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.