Friday, June 7, 2013

Bibliophiles and Accountability

I was noodling over what to post about yesterday afternoon, and almost decided to pull out another pioneer book and make a theme week of it. But just before I sat down and started to outline, another thought occurred to me which I think is not only more fruitful, but a significant need in reading circles.

That, as the title suggests, is accountability.

We need to step up a little and make this a more concerted focus as we exchange titles and worldviews, likes and dislikes. For in our tolerance-saturated society, the idea of relevant truth has leeched not only into mainstream churches, but into homeschool circles as well. So in today's post, I would like to prayerfully consider the idea of explaining what accountability really is.

Why Accountability is Needed
You all know what this is like; in fact (though I sincerely hope not) you may have come across the problem here: what do you do when one of your fellow bibliophiles is reading a book that just isn't good? What do you say?

Most of us would argue that it's none of our business. It's her life, his reading diet, her own personal relationship with the Lord, and who are we to interfere? But this attitude has never been so wrong, and for lack of young people willing to graciously step up and challenge their peers, we are suffering a landslide of compromise. We are not placed on this earth to be independent units, accountable only to ourselves: we are the body of Christ; the universal Church, and we need to seek to be more like our Lord who has only one truth and one way. That means sometimes lovingly reigning in those who are straying from that way.

Today, I would like all of us to walk away with an understanding of what accountability is, and why we desperately need to exercise it with each other.

The Meaning of Accountability

Not Gossip
The conservative church can on occasion be a pretty interesting mixture of legalism and diffidence. We're not always intentionally so, but in our  fire to be pure, the more reformed of us can stray into legalism--putting grace by works far ahead of grace through Christ. As soon as one of the community strays from the straight and narrow, you'd better believe we've noticed it, and we're properly shocked and outraged.

Now granted, we tell our problem to everyone except the sinner himself, but that's beside the point, isn't it? Or is it?

There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers. --Ephesians 4:25

It's wrong to sit around the dinner table and discuss someone else's sins without going to them and appealing to them. In saying this, I'm not referring to parents pointing out wrong behavior for their children to avoid, nor am I referring to general conversation about the wickedness of others. But when you sit down and say, "You know, I was reading this blog today, and this girl seems to be a Christian from all appearances, but she's into reading some really wrong books. I was surprised."

How does that help the girl who's sinning? She may not even realize that what she's reading is wrong, and God may have placed it on your heart for the purpose of turning her away from the destructive philosophies she's walking towards. Instead, it would be better to tell your family "I'm concerned about the choices so-and-so is making in her reading diet. How do you think I can lovingly share this with her to try to help?"

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. --Galatians 6:1-2
 
Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. --Ephesians 4:25



True Constructive Criticism

"Boy, am I ever going to show them the light. When we have a come to Jesus meeting, they are going to see the truth, or regret it the rest of their living days."

Not quite.

Yes, my friends, we must be boiling in Spirit for the authority of God's Word, and staunch defenders, unswayed by opposition or heckling or doubt. But when we go about proving Scriptural authority with fists and harsh words, we're only bruising souls. Clean, crisp words are needed. Sometimes even stern words are needed, or stinging rebukes to those who are unrepentant. Not harsh words.

Constructive criticism requires two steps: opening someone's eyes, and touching their heart. First ask, "So I'm curious: what's your purpose in reading this book?" If they give you a clear-cut biblical reason, then you're good and so are they. But if not, then it's time to dig a little deeper. Ask them what God's purpose is for reading, and wise time usage. Challenge them that they are bought with a price, and to be about the business of their Master, not lightly, but reverently and soberly. If it comes down to it, show them where the book does not align with Scripture and warn them of it's effects.

The people you're concerned about will respond in one of three ways: either their heart is right, but their reading choices need a little guidance; or both their reading choices and their heart attitude are well-grounded and pleasing to the Lord; or their heart is unrepentant, and they are showing by their reading choices that they are reading unto themselves.

 Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.
--Proverbs 27:17
 
My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.
--James 5:19-20
 
Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
 --Hebrews 3:12-13
 
Whoever says to the wicked, “You are in the right,” will be cursed by peoples, abhorred by nations, but those who rebuke the wicked will have delight, and a good blessing will come upon them. --Proverbs 24:24-25
 
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
--1 Thessalonians 5:11


How This All Applies

The purpose of fellowship, even in the matter of reading, is to point each other closer to the Lord and His ways. We need a people and a community who are willing to do the hard and dirty work of challenging on occasion when one of the body of Christ is going astray. Sure, it's hard, and yes, it is uncomfortable. But God gives grace and love, and He will bless our obedience, and our concern for those around us.

