I’m Not Judging You; I’m “Holding You Accountable,” Just Like the Good Book Says (Or Does It? Spiritual Abuse, Part 2)

OK, where was I? Ah, yes.

I ended yesterday’s blog post by making this rather novel assertion:

This whole, entire “judging” thing finds its justification in one insidious, all-too-common, non-biblical phrase: “holding others accountable.”

Ouch! OK, so what gives here?

Well, let me first make one thing crystal clear. We are not talking here about you or me going to a trusted friend or loved one — someone we respect, someone who has earned the privilege, someone we are absolutely certain loves and cares deeply about us — and asking him or her to hold us accountable. THAT is, of course, perfectly appropriate. Someone who holds us accountable by our invitation.

The focus of this blog post are those who appoint themselves as those who hold us accountable, not by our invitation, but by their instigation. People who believe that it is their God-given, biblical mandate to scrutinize our lives, put us under their magnifying glasses, and call us to account whenever they see something that doesn’t look quite kosher to them. Oi Vey!!!

Accountability-photo4Did you know that the word “accountable” appears a grand total of (Are you ready?) three times in the New Testament. Only three times.

I will now share with you each of these three occurrences. As I do, you tell me if you can get from any of this trio of occurrences the faulty, deadly, prideful notion that we have biblical mandate to hold anyone accountable.

Romans 3:19 (NIV), 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.

Who holds people accountable? Say it with me: God!

Hebrews 4:13(NLT), Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked&exposed before His eyes, and He is the one to whom we are accountable.

Who is the one to whom we are accountable? Say it with me: God!

Hebrews 13:17 (NLT), Obey your spiritual leaders, and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this with joy and not with sorrow.

Leaders, watch over the people. Is that not a clear mandate for pastors to hold their people accountable? Hang on to that thought. But first, according to Hebrews 13:17, to whom are your spiritual leaders (AKA pastors) accountable? Say it with me: God!

And yet, how ironic that the writer specifically tells the people to let their pastors do their work with joy and not sorrow. Sorrow caused by whom? I hear it from pastors every single week. Sorrow caused by church members who set themselves up as self-appointed judges, krinos, to hold their leaders accountable, making their ministries a living Hell in the process.

For sake of pastors everywhere, of whom 1700/month left the ministry last year (Note I said not “their ministries,” as if they went from one to another; they left “the ministry!”), #This.Has.Got.To.Stop!

God holds pastors accountable, not church members. If someone reading this blog post cannot abide by their pastor, QUIETLY leave the church. Do NOT take anyone with you. And for crying out loud, when you leave the church (Notice I said “the” church, not “your” church. It’s NOT your church; it’s Christ’s church), when you leave the church, leave your pastor alone. IOW, quit criticizing him, either to his face or to someone else’s face.

On the other hand, pastors, who holds church members accountable? Say it withe me: God! God does! Not us.

As pastors, we dare not abuse our spiritual calling by abusing the people we are called upon to serve, excusing the abusing as “holding them accountable.”

Don’t take my word for it; take Pastor Peter’s word for it:

1 Peter 5, As a fellow elder, I appeal to you to care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it…

(Ah Ha! some pastors will gleefully read. Watching over the flock. There it is. “Holding them accountable!” Really? Really?

Question, Reverend Petros. How does a pastor watch over the flock? Verse 3: 

Don’t lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example.

BTW, Who does the assigning? God does. They are not your people! They are God’s people. Paid for not by your shed blood, but paid for by the shed blood of His Son!

What does a faithful pastor do? Every week we show up to teach the next passage, and allow the clear teaching of God’s Word to do what 2 Timothy 3:16 says it will do:

All of Scripture useful for teaching and helping people and for correcting them and showing them how to live.

Then add to that, we lead these precious people by example, not by “lording it over” anyone. Which means what, exactly? Great question.

“Lording it over” someone means exactly what it sounds like it means: We are not their lords. We are not God sitting in judgment over them.

Pastors feed the flock and lead by example. Pastors do not lead as self-appointed lords over the people. Pastors are not krinos; we are not the peoples’ judges. I mean, you want to talk about spiritual pride? Who do we think we are?

As a practical matter, you tell me what’s more effective? For someone to be held accountable by a self-appointed krino named Pastor Dewey? (Though I do prefer Bishop. Don’t judge me. That was a joke!) Or for someone to be held accountable by an all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful God?

What in name of Christ have we done to His people?

OK! Look! I know, I know. Somebody reading this post will now commence to shouting, “But what about Matthew 18? What about Matthew 18?” You know Matthew 18, the go-to passage to justify our judging each other within the cozy confines of the church? Well, I’ll address that subject in this blog post tomorrow.

But just in case you can’t wait until tomorrow, you can hear the entire discussion by clicking on this nifty little podcast player.

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