Friday, January 16, 2009

Accountability (More Thoughts on Faith...)

Warning: I am about to venture out and talk about faith again. I've been thinking about a concept that came up when I first came to the Protestant movement. I grew up Catholic, until my junior year of high school, when I was "born again"-baptized and left the Catholic church. I don't look at it that way now, but that's another entry.
There is a term used highly among evangelicals, accountability. Some Christians involve themselves in small groups, or have a partner to attempt to remain accountable for his/her sins. Engaging in an accountability group means that as a Christian, you want others to call you out on your sins. It's a place you can go and confess, and others confess to you (kinda Catholic, eh?). It's also a place where you put your trust in others to help you determine right from wrong, get guidance, and wisdom, sometimes even discipline. (depending on the group/or partner-no I never knew anyone who got spanked). This accountability that you have, as I understood it is to help you grow deeper in your spiritual walk and submit to God doing what is right. You know, narrow is the road-much easier to stay on if people help you. I am not going to tear apart this term or concept...I've just been thinking about it. Many times I went to these kind of groups, or even at one point had some partners myself. I wonder though, if this was the beginning of my problem with judging people.
I looked up the definition in Scripture (in context), as well as Webster's that always helps too. Here's what Webster's says: "an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one's actions." The Bible does not use the word accountability, instead it prefers accountable. I've noticed that when I was in those groups I began to feel it my job as a Christian to hold other believers accountable for their actions, be they good friends or perfect strangers with Jesus fish on their cars. I not only had a moral compass, I intended on using mine to guide others toward the Light.
First I want to start with the story of Cain and Abel. Cain and Abel are the sons of Adam and Eve (you can read the whole story at look up Genesis 4). Cain and Abel worked the fields and flocks to provide for their needs, and each gave sacrifices to God from their work. Abel gave God the fat portions from his first born calf, giving God the first and best of what was produced. Cain on the other hand brought some fruit from the soil he harvested. In the story Cain grew angry with God and jealous of his brother, because God favored Abel. God asks Cain why he is so angry and says something very interesting, "If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it."
This is not tough, God is telling Cain-don't be jealous of Abel for doing what is right. I think He is saying this is not a case of favoritism, you reap what you sow. It's just that simple. If you too do what is right, good, just-you will be accepted and feel that same favor. But if you keep slighting and cheating then sin is all you will ever deal with. Sin is a consequence of doing wrong. Not punishment-consequence, the result of an action. But Cain is so upset, the story continues and he murders Abel. Jealous, angry, and irritated with God he kills his own brother. I noticed two things about this story. First Abel was accountable only to God-he was doing what was right, according to God's plan for him. He did not judge his brother, rub it in, or even try to hold Cain accountable. That wasn't his job. The second thing I noticed is Abel wants the same favor his brother has but doesn't want to act as his brother does.
So, all that to get to this...I am not sure that accountability works well, the way I knew it. One can only be accountable to God for him/herself. My actions are not meant to be judged by other Christians. I have hear preachers say about accountability, "You are your brother's keeper." But the truth is you can't be. There is a simple truth in this story, listen to your gut-being a Christian is simple, religion is complicated. Love God and Love your Brother, it's like a gut instinct. (Let me clarify loving God is tough because I don't think we really know Him, apart from some one's interpretation from Him, but I don't think that's what He intended). Do what is right and good. I found, when I started doing what was right and good, I started judging others. Are they doing what I am doing? And if they aren't, why aren't they being punished? Why do they have more blessings than me, I do what is right! I'm accountable. they are no better than me.
Romans says this, "Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God."
What's going on in my spiritual walk...many people want to know. Well I'll tell you, my mouth is being silenced. I am not under the law-I am accountable to God. Thank goodness, a kind, compassionate, fair, sometimes incomprehensible, loving, just God. I am glad it's Him holding the world accountable and not me. Because as many times as I've judged the Almighty, for terrible things that happen here on earth, I know I would not be as gracious and kind to me, as He has. Accountability made me feel like a wretched sinner, not a free, loved human being. I am a sinner, saved by grace-trying not to keep sinning, so sin isn't messing up my life so much.
And the biggest sin that I struggle with as a Christian -JUDGING/COMPARING (same difference in my book). For the record, if I ever made you feel like I was better than you, I am not. If I ever looked down on you, I shouldn't have. If I ever tried to hold you accountable for your actions, I am sorry. I murdered many Abel's in my life, and I am letting the blogging world know-there's hope for even a self-righteous human being like me.


marcia said...

I love what you have to write and miss you preaching the word. Thank God for the blogs, keep them coming

Jim Schoch said...

umm ... i could say i dont miss your preaching ... but i will refrain ... but i do miss u ... hope u and wavy davy can make it to mexican margarita night sunday at r place :)

Tammy said...

back in the late 80s, a pivotal verse for me was 2 Cor 10:12: "comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise. "

it changed all sorts of things about the relationships i had with others.