Some people say "It's not my place;" but if we are part of the body of Christ, and we are following appropriate guidelines for challenging (in the case of peers) or appealing (in the case of those older than us) then we are fulfilling an important commission that God asks every child of Him to fulfill.

We are one Body, and one Blood. Let's have each other's backs, and guard each other's souls.

I challenge you to challenge me. I read Tolkien; you don't. Ask me why. I read Jane Austen; you don't. Ask me why. I don't read the Hunger Games; you do. Ask me why. Because I need accountability just like everyone else, and it gives me a chance to present an answer for the hope that I have. No matter if you know me well, or not at all, my choices are just as impactful on you as they are on me.

So ask. Ask me, ask others around you. Ask your parents why they have set the standards they have; you need to be able to own your family convictions, not just abide by them. Don't sit around the dinner table and complain that someone you know really dropped the ball. Go talk to them.  Lovingly and graciously explain your concern, and ask them to explain their viewpoint. Either you will come to a deeper understanding of the purity of their motivations, or you just may be the means of opening their eyes to an area of their life that needs cleansing.
 
But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit,  keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.
 
 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
 
--Jude 20-25

We're fellow bibliophiles. Let's seek the Lord together. :)

Blessings,
Lady Bibliophile

4 comments:

  1. Great post! I agree; it's very important to have accountability.
    "The people you're concerned about will respond in one of three ways: either their heart is right, but their reading choices need a little guidance; or both their reading choices and their heart attitude are well-grounded and pleasing to the Lord; or their heart is unrepentant, and they are showing by their reading choices that they are reading unto themselves." But what if it isn't that they're unrepentant, they just have a different view than you do? ;)
    Love,
    Sister

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    Replies
    1. Well, that's a good question, and that's what I meant by the middle phrase of my statement: "or both their reading choices and their heart attitude are well-grounded and pleasing to the Lord". For instance, someone may be reading a book with false philosophies or poor story content for the purpose of warning others away from it. If I were concerned about their reading choice and found out that they weren't just drinking it in blindly, but evaluating and sifting it, then I would no longer be as concerned. For instance, I read Chaim Potok's "The Chosen" with vigilance and discernment; even though it had some bad worldview, it also had some very good biblical insights as well. That's why I read it. But I would only recommend it to someone who I knew would do the same thing as they read.

      Also, when we evaluate whether or not to warn someone, we must look at what type of doctrine they're violating: is it a greater doctrine that the Bible speaks clearly about, or a lesser doctrine that can legitimately taken in more than one direction? That also will have bearing on how seriously we take someone to task for a book we're concerned about.

      Hope that helps!

      Love and cuddles,
      Sister

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  2. Wow. What an excellent post, Lady B.
    This topic was challenging for me, for I must admit I tend to be the "it's not my business" type. I think the reason why some people, myself included, are hesitant to exhort others is because we don't want to seem unloving or judgmental. But something that your post reminded me of is that if my fellow bibliophile is reading something that could be harmful to them or hinder their walk with God, it is not loving or caring of me to overlook it in the name of tolerance.
    “Sure, it's hard, and yes, it is uncomfortable. But God gives grace and love, and He will bless our obedience, and our concern for those around us.”
    Thank you for the challenge and the encouragement!
    God bless you,
    L.H. ;)

    P.S. Looking forward to hearing more from the lads and lassies of Folkestone. :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank-you indeed, L.H. :) You are very kind. I too don't like challenging people, and I tend to sit down and rationalize their viewpoint, just so I don't feel guilty about not speaking to them! ;) But yes indeed, if we care for one another we sometimes have to speak to each other. And I think people truly walking with the Lord and desiring to follow Him will appreciate our concern for them. In fact, if we've gone appropriately and gently and they in turn are upset with us, that may be a good sign that their lifestyle is more important to them than their doctrine. But definitely something that takes practice!

      I finished my reading goal on Sunday, so tomorrow I'll be reviewing you-know-what...

      God bless,
      Schuyler

      P.S. Oh goody! I'll make sure not to slack--going to knock out a few thousand words today, Lord-willing. :)

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