So far in our series, we've explored some of the roles of the church - specifically fellowship, community, personal and spiritual growth, and dealing with conflict. This week we add a new one: Accountability. Most shy away from accountability, but few really understand biblical accountability.
This message is from Galatians 6:1-5. To read now, click here.
I think it’s time to rethink the mission of the local church. It’s more than just attending a service. It’s more than just giving an offering. It’s about connecting with a community to pursue a common goal – Jesus. The church is meant to care for each other, to grow together, and to reach the world together.
That’s why we’ve been looking at this new series, Rethinking the Church. I hope you are thinking with me as we rethink the purposes of the church. To bring you up to speed, the first week we looked at the importance of Fellowship and Community, that church is as much about fellowship and community as it is worship. Worship is important, but worship done right flows out of our being together.
We also talked a little about how worship has become the most important thing in many churches, and how so many people in the church only come together for the worship, but the unity, the fellowship, the real community that can come from being a part of the church family is what should be the most important thing. One of the purposes of the church is to be part of the community of faith.
Last week built on that a little bit by looking at personal and spiritual growth, and dealing with conflict in our lives. And I hope we saw that the best ways to grow and to deal with conflict is in the context of active involvement in the church, and by sharing what we’re going through with others in our community of faith. We can grow and deal with conflict in a healthy way by sharing the troubles in our lives with each other. Because when we do, we’ll find someone who can help us through.
Let me give you a quick example, I remember Mike Fritzen talking about some home repair issues he was having. He found some problems with his deck, and the further he dug into the problems, the more problems he found, and he got the point he thought he would have to totally replace the deck, and that’s something he really didn’t want to have to do. And he felt a little overwhelmed, not knowing how to proceed. Well, he spent some time in prayer asking God to send someone who might be able to help, then he shared the troubles he was finding, and God sent someone who gave a suggestion that he had never thought of.
I want to suggest that this practice holds true with almost any conflict you’re experiencing. Mike went to prayer, asking that God send him someone who could help, then he shared his problem with some others, and sure enough, God sent someone. Some problems are pretty serious – addictions, the loss of a loved one, a serious health diagnosis, the loss of employment – these are serious problems. But I think the solution can be the same. Pray for God to send someone to help you through, and then start sharing the problem with others until God sends someone.
This week we move to a related area that is really important for Christians to grasp, but it’s something we don’t do enough of. It’s accountability. Accountability can be a difficult word, we don’t like that word accountability. We like to get by on our own. We like to be in control. We don’t want help. And we certainly don’t need correction, which is another word often thought of together with accountability. But I want to suggest that accountability isn’t a word that we should fear, we just don’t often see it done right.
Here are a couple of thoughts from our passage this morning that bear with the need for accountability. First, before we even get into this, understand that everyone slips. At one time or another, everyone is going to slip. And that’s what Paul is talking about in our passage – it’s not the big intentional sins it’s the slip. The Greek word translated sin here in verse 1 is paraptoma, and it literally means a slide or slip. It’s a word that could be used to describe slipping on an icy road, or a slipping on a rock while hiking a dangerous path, or slipping on some wet, slippery stairs. We might think we’re doing okay because we do okay with the big sins. But everybody slips from time to time.
In Romans chapter 7, Paul tells us about some of his struggles, and he says that “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. …For I have the desire to do what is good, but cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I don’t want to do – this I keep on doing.” If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ve all been there. You know what God wants you to do, but you keep slipping back to what you know you shouldn’t do. It even happened to Paul, it will surely happen to us. We’re going to slip.
Now to our reading, Paul writes that if we know of someone who has slipped, we should restore them gently. The NIV did a good job with the word restore, some translations use the word correct. But the Greek word can be used to describe repairing something that’s been broken, you’re bringing it back to a previous right. It can also be used to describe a surgeon cutting out a tumor, or a doctor splinting a bone. They are restoring back to good condition. It stresses repair, the idea isn’t about punishment, or discipline, it’s about healing. We tend to want to judge and punish, but the word is about grace, about gently restoring someone. This may take years, but a swift punishment will rarely bring restoration – and God is about saving as many as can be saved. People don’t need our judgment, they need our very subtle and very gentle restoration.
In verse 2, we are told that we are to “Carry each other’s burdens”. In Romans 15:1 he writes this also, “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.” This is the attitude behind the command “Love your neighbor as yourself.” We need to care for each other and lift each other up when we fall, quick to help, not quick to condemn or judge.
We are also warned not to be boastful or to think more of ourselves in this process. We need to keep humble, recognizing that we too could be caught in this sin, we aren’t immune from slipping. We need to let each other know that we won’t reject them because of sin. And we need to be there to help that person back up; we’d want the same if it were us struggling.
And most importantly, we need to be gentle. We aren’t punishing, we’re trying to help in the healing process. Remember the Greek word, and the possible usage in setting a broken bone – with tenderness and care and with a view toward healing.
The Church has been referred to as the household of God. As brothers and sisters in Christ, we are members of the household of God. As brothers and sisters in Christ, we have a mutual responsibility to relate to each other as children of the Father. As members of this household of God, we are also servants of Jesus Christ. And as such, we have a responsibility toward those who have fallen into sin.
Just as we are to help others who are struggling with sin, then we, when we fail, should seek out other believers for help. Find someone to help share your burdens. Talk with someone, seeking help and strength and encouragement. Don’t struggle by yourself. Find another believer to confide in and ask for help.
And if you find yourself struggling, look to the Scriptures for help as well. Here are some verses that might help:
Notice what it doesn’t say, it doesn’t say as long as you don’t do this or that. It doesn’t say unless you did such and such… No matter what you may have done, or what you may be struggling with even now, if you confess your sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive your sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. All unrighteousness. (period).
So, what did we learn this morning? First, we’re all going to slip from time to time. None of us are perfect. But second, one of the roles of the church is to come along people who have slipped to gently help them, to restore them, and to gently bring healing. That’s biblical accountability. God will use you, as part of the church, to do that. That’s part of your responsibility as part of the church, you need to help others find healing.