "love your neighbor as yourself' (Matt. 22:39). And yet, however apparent it is to others, it may not occur to the drunk driver that he is taking action that can affect someone other than himself. The drunk driver may even survive one accident only to cause the same kind of distress to other unsuspecting drivers and passengers or pedestrians. It all boils down to a question of responsibility.
Our spiritual responsibility
Most of us who study the Bible know that God "desires all men to be saved" (I Tim. 2:4). We also understand that God was willing to sacrifice His only Son, Jesus Christ, so that salvation could be offered. We know that God now calls some to repentance and gives them His Holy Spirit. To teach those people He has chosen, God uses a called ministry. The minister and the congregation together form the Church through whom God is working out His holy purpose. But what spiritual responsibility does each Church member have in the salvation of others? Christ related that no one can come to Him unless God the Father draws or calls the person (John 6:44). And we must work out our own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12). But do we really have a responsibility for others? After all, most of us have sufficient difficulty striving to progress spiritually ourselves.
The impact of one's actions
The Old Testament example of Judah and Tamar illustrates how the actions of people really do affect each other, sometimes tragically. Judah was the fourth son of Jacob (Israel) and Leah. Judah apparently did not give a great deal of thought to his choice of a wife; he married the daughter of a certain Canaanite. Three sons were born of this marriage (Gen. 38:1-5). Er, Judah's firstborn, took a wife named Tamar. Er and Tamar had no children because Er was so wicked that God actually took his life (verses 6-7). Judah required that his second son, Onan, marry his dead brother's wife, to perpetuate his brother's name. Onan refused to fulfill his responsibility and would not let Tamar conceive. Onan's actions so displeased God that God slew him, also (verses 8-10). This left only Judah's third and last son to fulfill the responsibility to Er, his deceased brother. But Judah would not require his youngest son, Shelah, to marry Tamar. Tamar was commanded to remain a widow (verse II). In due time, Judah's wife died. Tamar still desired to have a child, but she realized that Judah did not intend to give her as a wife to Shelah, who was by then fully grown. So Tamar concealed her identity and induced Judah to commit sexual sin with her. She did conceive and later bore twins (verses 12-18, 27). In this situation between a father and his daughter-in-law we see several selfish actions that, apparently, the two did not realize they were committing. Judah recognized that he was wrong in withholding his last son from Tamar and forcing her to remain a young widow in his household (verse 26). He was also wrong in consorting with a woman he thought to be a harlot. Either way it was sin. Tamar certainly was wrong in inducing Judah to commit a sexual act with her so that she could conceive. These individuals weren't really aware of the other's needs. Or, to whatever degree they were, they did not exhibit right concern for each other's welfare. Of course, God was not offering these two people spiritual salvation at that time. They committed sins that they will have to repent of before God gives them His Holy Spirit, and they vividly demonstrated their selfish attitudes for all to see. They were not even concerned about one another's welfare or interests in a physical way, much less spiritually or eternally.
Our actions affect others
Perhaps we can see more clearly now how our actions affect others. Virtually everything we do has an impact on other people. In the Garden of Eden, there were only two people. But when Eve believed Satan, it had an impact on Adam. Adam did not have sufficient character or strength to remind Eve that God had forbidden them to take of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Adam sinned. Therefore, the entirety of the human race — all of Adam's offspring — have been condemned to death (I Cor. 15:21-23). Did Adam perceive the impact his wrong decision would have on all humanity? It probably did not enter his mind. We all have a dramatic impact on others. Parents affect their children. Husbands affect their wives and wives their husbands. Neighbor impacts neighbor. No one grows up in a spiritually sterile society. There is the ever present, unseen influence of Satan, as well as the influence of other people, who are either influenced by Satan, or by God through God's Holy Spirit. We do not live in a spiritual vacuum. And all of our relationships are spiritual. We all have impact upon others. When God related the Ten Commandments to Israel, He intended for each Israelite to obey them. This was for the good of each individual. But it was also for the good of the entire nation. The actions of each person had an impact on everyone else. This is as true today as it was then. Whether we heed the commandment "You shall not kill" or hate and harm other people, it directly affects our salvation. When Cain slew his brother Abel, it had a direct bearing upon both. Abel no longer had life. Cain's problems were compounded and the murder had a personal impact on him. The same is true of every act or deed we commit! How we live directly affects our relationship with either God or man, and usually both. This is why Christ summarized our activities toward one another by commanding us to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matt. 22:39). Later, God inspired Paul to elaborate on this principle, instructing us to "bear one another's burdens" (Gal. 6:2). "Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others" (Phil. 2:4). We must always consider how our deeds affect others. To express our love to God and neighbor, we must identify with God's purpose for human life. God's whole purpose, as true Christians know, is to reproduce Himself. (For more information, request our free booklet Your Awesome Future — How Religion Deceives You by writing to our mailing address nearest you.) To fulfill our purpose in this life, we must each build godly character, and we must love our neighbor enough to assist him in the same pursuit. Our actions must always reflect an understanding of this precious truth. God is not just saving us, but seeks to save all mankind. And keeping His commandments affects our personal salvation as well as the salvation of others, just as Judah's actions affected both his and Tamar's entire physical lives. Just as Adam's and Eve's actions affected both Adam and Eve. Just as Cain's actions affected Abel. What each of us does as a true Christian affects not only our spiritual lives but the spiritual lives of others. Do we see the spiritual impact and responsibility that we have?
Conducting ourselves in a godly way
All of our desires, goals and purposes must be fulfilled in obedience to God's law, for this is the only way we can both enhance our spiritual lives and the spiritual welfare of others. It is a gross mistake and a spiritual sin not to consider each of our actions from this point of view. We must consider what effect our actions have on the salvation of others. God commands us to owe no one anything — to wrongly desire nothing of anyone — to love one another. He who loves another fulfills the law. Love works no ill toward his neighbor (Rom. 13:8-10). Rather, we are to help, assist and strengthen one another to keep God's commandments. We are to provoke one another to love and to good works. We are to assemble ourselves together for this express purpose (Heb. 10:24-25). Yes, we do have a part in the salvation of other people. We cannot convert or change anyone, but our actions and attitudes toward each other can either hinder or help others. What each of us must consider is the impact we have on other people. Do we always consider the salvation of other people in our conduct toward them? The epitome of love is to help others in the spiritual process of becoming sons and daughters born into God's Kingdom. This is the greatest love we can have, for it is godly love.