January 29, 2013 by Chris French
I subtitled this post, “The ‘A’ Word” because we treat accountability like it’s a dirty word. When I’m trying to make everyone around me holy though I’ve got to hold them accountable. Again, I can’t make their decisions for them so I’ve got to look at what I can do. When I see sin in their life I can hold them accountable. That’s something I can do to make them holy.
In Proverbs 27.6 the wise man says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” How can a hurt caused by a friend be good for you? If they’re holding you accountable it will most likely hurt you…but it’s in your best interest! Look around at your friends. Do you see sin in their lives? “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” – Galatians 6.1
Before you try to hold others accountable you need to:
1. Make sure you’re right with God before you try to help someone else out of their sin. Again, see Matthew 7.1-5. It’s next to impossible to help someone out of quicksand if you’re in it yourself.
2. When you go to that friend of yours you should go to them gently. Sin is corrosive and not just to the person sinning, but to the people around them too, so this person’s sin has probably hurt you. Don’t go to them angry. Take time to cool off yourself and get your emotions in check. You should handle them with kid gloves. Remember how careful you were the last time you picked up a newborn? Use that same caution as you go to them. To understand more about gentleness you may find this post helpful.
3. Watch your own life like a hawk so you don’t fall into sin yourself. When we’re trying to hold others accountable it’s easy to feel very close to God. We are close to Him, because we’re doing something that’s very close to His heart: bringing the lost back to Him. Because of that sense of security we may let our guard down. Make sure you don’t make that mistake. Review your life like a homicide detective reviewing his latest case file. Look for pride, laziness, greed or anger. None of those things are going to do you any good in your quest to make the people around you holy.
4. Learn the lesson from Joshua 22.10-18. I love the Old Testament. It’s so rich in history and much-needed lessons, so let me try to “quickly” set the scene for you here.
When Israel entered Canaan people were already living there. They were well armed, supplied and fortified, but Israel was going to kick them out of their own land. Before they ever started though God told all 12 tribes that they should stay together even after the land given to that particular tribe had been conquered. For example, Reuben, Gad and Manasseh had land on the Eastern shore of the Jordan River, the shore opposite of Jericho. Their land was conquered first, but this didn’t mean that they could leave the army and start working their new farms. They had to continue with the rest of the army until the whole land was conquered. Now, finally Canaan has been conquered and it’s time for everyone to return to their own lands. Some times passes and the three tribes on the opposite side of the Jordan from Jericho build an altar. The other tribes on the other side of the River see it and they get the army back together to attack these three tribes. They’ve offended God with their altar and the other tribes mean to either disassemble the alter or kill their cousins, or maybe both. They’ve already been thru this once. Back at Shittim Israel started worshipping a false god named Baal of Peor and Yahweh killed 24,000 Israelites. It looks like He would have killed many more had Phinehas’ righteous rage not quelled His anger. Go back and read that story in Numbers 25.1-9. Anyhow, Israel remembers that event and the other tribes are determined to remain faithful to God and not allow anything like the Shittim incident happen again in their lifetime even if it did mean killing their own cousins.
Before the army goes in and starts randomly killing the Eastern tribes Phinehas, yep the same one from the Numbers 25 event, and the 10 leaders from the other 10 tribes go in to talk with them. I love what they say to them! I’m going to paraphrase:
Phinehas: “Why have you guys slapped God in the face by
worshipping this false god your altar is for? Don’t you
remember what He did at Shittim when some were worshipping
Baal of Peor? Now He’s going to kill us all! Maybe it’s that you guys are
too far away from the rest of us so why don’t you guys come over
to our side of the Jordan. We’ve already talked it over and we’ve
already split our land with you. Just please don’t start worshipping
some other god! You remember what happened to Achan when he
took the things that were devoted to God? You’re going to cause that
to happen to our entire nation! Please stop!”
Reuben, God and Manasseh’s tribes: “WHOA! If we disrespected
God go ahead and kill us right now! We didn’t build this altar to worship
with it. We built it so that 200 years from now your grandchildren would
remember that we are a part of God’s people too! We built it to remind
them! We’re far enough away from you guys that we thought the future
generations might mistake us for enemies and try to kill us so we built
this alter so they would remember for all time that we were all family,
even though the Jordan separates us.”
Phinehas: “Wow! That’s a relief! Let’s go home!”
Did you notice how Phinehas approached the brothers he thought were doing wrong? With kid gloves right? He was willing to divide up his land as long as it meant that these tribes didn’t offend God. I love the humility that he takes with him as he comes to hold them accountable! He doesn’t mince words and is very clear about what must happen, but his gentleness is inspiring. Go back and read what Phinehas says in Joshua 22.31. You can almost hear him exhale. He’s so thankful that he doesn’t have to hurt these people! Often when we hold people accountable we wouldn’t mind if they hurt a little bit.
Something else we can learn from Phinehas is that sin should drive me to action. Phinehas was mad that they had broken faith with God because it could very well effect him too! The action that sin should drive you to is accountability. We need to hold each other up to God’s standard and when I fall short of it your job is to remind me of the standard and help me meet it. Remember Phinehas’ offer to split up his land with the 3 tribes? Accountability isn’t a dirty word. We need to stop treating it like one. Accountability is something that will make us more holy. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend…”