Thursday, August 30, 2012


One of today's watchwords is accountability. It is said we need more of it in Christian church. But is it always, as practiced, a good thing? Scripture does teach that we need to correct each other in love (Galatians 6:1; 2 Thessalonians 3:14,15; Matthew 18:15-20), and there is a place for confessing to and encouraging each other (James 5:16; Hebrews 12:12,13; 10:24,25). But there is also a place for approaching this with care and passing over minor sins (1 Peter 4:8; Proverbs 10:12; 25:8-10). This can prevent all manner of strife and contention (Galatians 5:14,15; Proverbs 25:28; 1 Corinthians 3:3). Now there is an important balance here. We do not want to be like the Corinthians and tolerate all kinds of sin (see 1 Corinthians 5). But we also do not want to be those who sit in judgment on others (James 4:11-12; Romans 14:4; Luke 6:37,38).

I have been an elder for a number of years in two different churches, and I know the difficultly involved in various types of correction. It is something that must be approached cautiously, asking the hard questions. Does this really need to be corrected? How do I approach it to best help the person and have them listen to what I have to say? I have seen it done right, and I have seen it done wrong, and I have failed myself to deal with it in the right way. But it is never something to be approached casually. I have also been involved in situations where I have needed the support of other Christians in dealing with my sins and struggles (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12; Romans 15:1-3; 1 Corinthians 12:25-27). But this requires a relationship of trust built up over time. However, I have known and read of cases where people have used the idea of accountability to criticize people for questionable issues in their life with little show of concern or gentleness, often on the basis of holding people accountable. This can lead to an atmosphere of constant criticism, where people are torn down rather then built up. Now it is clear from Scripture that we are all people in process (Philippians 3:12-16; Romans 7:7-25; 1 Corinthians 4:3-6) and that our sins are forgiven through Christ (Romans 8:31-34; Colossians 2:13,14; John 3:18). This does not mean we should avoid appropriate correction, but we should be careful of trying to force people into our artificial standard of perfection. Rather, we must trust God to work in their lives and change them (2 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 1:6; Ephesians 2:10).

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