Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Accountable to Who?

“So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” (Rom.14:12)

We hear much today about the advisability of having individuals around us to whom we see ourselves as being accountable to. Whole enterprises, whether Christian or non-Christian oriented, are built around this concept, from such entities as Promise Keepers to Alcoholics Anonymous. The thing is, we all know that all of these, sometimes helpful, endeavors, no matter how well-intentioned, are often less than successful. But should this surprise us, I wonder. In the case of the former (P.K.), one has only to look at the example we have of our Lord’s twelve disciples, and the fact that one in this close-knit, spiritually advantaged group ended up betraying Him to His death, to see the weaknesses of even Christ-centered accountability. And with the latter (A.A.), the fact that it is necessary to admit perpetually, “I am an alcoholic,” is indication of its precarious success.

Marriage vows obviously carry the expectation of accountability (1Cor.7:4), as does membership in a local body of believers (Matt.18), and citizenship in a country (Rom.13); but the prevalence of divorce, sinful church members, and civil law breakers proves that they are not always the deterrent they should be. And I have my own idea of why this may be: Human accountability is only effective when Divine accountability is the overriding motivation. Unless a man or woman lives his or her life in the light of Romans 14:12, no human restraint will suffice to inspire Biblical, moral standards of conduct. The irrational person who does not fear God will certainly not feel accountable to another human being. This is true whether the man or woman is a believer or non-Believer.

Alistair McGrath, in his book, Doubting, quotes Polish philosopher and writer, Czeslaw Milosz, who said: “A true opium of the people is a belief in nothingness after death—the huge solace of thinking that for our betrayals, greed, cowardice and murders we are not going to be judged.” Atheism is a wishful stab in the dark against Divine accountability.

In the same way, the child of God who sidesteps a direct commandment of God, assuming He knows the weakness of the flesh and stands ready with forgiveness in hand, is guilty of the sin of presumption (Heb.10:26); and no amount of human accountability can withstand such arrogance. Even Jesus pointed out that in the final analysis, one would be far wiser to fear the One who is able to kill both body and soul in hell than someone who is able to only kill the body (Matt.10:28). It is He to whom we are ultimately accountable.

I have said this not to lessen the reality of our accountability to those who have every right to expect truth and equity from us, but rather to point out that this will never be enough to keep us true. Only the man and woman who understand that they are under Divine, as well as human, scrutiny will feel the urgency to live their lives as best they can on the highest plain possible.

I am very conscious of the possibility of offending those who look to me with the (rightful) expectation of seeing the reality of a life given to Jesus Christ and the measure of accountability that this brings. But this pales in comparison to the unquestionable certainty that I will give account of myself to God. And His opinion of me is of far greater consequence than the opinion of any mere mortal.

“And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.” (1Jno.2:28)

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