Monday, August 19, 2013

Accountability, Trees, and Hope for Messed Up People

After I wrote my last post I've been thinking a lot about dynamics within the Christian circle, both judgement and accountability with love. I think most days we scrap the love portion and choose to either overlook the problems of others in an effort to be accepting, or in favor of judgement as all we can see are the mistakes of others.

I'm not a fan of judgement, but at the same time, I question what kind of community would Christianity be without accountability? How could we really help strengthen and encourage each other in our faith if we passively accepted all actions and turned a blind eye to sin? No, there is absolutely a need for accountability in the Christian circle, but it must be done the right way.

Judgement and accountability can sometimes look very similar. In both instances, we have to observe that someone is living in sin. What we do with that observation, how we behave and how we treat people, show if we're doing the judgement thing, or if we're doing accountability with love.

To me accountability looks like offering support, letting someone know you are there for them, to help with anything they need, to pray for them, and to encourage them with affirming words and always Scripture. I think accountability should remove judgement with love. That above all else, no matter what is going on, you are choosing to love the person, rather than reject them. And love itself doesn't look like ignoring the problem, turning a blind eye, or choosing simple acceptance. It looks like being the person who will kindly, lovingly show another person the right way to live. It involves living by example, speaking the truth of Scripture in love, and gently challenging people to live a life worthy of Christ.

I think it helps to remember that people are like trees. The outward appearance and what you can see going on tells you a lot about a tree, or a person. You see its condition, what it is doing, its life. But you cannot forget that there is also the unseen, the root of the tree and the person. People's roots are buried deep within, we like to call it the heart, though it is not a literal heart. It is the center of the person, where all things begin--motives, feelings, the drive to action, the lifeforce. And for all our watching people, all our accountability and confrontation, unless there is work done at the root, or in the heart, there will never be real change.

And that is where we have to let go. Because no matter how hard we try, we'll never be able to reach the root of a person, to work in their heart, to cure whatever is wrong there. That's where the Holy Spirit does his work. Our job is to be like the gardener, watering, tending, nurturing, and to thus work with the Holy Spirit, not to hinder but to help.

And this is why it's a delicate balance between judgement and accountability, between love and pacifism. We are called to love, but we are also called to encourage, admonish, teach and correct. And at the same time we are not in the place to judge because we look at the outward appearance and God looks at the heart.

What I think it comes down to:

1. Attitude: Yours when confronting. If it's not done out of love, you shouldn't do it at all. If you're seeking to control someone, make them do what you want them to do, you might as well scrap the whole thing.

2. Control: You have none. So regardless of how well or how poorly you handle the situation, you have no control over what will happen. All you can control is your own heart, attitude and actions.

3. Limits: Your role is limited. The Holy Spirit is ultimately the one who convicts a person. I can be told by a million Christians that what I'm doing is wrong, but unless the Holy Spirit is convicting me, there probably won't be any change, at least not for the better.

4. Comparisons: Above all, confronting someone is not about comparisons. Nothing in Christianity should be about people comparing themselves to each other. It's a flawed comparison that causes us to measure sins on a scale. "I'm not as bad as he is, I didn't do that!" This mindset causes us to forget that all sin is equally bad in the eyes of God. He can't be around it, no matter what it is. So to say one sin is "worse" than another is ridiculous.

In the end, it's obvious we're all human and imperfect, so we'll never get this whole accountability-over-judgement thing right. It's just another reminder of why we all need Jesus, even when we have Jesus. In fact, I think that's what the history of Christianity and Scripture shows us. No matter what we do or try to do, we always screw up.

But the beauty in that is that God uses messed up people in spite of themselves. He isn't looking for the perfect band of followers. He isn't waiting for Christians to figure their stuff out before using them. Since the beginning of time, God has been using messed up people to accomplish his purposes (see King David, the apostle Peter, Saul who became Paul). And that gives me hope for myself and the rest of us, that God is still using us, imperfections and all.


Pam Manners said...

All so very true. Such a convicting and thought-provoking series of posts about something we all need to be reminded and aware of more often than we think.

Thank you, Elise.

Kacie said...

Good post. I've wrestled with this over the last few years. I never confront, it's not really my strength. But then, when our dearest friends (who we were also in an accountability group with) had their marriage begin to crumble as the husband walked into an affair... well... I really struggled to know what to do, and what was the loving thing to do, how to confront without judgement, etc. We did confront, and offered help and support and understanding. He ended up bluntly saying he was choosing what he knew to be wrong anyways, and walked out of our church, his marriage, cut off our friendship.

Would he look back and say the church was judgmental? I don't know, but it's likely, simply because we fought for his marriage. Were we judgmental? We tried so hard to offer love. I don't know. It's a hard one, still. Still grieves me.

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