If we are going to live a righteous life, we need to be accountable to God first and then one another. We will all give an account to God in the future whether we want to or not (2 Corinthians 5:10). It is better to be honest with God now, receive His forgiveness, and live in conscious moral agreement with Him. “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). Notice that the fellowship is not only with God, but one another.

Consider the following four words and their order: authority, accountability, affirmation and acceptance. From which end of that list did Jesus initiate His relationship to us? Did Jesus ever appeal to His Divine status in the Gospels in order to bring us into accountability? He did just the opposite. First came the acceptance. “When we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6). Then came the affirmation. “Yet to all who received him . . . he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).

When authority figures demand accountability without affirmation and acceptance, they will never get it. People will grudgingly give some accountability for their actions under duress, but they will not share intimately what is going on inside. But when people know they are accepted and affirmed by the authority figures, they will voluntarily be accountable to them. Paul could have asserted his authority since he was an apostle, but he chose instead to be gentle among them, “like a mother caring for her little children” (1 Thess. 2:7). Not only did he share the gospel with the Thessalonians; he shared his own life.

This principle is true in our homes. When distraught parents demand to know where their children have been, they will likely say, “I was out!” When asked what they were doing, the children will say, “Nothing!” Nobody will openly be accountable to others unless they are assured of their acceptance and affirmation. If we confess to God, he forgives and cleanses us (1 John 1:9). This is a critical issue for parenting, discipleship, and counseling. If those we are trying to help cannot share intimately with us, then we don’t know how to help them, and the reason they aren’t sharing may be our attitudes and actions.

Those who are struggling to overcome addictive behaviors can always go to God and receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Their recovery process will be greatly helped if they have at least one person who will accept and affirm them no matter what is shared. If we want to be like Christ, then we ought to be able to say to our children, or to those whom we disciple or counsel: “There isn’t anything you couldn’t share with me that just by having you share it wouldn’t cause me to love you more.”

Dr. Neil

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