Watching Each Other’s Backs
“It’s God we are answerable to—all the way from life to death and everything in between—not each other. That’s why Jesus lived and died and then lived again: so that he could be our Master across the entire range of life and death, and free us from the petty tyrannies of each other.”(Rom. 14 MSG)
Here’s the same passage from the NLT:
“So why do you condemn another believer? Why do you look down on another believer? Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For the Scriptures say, ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bend to me, and every tongue will declare allegiance to God.’ Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall.”
OK, so isn’t it my job to correct a brother and hold him accountable when he’s stepped out of line? Look at Romans 14:4 (MSG):
“If there are corrections to be made or manners to be learned, God can handle that without your help.”
Whenever I have the honor of speaking for a men’s retreat, how to hold each other accountable is one of the top questions men want to understand. Here is how I respond:
“I want you to imagine that each of you has an addiction. It can be porn, drugs, alcohol, anger, eating…whatever. Now, what could another person do that would keep you from sharing what’s really happening in your life with them and building a relationship of trust?”
The men always begin shouting out their responses; “Judging me, trying to fix me, shaming me, gossiping, throwing scripture at me, condemning, using fear and guilt…”
I then ask; “Does that move you closer to them, or farther away?” Their response is always…farther away.
“Now, I want you to tell me what a person could do that would help build a relationship of trust where you would feel safe to tell them anything that’s happening in your life?”
This response always takes time as they’ve never been asked this before. It’s not been modeled for them. Eventually they began to open up and say; “Listen to me first. Try to empathize with me. Ask me questions about my life. Speak the truth to me but don’t remove your love from me. Spending time with me. Get into my world. Seek to understand me before being understood. Get to really know me without an agenda of trying to fix me.”
Which way is more effective when it comes to accountability? Giving men a list of do’s and don’ts coated in shame, condemnation, fear, and performance? Or, learning how to love them right where they are by finding “some” truth in what they’re saying, enter in to their pain with them (empathy) and learn to ask questions and allow the Holy Spirit to direct the conversation?
The accountability model is horribly broken, ineffective, insufficient, and driving men into hiding in massive numbers creating a void of male leaders, mentors, husbands, and fathers. In many ways, Christian accountability is attempting to create another savior; us.
The truth is that if I could manage all this stuff on my own through “trying harder”, there would be no need for a Savior. Nowhere in scripture does it say that it’s my job to make you confess your sins to me. Confessing our sins “one to another” is biblical and critical, but with shame, condemnation, and pressure to “come clean” being the driving force, without the element of relational trust… men are doomed.
There are four things you can do that will greatly help you build trust with the men around you where an atmosphere of safety and accountability can be created. We call this, “TEAM.”
- Truth – Find “some” truth in what they are saying, no matter how small it may seem. It’s very real to them.
- Empathy – Enter into their pain with them, not to enable, but to help them understand that you truly care about them. Repeat and rephrase what they’ve said. This lets them know that you’ve really heard what they’re saying. Jesus was the master at this.
- Ask Questions – Get into their world by asking questions without a personal agenda to help them discover what’s creating their unhealthiness.
- Meet Together – Make a plan to meet together in a safe place regularly for the purpose of sharing each other’s struggles, to renew your minds, and to pray for one another.
When we create an environment of grace and love, unforced confession happens through the power of the Holy Spirit. We tell on ourselves because we want to be free, not for the purpose of religious compliance. In that place, we learn to trust that God is who He says He is, and that we are who He says He are.
“What if there was a place so safe that I could share the worst about myself, and actually be loved more, not less for the telling of it.” ~John Lynch
So, what does it look like to have each other’s back? It’s not about creating an atmosphere of fear, shame, and condemnation in order to get your brother to be compliant, as sometimes compliance is the worst form of rebellion. God wants our hearts. How do we truly help men walk with God without giving them a long performance based “to do” list or trying to fix and control them? It begins without using shame and condemnation, and helping them understand that their one, true identity is…“Christ In Me!”