You Can’t Do it for Them

You Can’t Do it for Them

But now, if you will forgive their sin—but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written. Exodus 32:32

When I first began practicing addiction medicine, I knew that relapse was a common occurrence. Still, for the first several months, it seemed as if I helped no one. All my patients were failing. I felt like a failure myself, questioning my own abilities. I’d gotten into addiction medicine knowing I couldn’t save others, but I expected to help some of my patients find recovery. Honestly, it hurt, watching the self-destruction of my patients. I remember the misery of own addiction and I know the joy of recovery, so it pained me to watch others continually fail. As much I was willing to do to help my patients find recovery though, I never had this thought – I would give up my own recovery if that meant my patients could find it. As much as I cared about my patients, I’ve never found myself wanting to trade places.

That kind of love is extreme – and probably misguided – but it’s the kind of love that Moses had for his people. In today’s passage, Moses implored God to forgive the Israelites for their worship of a golden calf idol. If God, in his wrath, planned to remove the Israelites from his plan, then Moses asked to be obliterated as well. Moses loved his people so much, that he was willing to die with them. Moses though, was innocent and hoped that God would relent from his anger. The passage didn’t say how God felt about Moses’ offer, but I think he was pleased, even if he found the idea absurd. In response, God promised he’d only destroy those responsible.

Moses had the heart of a parent. He loved his children and though he was grieved by their sin, he was also willing to take their punishment. God however, showed Moses that he couldn’t take their place – as Christ would one day do. Moses was responsible to obey God and lead his people in the right direction, but he wasn’t responsible for their choices.

Though we too, may be responsible for sharing God’s truth and love with others, we can’t have faith or recover for anyone else. This, of course, becomes a more painful reality the closer we are to the one struggling. When it’s our children, we love them so much that we’d take their place if we could. We can’t though, because we’re not Jesus. All we can do is live rightly, follow God, and show others the love and truth he’s shown us. Then, we must allow them to make their own choices, praying for them, and asking for God’s will in their lives. We can’t do it for them.

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