Care to read over my shoulder again? I received this email this morning. It poses a question I’ve been asked many times when I talk about the way religion seeks to hold people accountable, and how Father never asked us to do that. I love the way this question was asked and thought others of you might be interested in the answer:
Wayne, you say that Christians are not accountable to each other, but that we are each accountable to God. Could you explain what you mean by that? If you’ve already addressed this in a previous podcast or BodyLife article just give me the reference and you can move on to your million other emails.
To understand where I’m coming from, this is what I think of when I hear accountability:
1) James 5:16 Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other. OK, so its hard to find a group today where this is “Safe” but it is the instructions we are given.
2) 1 Cor. 5 talks about “Putting Out” a brother who is guilty of a heinous sin. If you go to a “Sunday Morning Box” I understand this to mean the leadership asks you not to attend. If you are part of the “Boxer Rebellion” I guess you have to decide with whom to break fellowship. Either way it sounds like accountability of the sinner to the brethren.
3) Matt. 18 Instructs us how to deal with someone who sins against us. This also sounds like an accountability issue.
Can you see where I’m coming from? I must be misunderstanding something. Can you explain it to me?
I there there are two ways to interpret the Scriptures you’ve listed, even while embracing the truth in them.
One can confess, “break fellowship” or deal with sins using accountability components of enforced conformity, which is what I grew up with. Or, one can confess, break fellowship, or deal with sins out of a relational love that is ten times more powerful.
Accountability to me is the right to compel action and always forces those in power to manipulate others to their whim and desire. Scripture never use that term between brothers and sisters in the family, only between each of us and God. He’s the one to whom we give an account. We are called to love each other they way we’ve been loved. Love stands along side others with complete honest and affection and can accomplish all those things without the demand for conformity.
I guess the difference is a brother sitting beside you in the car asking you to slow down if you’re driving recklessly, or to let him out if you won’t stop, and a cop behind with red lights and siren. I’m not saying the later can’t be effective, and I’m grateful in a worldly sense that they are there. But by and large cops donâ€™t transform behavior, they only conform it as long as they are present. As soon as they pull off the freeway, all the cars speed up again.
When Scripture tell us to owe no man nothing but simply to love each other, I think he discounts accountability as a means of fellowship. All the Scriptures you mention can easily and authentically be fulfilled by simply loving others around us. To me that means we treat them with affection, while still being honest with them in ways that convey grace. Even the last Scripture you refer to invites us to treat them as tax collectors or sinners, which were people Jesus hung out with. He was able to love those folks, just not let them live in the pretense of having a faith they did not truly follow. So the end was not to banish them from our hearts, but not let them pretend fellowship while we continue to love them.
Having lived this way now for a number of years, I find far more healthy confession, honesty and confrontation go on with compassion and affection than ever happened with accountability models. Those only offered an illusion of self-made religion, without helping the heart be transformed by the power and love of Christ. And it is his love and revelation that transforms people, not “holding each other accountable” to standards that our flesh cannot fulfill.