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I generally stay away from ultra-controversial issues on my blog, maybe more so than I should. I’m more than willing to debate an issue in person, but the idea of posting something controversial over the internet to people I do not know and who do not know me and cannot read my facial expressions as I write makes me nervous. There’s just so much room for error and misinterpretation, and I really don’t see the point in opening that door. However, two weeks ago I decided to break my own tradition and venture out with a post called, “Why I Don’t Clap for Sacred Music”. Actually, I really didn’t think it would be as controversial as it was, but unfortunately my worst fears were realized and I apparently didn’t explain myself as clearly as I thought I did because quite a few people misunderstood where I was trying to go with the article and totally missed the general point I was trying to make. I went back and did some editing and clarifying to make my position more easily understandable, so if you read that article and were offended or confused, please go back and read my changes to it.
I say all that to say that I noticed an unfortunate theme in some of the comments I got back on that post (especially when I shared it on Facebook): having a different, conservative viewpoint on something is considered judgemental and offensive to some people. That is sad. Brotherhood accountability is no longer common in our churches. Individualism rules.
People who practice brotherhood accountability are often unfairly labeled as being judgmental. I definitely realize that I can be too harsh and judgmental in my attitudes, and that is something that I am working on. However, sharing a differing belief on something does not automatically make me (or anyone) judgmental! I think there is a side to that story that is often overlooked: at some point, sin is sin, and if something is against the nature of God, it is sin and needs to be called sin. Calling sin what it is does not make someone judgmental! Yes, it is easy to let a judgmental attitude creep in, but it is totally possible to stand up for what is right without being judgmental!
These days it seems that if anyone approaches anyone about anything he or she disagrees with, the person doing the approaching is judgemental. I don’t see how exhorting each other to grow in the truth and pursue excellence in our walks with God can be seen as judgemental if done with a heart of love! Brotherhood accountability is so important to God. Let’s take a look at what Scripture says about it:
One of the most powerful Scriptures regarding brotherhood accountability is 1 Corinthians 8.
Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth. And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know. But if any man love God, the same is known of him. As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one. For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him. Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled. But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse. But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak. For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols; And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ. Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.
Paul used eating meat offered to idols, apparently a point of contention in the churches of his day, as an example to teach us how we should relate to the people around us. He starts out with an admonition to love God (and thus those around us) and a reminder not to be proud. He then lays out some important principles in dealing with a point of controversy which he sums up with a “wherefore” statement in the last verse of the chapter: “Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.” Paul is basically saying that even though he has no problem with eating meat offered to idols because he knows idols are of no effect, he would abstain from eating meat altogether if it offended his Christian brother’s conscience. Whoa…that’s a bit of a different sentiment from the “you do your thing and I’ll do mine” attitude toward church and Christianity that we see in so many churches today!
One Scripture often brought up in defense of the whole “don’t judge” idea is Matthew 7:
Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.
I think the first verse of Matthew 7 is often misinterpreted. My Bible has some great study helps in it and offers this commentary, “Jesus’ statement ‘Judge not’ is against the kind of hypercritical, judgemental attitude that tears others down in order to build oneself up. It is not a blanket statement against all critical thinking, but a call to be discerning rather than negative.” I think that states the intent of these verses very well.
The same Greek word translated “judge” (krino – Strong’s #2919) in Matthew 7:1 is used many other times in Scripture in verses that help us form a more rounded perspective of God’s intentions on judgement and discernment. Here are a few:
For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth . Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person. (1 Corinthians 5:12-13)
That verse actually speaks as if judging those within our brotherhood is a normal occurrence. Again, this is not to be done in a spirit of pride but out of genuine love for our brothers and sisters in Christ to “provoke [them] unto love and to good works” (Heb. 10:24).
All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not. Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth. Whatsoever is sold in the shambles [meat market], that eat, asking no question for conscience sake: For the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof. If any of them that believe not bid you to a feast, and ye be disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake. But if any man say unto you, this is offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not for his sake that shewed it, and for conscience sake: for the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof: Conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other: for why is my liberty judged of another man’s conscience? For if I by grace be a partaker, why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks? Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God: Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved. (1 Corinthians 10:23-33)
I think it’s so interesting that this same Greek word translated “judge” in Matthew 7:1 shows up again in 1 Corinthians 10 where Paul is yet again speaking about meat offered to idols and living by our brother’s conscience. Paul asks a question, “Conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other: for why is my liberty judged of another man’s conscience? For if I by grace be a partaker, why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks?” Paul is basically asking, “Why do I, who can in good conscience eat meat offered to idols, have to abstain just because of my brother’s conscience against it?” He then answers his own question: “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God: Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.” Why must we live by our brother’s conscience? Because this life is not about us; it’s all about God and His glory. What brings God glory? A good name. A clean conscience. A good reputation within the world. Purity. Unity of the brethren. And ultimately – salvation for all.
The question comes down to this: are you willing to give up a perfectly worthwhile endeavor for the sake of your brother’s conscience? That is the true essence of brotherhood accountability. We are to judge (discern) between good and evil and help our brothers and sisters in Christ pursue excellence in their walks with God. We are to support each other in any way we can, even if it means sacrificing our own desires for the good of the brotherhood. This is so different from the modern-day individualism in which “every man does what is right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25).
Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. (Hebrews 10:23-25)
Salvation was meant to be lived out in community, not with a spirit of individualism. It is so important for us to be in constant communication with our local brotherhood – both giving and taking admonition in a spirit of love. Yes, there is room for differences of opinion, especially in matters not directly talked about in Scripture, but when issues arise, our default should always be a willingness to give up our own desires for the sake of someone else’s conscience.
What about you? Does your church actively practice brotherhood accountability? What are some practical ways that you implement this Scriptural principle?