Friday, February 22, 2008

Laughing at life preservers.

Yesterday, someone posted a great comment on a post I had written about the need for accountability partners. They suggested I check out a post another writer had written. I did and responded with a really long winded reaction.

The post I was pointed to basically said that there is a right way and a wrong way to do accountability. Here, is the summary or conclusion this author proposed:

So if your Accountability Group is about this Gospel, God bless you. Such groups can make good use of honest confession, to proclaim and demonstrate mercy toward one another. But if your AG preaches another Gospel, if it uses the fear of man or pride as motivation to try stop the indulgences of the flesh, watch out, because you’ve warped God’s beautiful message of salvation and sanctification by the grace of Jesus Christ.

I liked the post. It was well written, well thought out and generally a really encouraging piece of writing. And I agree that pride or fear of man is not a long term solution to sobriety or holiness. The challenge I had with it though is that I feel like it attempted to qualify accountability groups. It established a qualification for what a good or healthy accountability group is and what a bad accountability group is. In part of my long winded response, I addressed my chief problem with qualifications:

In my favorite bible example, what motivated the prodigal son to come home? Was it, as your friend said, "the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. It’s freedom from the penalty and power of sin." No, he came home because there was a famine and he hit rock bottom. You could even argue that he knew he was better than pigs, a moment of pride, and knew that even his father's servants got better food. When he did get there, did the father ask him to qualify his motivations? Did the father say, "where you motivated by the fear of man or pride when you came home because if you were, it doesn't count." No, a thousand times no. The father spurns qualifications. The father sees two things, lost and found, dead and alive. I think he is the same about sobriety. He doesn't qualify the means, he focuses on the state, sober or drunk, clean or using.

I realized last night that when seen from another angle, the idea of qualifying accountability or methods of staying sober or pursuing holiness is pretty silly. Think about it this way. You're stranded in the ocean. You're drowning and suddenly you find a life preserver. Now, would you refuse that life preserver if you knew it would only hold you for a few days and not serve as a good long term rescue plan? No, you'd cling to it as hard as you can, understanding that at least for the moment, you had found safety.

Such is my thought about the fear of man and pride. If I am afraid of talking to my accountability partner about acting out with porn and that helps prevent me from doing that on a Saturday night, is that a bad thing? Would God ever say to me, "I am proud of you for not failing, but I don't like you're motivation." I don't think so, because I think all I have done in the moment is grab on to what was available. Instead of saying, "this is not a good long term fix, I will just wait in the ocean until my motivation is better," I would have grabbed onto the life preserver and lived to see another day.

What I do share with that author is a belief that anything outside of the life transforming love of Christ is going to sink you. But I strongly disagree that God doesn't want us to cling to the life preservers he throws our way as he slowly teaches us to engage in long term holiness.


Michael said...

Thanks for taking the time to respond to my comment so well. You rock. I agree with you in most all of what you said. I can't really say I don't agree with anything you said, I just feel the need to point out some things. Obviously, to use your life preserver example, we would grab onto the life preserver. I think that the problem comes when we start to think that the life preserver is going to be the only thing we need to be saved. We still need to get pulled into the boat. When it comes to accountability groups, of course they can be useful (I attend one myself), but we always need to make sure we aren't relying on that alone to save us. Because eventually, we will start to let our embarrassment of having sinned overcome our commitment to our accountability group. I agree with the author of the other post in that if our entire reason for trying not to sin is because we are afraid of men, then what good does that do? It is not the actions that make a man unclean, but the heart. If our motive for wanting not to sin is because we have been saved, and want to please our savior, then accountability groups are definitely helpful. I guess the thing that I'm getting at is, you can't say whether any particular accountability group is "doing it wrong" but you can search your own heart, and determine whether you fear God, or man. Hopefully I make sense.

Becca said...

Good thoughts.
I'd have to agree with you.