Stepping up to the plate – or maybe not?

It would be a relatively long list if I were to post all the scriptures related to accountability and discipleship.  These aspects of the Christian life are well documented both in scripture and in good fruitful practices over the centuries.  If I polled almost any Christian audience there would most likely be near 100% agreement that discipleship and accountability is a vital part of the Christian walk.  But as we know, polls do not always give the real story of what is happening in real life.

Gal. 6:1-5 is a good representative verse on accountability as it instructs both the correction, to do it in a gentle way and the caution to watch your own heart.  Some will say we should just MYOB and in some cases that is true.  But there are also the exhortations in Ezekiel 3 and 33 that if we do not warn those who are in error, then we will be judged guilty of the same sin – pretty sobering stuff.

I have been on both the giving and receiving end of confrontation as both Barbie and I have walked in a lot of discipleship and accountability in our lives and it has served us well.  We know lots of people who, like us, embrace both sides of this discussion as vital growth tools in our journey with Christ.  Thank you to all of you who have spoken into our lives over the decades – you know who you are.

But this blog is about some who, although they would say they embrace accountability, reject it when discipleship changes from softball to hardball.  In the past I have confronted or been confronted many times with mostly positive outcomes.  But there are a few occasions in recent years in which correction was not so well received.  Mind you those instances involved long serving Christians, some of our best friends and even family.  Sin is easy, I do it every day, it’s the repenting and turning part where things get sticky.  It’s the part where you step up to the plate and allow those hardball challenges to be brought.  I played baseball as a teen and I will be the first to admit that one of those high and inside pitches will make you want to shy away from the batter’s box, but it’s only by stepping up to the plate and taking the risk where victory becomes possible.

Because of our modern electronic age of communication, there is a whole new world out there where someone can communicate rejection of accountability by simply un-friending you on facebook, blocking your emails or phone calls (yes, there’s an app for that) or simply shutting off all communication if you live in another city or state.  This is what we have experience several time in recent years.  Often conflicts arise out of general or non-specific accusations like “you’re so mean”, “all you do is criticize”, “you’re just lazy” or similar broad stroke comments.  But when dealing with relationships and reconciliation specifics are very important.  I’m particularly appreciative to specifics as I rarely intend to offend and when confronted with how my tone, body language or a particular word I used was inflammatory it helps me grow and edit my communication in the future.

In many of the “not good outcome” situations in recent years it was the lack of specifics in the confrontation or the request for specifics that caused the fallout.  Again an example from baseball might be appropriate.  There is a strike zone for a reason.  If a pitcher throws wild pitches (generic and not specific accusations) there is increased chance of injury and little chance for strikes or home-runs.  The more accurate the pitch, as long as you are not targeting to injure (in which case the recipient gets a pass/free walk),  the better the opportunity for either side to benefit from the competition.

The Christian life and walk is of course not a competition and that is where the baseball analogy breaks down because confronting can become an “I win – you lose” event.  If that occurs, then both parties lose and the potential good gets lost in the conflict.  So we come back to the example verse I gave from Gal. 6

1 Brothers and sisters, if a person gets trapped by wrongdoing, those of you who are spiritual should help that person turn away from doing wrong. Do it in a gentle way. At the same time watch yourself so that you also are not tempted. 2 Help carry each other’s burdens. In this way you will follow Christ’s teachings. 3 So if any one of you thinks you’re important when you’re really not, you’re only fooling yourself. 4 Each of you must examine your own actions. Then you can be proud of your own accomplishments without comparing yourself to others. 5 Assume your own responsibility.

I will end with this exhortation from Phil 2:

1 So then, as Christians, do you have any encouragement? Do you have any comfort from love? Do you have any spiritual relationships? Do you have any sympathy and compassion? 2 Then fill me with joy by having the same attitude and the same love, living in harmony, and keeping one purpose in mind. 3 Don’t act out of selfish ambition or be conceited. Instead, humbly think of others as being better than yourselves. 4 Don’t be concerned only about your own interests, but also be concerned about the interests of others. 5 Have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. 6 Although he was in the form of God and equal with God, he did not take advantage of this equality. 7 Instead, he emptied himself by taking on the form of a servant, by becoming like other humans, by having a human appearance.

Land for Peace?

One of the commonly encouraged tools for peace in the Israeli/Arab conflict is the concept of giving up land for peace.  I lived in Israel during the season in the late 70’s when the Sinai was given up in hopes of delivering secure borders to all Israel.  This was followed by a year or so in the northern part of Israel in the early 80’s where the farming community Barbie and I were living on was shelled regularly by Islamic extremist from Lebanon.  So in the end, that land for peace trade did not go so well.  Later, in 2005, 21 Israeli settlements were given up in the southwestern part of the country near the Gaza strip in hopes of adding good will to the dwindling peace talks.  I do not need to list here the attacks initiated by a Islamic extremist in the Gaza strip and the expected retaliation by Israel leading to 100’s of deaths on both sides.

Move this concept into the international community’s efforts to appease the anger of Islam for everything from cartoons and documentaries to capitalism and “loose living”.  These efforts come in the “nobel” form of encouraging understanding and acceptance.  These efforts go so far as to eliminate Judeo/Christian holidays from being listed on calendars, allowing the construction of a mosque at Ground Zero, allowing Sharia based laws to be practiced in various communities across Europe and North America and winking at horrible injustices, massacres, kidnappings around the globe unless American interest (read oil) is at risk.

Believe it or not, this blog is not political but a spiritual challenge to us all.  This same idea of “land for peace” is growing by leaps and bounds in the very walls of the church as it tries to keep current attendees, attract new ones, appeal to the pop culture masses and appease the growing moral and social shifts taking place at breakneck speeds across the world.  There is a story in Lamentations 2 of a time when Zion is in disrepair and Israel in rebellion.  It was a time when the prophets only paint pretty pictures of life, failed to expose guilt and sermons were filled with only wishful thinking and encouraging words. What had happened was that Israel embraced teachings and practices that fit in better with the surrounding peoples and gave up the “archaic” standards of the Law of God.  But instead of the surrounding nations being impressed and welcoming of this “giving up land for peace” initiative they became even more mocking of Israel saying things like “didn’t this used to be the prettiest city and the joy of the whole earth”.

They knew Israel had “thrown in the towel” (compromised) of morality and were trying to fit in with all the other “neighborhoods” in the area.  Compromise is often honored in contract negotiations, but not so much when ceding good land for bad results.  I’m sure the Amish and Mennonites have their issues, but you rarely hear any complaints against their very conservative practices because they simply don’t seem to bend on their convictions.  Billy Graham is one of the most revered men in the world because he never wavered on the doctrine of sin in his sermons, lived a modest lifestyle and was never found in a morally compromising position.

But many modern day ministries have rock star style personalities, lifestyles, worship performances and advertisements which are often indistinguishable from those you might see in Hollywood or a paid concert.  You see, although the world probably doesn’t sit around reading the bible, they know enough to know that Jesus led a modest and humble lifestyle and actually ran away from the spot light.  Then they see some of the religious personalities and practices today of extravagance in living, dressing, preaching and traveling and they (rightly so) cry foul.

Jesus is the only answer for peace in the Middle East, the global Islamic extremist threat and to embody the time tested benifits of God’s law, humility and never changing standards for His people and leaders.  Go everyday into the harvest field with the unchanging Gospel of Salvation.