The following essay was written as an assignment for a college course I took. My teacher was disturbed by the analogy (as I expect you will be) but appreciated the essay. After having lice twice (I share one incident here.) and benefiting from the patient nit picking of others, I have begun to see it as a positive thing. When one of our pastors encouraged accountability the other Sunday, I decided to post this as an echo.
In Cambodia, women perch together in doorways. One sits patiently watching the world go past, while the other pulls her fingers through the hair of the sitting woman, occasionally pulling on a shiny dark lock, nit-picking. They are relaxed and enjoying each other.
Unfortunately, Western culture has distorted the helpfulness of nit-picking into a negative unloving act. What changed nit-picking to something negative? Perhaps one person, being too proud to admit they had nits, lashed out in anger when a brother approached. Maybe someone did admit their need, but the sister they chose to help them stood over them condescendingly as she dubiously pulled out each little louse egg. Whatever the reason, most Christians today shy away from getting too close to other members of the Church. Yet God’s Word clearly calls Christians to care for each other by holding each other accountable. Christians need to do the hard work of re-building loving accountability in the Church as a means of unifying the brotherhood, purifying and strengthening the Church, and demonstrating Christ’s love.
Admittedly, getting close to other people is terrifying. Christians, scared of being judged by those they trust with their hidden struggles and sin, remain silent. They fear that if they do talk, what they share will somehow become public property, ruining their reputation forever. Hypocritical church members, who act caring but then spread slander have jaded other members out of the birthright of God’s children—loving, enriching, familial relationships. Chrisitians are not required to trust those who are untrustworthy. However, they should not let one experience prevent them from trusting other people. Terrifying as it is, learning to trust other people with the worst in us brings rewards worth having. Contrary to humanity’s fear, vulnerable honesty usually breeds respect, not contempt.
Still other Christians feel comfortable sharing their own problems but feel uncomfortable approaching their brother when they see a problem in his life. Jesus said, “Judge not that ye be not judged” (KJV, Matt.7.1). In addition, John records the story of Jesus’ response to the religious leaders who brought an adulterous woman to Him. In this story, Jesus simply tells the leaders, “He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone at her” (KJV, John.8.7b). With these texts in mind, many Christians feel too unqualified and judgemental to approach their brother and say, “You have a problem.” Yet, in doing this, they miss Jesus’ final words to the woman. “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more” (KJV, John.8.11b). Jesus words imply that He recognized sin in her life, and He confronted it, but He did not condemn. Additionally, in the Matthew account, Jesus talks about one’s inability to judge when one has a large sin problem of their own, such as jealousy. However, He admonishes His followers, “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” (KJV, Matt.7.5).
The individualistic mindset of the Western World has crippled community in church. In Cambodia, a land of literal nit-picking, they fully believe in community. He who must sleep alone is pitied, not envied.
Life is formed of many members, not individuals.
Scripture agrees. Paul in his letter to the Romans describes the church as a body with many members and each one with his talents is integral to the survival of the whole. He continues, “Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good” (KJV, Rom.12.9). Dissimulation means “The act of concealing the truth; hypocrisy or deception; hiding one’s feelings or purposes.” (Your Dictionary). Part of being a body is not hiding the true character and intent of the heart. Christians need to be honest with each other if The Body is to be unified. The Body needs to work together to avoid sin and seek righteousness. A very practical way to do this is to admit sin in one’s own life and approach others when sin becomes evident in their life. Holding each other to God’s standard of righteousness unifies the Church.
A church united by accountability will be pure and strong. When sin is allowed to exist, it contaminates and grows. For example, one member who watches inappropriate movies may introduce another member to them in an effort to justify himself, and then they introduce it to another member. In this way, the church is soon spotted with impurities. Like a swing with one faulty link in its chain, a church with hidden impurities cannot stand the weight of tragedy or disagreements of life. In the face of pressure, it breaks in two and often members are lost in the breaking. An accountable church causes each member to want God more, seek Him more, and build stronger conviction and commitment. As each member grows stronger, the body grows stronger, too.
An accountable church will show Christ-like love. Jesus gave humanity an escape from self-destruction. He came, confronted sin, and offered grace, holding the world accountable to a high standard of holiness. Christ in the flesh uses other church members to hold each other to this standard. Each person has weak spots that he cannot see. Like lice quietly crawling onto a head and hiding in hair, so wrong thought patterns, twisted doctrines, and sin creep into one’s own life unawares. When a brother approaches another and says, “I see this weakness in your life, and it is hurting you and others,” he is communicating that he cares too much about his brother to let him self-destruct. Sometimes one realizes the lice or sin is infesting himself, but he needs help to eradicate it. When that brother trusts another brother enough to say, “I am imperfect. I have this problem,” he is actually saying, “I trust you to handle this information with confidentiality and honour.” To be trusted is one of the greatest compliments one can receive. An accountable church will constantly be communicating and getting to know each other better, building relationships of love and trust, and in this being Jesus to each other.
Accountability in the Church unifies the brotherhood, purifies and strengthens the Church, and demonstrates Christ’s love. Members of Christ’s church of today need to open themselves to accountable relationships, getting into each other’s space to say, “I love you.” Only in this will the familial, rich relationships that are the birthright of God’s children, be restored.
Holy Bible Reference. Ed. Ryan E. Knutzen. Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1994. King James Vers.
“Dissimulation.” Wiktionary. Your Dictionary, Web. 11 Dec. 2017.
Afterwords: I believe in accountability, but I’m really not good at it. I’ve started admitting my struggles in general terms in Sunday School, and I have reached out to one friend to have her check in on me in an area; but I feel this is only a start.
Any advice? What steps do we need to take to build accountability in the Church?
Ps. I’m excited and terrified about a blog series I’m working on. I appreciate all the people who have been lending me their voices so far. To you who are wondering when your words are going to ever show up, they are coming.
Recommended Continued Reading:
If you are interested in other topics regarding God’s family, I recommend Church Matters by Gary Miller. When Church Was a Family by Joseph H. Hellerman also offers many good things to think about, although I do think his emphases in some areas are rather strong.
I really appreciate this, Yolanda–and copied a few thoughts into my quote collection. “Getting into each other’s space”–that’s something we need to become more comfortable with. Jesus was not afraid to say, “I’m going to your house today” to Zacchaeus, or to praise the woman who touched His robe and was healed. Those spaces can be vulnerable–but only there can we find true oneness in the body.
Something about opening up about struggles that I’ve noticed–every time I do, others are more willing to share too, because they see they’re not the only ones who struggle, and then we can check up on each other more and pray for one another in those areas.
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I’ve noticed that, too, Rebecca. It’s just hard to be vulnerable and be the first one. 🙂
Reblogged this on Flatlander Faith and commented:
A touchy subject, introduced kindly. Why is it touchy? Wouldn’t most of us say we long for closer relationships within our church family? But the idea that someone might get close enough to notice a nit or two frightens us.
Thank you, Bob. I appreciate this.