Personal evangelism. Personal devotions. Personal relationship with Christ. There is a lot about our journey as followers of Christ that is very personal. And maybe that’s part of the problem. Maybe all this time focusing on the “personal” side of our faith, (and lately the blogosphere has been on fire responding to people’s pursuit of their personal faith), has enabled us to justify or hide our “personal sin”.
Unfortunately, the effects of our sin are never just personal. Ask the child in your ministry whose mom had the affair. Ask the student in your ministry whose youth pastor was released for his addiction to porn.
We live in a culture that highly values the rights of the individual. And we should. As individuals we are made in the image of God. The creator has declared that we are fearfully and wonderfully made…as individuals. However, I wonder if our emphasis on the rights of the individual, has hindered our biblical call to function as a biblical community, especially when it comes to accountability. Our culture has suckered us into believing that our lives are our own, that we can do whatever we want…especially if it doesn’t affect those around us.
The problem is it always affects those around us. We are not autonomous. We do not belong to ourselves.
First and foremost, we belong to God. He created us. He bought us.
Secondly, we belong to each other.
Romans 12:4-5 says, “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”
Did you see that? We are members “one of another”. We belong to each other. We are not autonomous. This means at least 2 things…
1. We are accountable to each other. When I say, “don’t judge me”, what I should mean is “don’t condemn me”, but what I often mean is “don’t confront me” or “don’t question me”, “don’t hold me accountable”. But when I realize that I actually belong to you, instead of becoming defensive, I should become inviting. I need people to speak into my life. I am so “used to being me” that it is really hard to get an objective perspective on who “me” really is. I need others to help me become the “me” God has created “me” to become.
2. We are responsible for each other. As the body of Christ, we actually have a responsibility to lovingly journey with and challenge one another, in particular when it comes to the issue of “personal sin”. Galatians 6:1-3 makes this crystal clear,
“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
My friends, we are not wired to journey alone. When life is just about “Jesus and me”, our Jesus often tends to look a lot like “me”, instead of me becoming a lot like Jesus. We desperately need each other to journey together. We need community. We need to be community.
Unfortunately, for many of us the only church community we have experienced when it comes to accountability is a destructive church community. So what do we need to do to do to be constructive, instead of destructive, when it comes to accountability within the body of Christ? Let me give you five thoughts…or let’s let Paul give us five thoughts from Galatians 6.
1. We need to be spiritual…not “holier than thou”, spiritual. Being spiritual means, we need to be bearing spiritual fruit…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness gentleness, and self control. Who wouldn’t want to be held accountable by someone whose life looked like that?Key Question: Before you confront someone else, confront yourself. Are you becoming someone that reflects the character of Christ?
2. Our goal is to restore, not condemn. The only “win” when it comes to confrontation, is restoration. As followers of Christ, we don’t win when we “humiliate people”, we don’t win when we “put people in their place”…unless their “place” is a place of restoration.Key question: Are you “for” the person you are confronting, or “against” them?
3. We need to be gentle. Gentle people are people that get it. They understand, they empathize and they sympathize. They make you feel like you are not alone; like you are not crazy.Key Question: Are you first trying to understand before being understood?
4. We need to be humble. Confronting someone does not make you better than them. And if you think it does, you are already worse because your sin is pride, and pride is the foundation of all sin.Key Question: Are you confronting with a realization that one day you may need that same person to confront you?
5. We need to persevere. This is the hardest for me (they are all hard, but I seem to most obviously fail at this one the most). Paul does not allow for “drive by shootings” when it comes to accountability. He calls us to more than a moment, he calls us to a journey. Restoration is a process that takes our time and our energy.
Key Question: Are you ready to commit to the journey?
My friends, we need the church. Our students need the church. We are not our own, we belong to one another. It’s time we acted like it.
Sid Koop is Director and Founder of Truth Matters Ministries and is actively involved in youth ministry across Canada.