If you recall from yesterday’s post, I found a Church Discipline guide freshly printed and displayed prominently at the church where my recovery group meetings are held. My initial reactions to the title of the booklet included fear, frustration, anger and confusion, and several questions crossed my mind:
- Why would someone write such a booklet?
- What purpose did this church have in mind when it printed a stack of copies for its congregation to take home?
- If my church disciplined me according to the guidelines in this booklet, how should I respond?
- Does ‘church discipline’ have a place in the post-modern world?
Hoping to find answers to my questions I opened up the Church Discipline booklet today and started reading. I only got to the third paragraph of the pastor’s introduction before I was stopped short with the following statement:
“God has built one principle into His relationship with every person. This principle can be summarized in one word: accountability…The principle of divine accountability lies at the heart of your relationship with God.”
Excuse me? I thought for sure love was at the heart of my relationship with Jesus Christ. I was certain love was the reason God sent His Son to die for us on the cross. I’m sure I read somewhere that the Bible is the story of God passionately pursuing a restored relationship with humanity.
No, I must have misread that…yet there it is: “Accountability lies at the heart of your relationship with God.”
By including this statement in his introductory remarks the pastor is telling us that church discipline is necessary and appropriate because my relationship with Jesus Christ is based upon accountability. If the pastor can convince us accountability is at the center of our relationship with God, his demands for discipline will seem logical. However, if accountability is proved not to lie at the center of our relationship with God, the pastor’s argument for church discipline collapses like a house of cards.
The pastor does not list a single verse of Scripture to support his claim that accountability is at the heart of our relationship with God; instead he uses contextually questionable selections to anecdotally support his claims (1 Cor 6:19-20, Matt 18:19-20). Since he offers no direct support for his claim regarding accountability, I have nothing to respond to. Instead, allow me to offer my counter-argument: I believe love lies at the heart of our relationship with God.
I understand that portions of the Bible speak to the subject of accountability, and I can accept that accountability is a part of my relationship with God…but I cannot accept that accountability is the center of my relationship with Him. Accountability may be a part of love, but there are other pieces that make up love: Grace, forgiveness, gentleness, truth, kindness, faith and humility, to name a few. To say that accountability trumps love, or for that matter grace, is utterly ridiculous.
Here are the Scriptures which I believe prove that love, and not accountability, lies at the heart of our relationship with God. Note that I substituted “accountability” in sub-bullets to show how silly this pastor’s claim sounds when considered in the context of Scripture:
- John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
- Not: “For God so judged the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but be held accountable.”
- 1 John 3:1 “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!”
- Not: “See what great accountability the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!”
- 1 John 3:16 “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.”
- Not: “This is how we know what is right: Jesus Christ holds us accountable. And we ought to hold accountable our brothers and sisters.”
- Colossians 3:13:14 “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”
- Not: “Judge each other and hold one another accountable if any of you has a grievance against someone. Judge as the Lord judged you. And over all these virtues put on accountability, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”
Accountability does not lie at the center of our relationship with God; that spot is reserved for love.
What is your reaction to the claim that accountability lies at the center of your relationship with God?
Do you think the pastor is off to a rocky start in supporting his push for church discipline?