This is the fourth of seven in a countdown for 2015 commitments.
As followers of Christ, we promise ourselves to stop trying to be better and start being different.
The first three commitments are:
Commitment 7: Don’t get so easily offended
Commitment 6: Don’t be so offensive
Commitment 5: Get Equipped
Read the brief descriptions in the three posts below to review or catch up. Each commitment is intended to help guide our choices as followers of Christ to be different. We are all tired of just trying to get better and do more. We live our Christian lives either by sin management or responding to guilt when it gets overwhelming.
But our Lord’s complete acceptance of us, even with our sin, motivates us to see the world through his eyes and cooperate with his work in our lives and the lives of others.
When we come to Christ, we must be prepared for the full treatment. God is never going to stop working to make our lives into a place where he takes up residence.
Remember: God invaded our planet NOT to make us nicer or better but to make us His own; to be different, not better. Lewis’s analogy is perfect: a better horse can run faster and jump higher than others; a different horse grows wings and flies.
So let’s fly.
Commitment 4: Get Accountable
Not long ago a dating couple at the school asked me to hold them accountable for the physical side of their relationship.
“What does that mean?” I asked them.
“Well,” the guy said. “We want to keep sex out of our relationship until we get married.”
“OK,” I said. “So tell me what you’d like for me to do.”
The guy looked at his sweetheart and then said to me, “We talked about this. Whenever you see us around campus, we want you to ask us if we’ve had any failures in this area.”
I didn’t ask for him to give his definition of failure but I generally understood what he meant. I wasn’t excited about his proposal.
“So, in other words, every time I see you, I’m supposed to ask you how you are dealing with your sexual temptations?”
“Yep,” they both said in unison.
I smiled. “The last thing I want you to do is to cringe every time you see me or, worse, hide if you know I’m around. It would be easier if I just go with you on all of your dates.”
They had no sense of humor (“That’s a little much, don’t you think?”) but what I was getting at was how they misunderstood the biblical concept of what we call accountability. It is not having someone stalk you to check up on your behavior. Accountability is a mutual commitment to grow together in Christ.
At times, there may be specific areas of challenge you want to share with a trusted friend. I told this couple, for example, that I would be happy to help them. I asked them to stop by my office every Monday morning for five minutes to tell me how it was going. They had to take the initiative.
And they did. It became a wonderful time that usually lasted way beyond the five minutes.
I asked them once, “Isn’t this a pain to come by and see me every week?”
They laughed. “No,” she said. “It’s like we are finally free. We are sharing our lives with somebody who really cares for us. Every date we remind ourselves, `We are going to talk to Dr. Brown Monday morning.’”
“Yeah,” the guy said. “That really cools things off.” He laughed.
At least he said I was cool.
Every true follower of Christ is organically connected to all other followers. The Apostle Paul uses the picture of a body, where we are each a different part of the same body. Hands, feet, eyes, nose – each with a different appearance and responsibility.
This is important. Our identity, purpose and function only make sense when connected to the whole. Think of a disembodied hand (or eyeball). What is it? What is it for? How does it work? These are meaningless questions if you don’t refer to the whole body; without it they are useless and lifeless.
“Accountability” is the most natural bodily experience. Mostly, your body strives to take care of itself and avoid harm. If you cut your hand, the rest of your body goes into crisis mode to care for it.
The Body of Christ is the same. We are all very different (God’s idea) but we take care of one another – in everyday living and in a crisis.
Being the Body
So why is this an important commitment? Because it is the most neglected aspect of being a follower of Christ. Social media, entertainment, and the urgency of busy lives are poor replacements for the connectedness that nourishes our relationship with Christ. He intended that we grow together as we grow separately. Read through these passages slowly and catch the spirit of God’s intent:
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).
“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves” (Romans 12:10).
“Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited” (Romans 12:26).
“Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God” (Romans 15:7).
“Encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you” (2 Corinthians 13:11).
“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love” (Galatians 5:13).
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).
“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21).
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
The friends I have who are involved in Alcoholics Anonymous tell me that what gets them through the day is not the teaching but the kinship with those who are walking the same path of struggle. Everyone is to have a sponsor; and everyone sponsors someone else – usually several others. Together they make it, taking it a day at a time.
We are fooling ourselves if we think we need any less. We must have others in our lives, God tells us, to help us take up our cross daily and follow him.
If you do not have this in your life, at least do this:
Make it a priority and start meeting with someone for breakfast or lunch a couple of times a month so that you can talk about your lives, encourage the good and share the burden of the challenges. Find a good book together and read a chapter each time before you meet and talk about it. Pray for one another. If you are struggling in a particular area, don’t put off getting someone else to come alongside you.
I really wish that the young couple had been part of a fellowship where their desire for accountability would have been a natural part of their relationship. I hope they have that now because the need to grow as a part of the Body never goes away.
In our world of despair, the value of this kind of encouragement cannot be measured. The nourishment of the personal and meaningful fellowship with another is life-changing. Let another speak into your life and you build them up as well. Sometimes, God will use that one word from a friend to make all the difference. Be that person.
As Dickens describes in Oliver Twist, “For the rest of his life, Oliver Twist remembers a single word of blessing spoken to him by another child because this word stood out so strikingly from the consistent discouragement around him.”
NEXT: Commitment 3: Get Rid of Agendas