J.S. Park

RSS

Posts tagged with "accountability"

Graciously Entering The Mess of Another

imagebeingdaisy asked:

How do I relate to people who are tempted in ways I do not feel tempted by? How can I show Christ’s love in that situation? Also, what is the difference between judgement and discernment? Sometimes, it feels from the Christian community to be one and the same with different connotations.

 

Hey my dear friend, I really appreciate you asking about this because I almost never hear this question. I’m thankful for your sincere heart in this.

There are many Christians I meet today who try really hard to act like they’ve been through it all so they can relate to everyone — and I’m guilty of this too. It seems there’s a new fear in church where if you haven’t been through a ridiculously prodigal phase of debauchery, then you’re somehow not qualified to counsel anyone else either.

I remembering being in a crowd of Christians once where they were comparing their former lives — how many shots they could do, all the drugs they sold, cars they wrecked, even abortions they had — and while I understand it was painful for them, I also felt like they were glamorizing some of these things to gain street cred. I noticed some of the ones who grew up in church their whole lives were either jealous or discouraged, because they felt sheltered from all these “real” experiences.

But let’s balance this out.

 

1) I’m jealous of sheltered people too. If you grew up in church your whole life and you’ve loved Jesus as long as you can remember, please consider yourself blessed. Those of us who are free from toxic lifestyles are always in recovery, and it’s not as glamorous as our storytelling appears to be.

2) A broken person like me needs those who have never been through what I’ve been through. I understand that recovering alcoholics and addicts need other recovering friends to know how to fight. But if we only have these kinds of friends, then we can easily enable each other or get tempted through our weakness.

When I quit porn, I went to a friend who had never struggled with porn (and those kinds of dudes are almost impossible to find). His innocence with the whole thing was exactly the perspective I needed: because his utter lack of struggle in that area showed me the true size of the temptation. It really took the fangs off. There’s also a different sort of strength from the purity of a person who has been relatively clean their entire lives.

3) No one is “more saved” than someone else. The former heroin dealer who used to beat up kittens and race cops has a cool story, sure. But when he was changed by Jesus, he’s just as much a miracle as the pastor’s daughter who heard the Gospel her whole life and accepted Jesus at youth camp. Neither has more “social capital” than the other. They might relate to different groups of people, but they don’t need a badge of baggage to help anyone.

 

Having said all that, I think we need some humility on both sides.

- When we hear someone else’s addiction or affliction, we can’t cringe or flinch or turn up our nose. Resist it. All of us are just as broken and ill and damaged as one another before the sight of God, and He loved us anyway.

- A serious addict also shouldn’t get spiritually snobby with a squeaky clean person. Everyone can learn from anyone. I can learn from a five year old and an eighty-five year old, from the rich and poor, from men and women, from simply watching. It just depends how much I’m willing to be teachable. I don’t ever want to cut off a person just because they’re not “cool enough” to hang with my bad side. That would be condescending and arrogant and horribly shortsighted.

- Relating to someone’s life experience is no guarantee that you can automatically help them. None. It’s not like I instantly relate to every single Asian with divorced parents and depression and a former porn addiction. Friendship and discipleship and fellowship are all built on so much more than mutual struggles.

- The best way we can relate to one another is by listening. I know this sounds super-obvious. But my fiancé, who is almost the complete opposite of me in every way, is one heck of a listener. She listens so well that she makes me a better listener. And even though we’re so different, she’s my best friend because she cares about everything I’m going through, whether she can grasp it or not.

I can appreciate even the effort of another person really trying to understand. Please know that there is an ocean-deep power in simply sitting with someone, making eye contact, keeping your phone away, asking questions, offering truth with grace, and encouraging them the whole time. There’s no right formula or correct mix of words. This power of presence means way more than you could know: and it might not feel like you’re helping, but being there already means you are.

 

To answer your other question about judgement versus discernment:

- Judging someone always rips them apart. It’s spiritually murdering a person through self-righteousness by concluding, “I would never do that” — when of course, any one of us is capable of the genocide in Rawanda and looting in a hurricane.

But discernment is always looking out for the best of everyone. I think when the church says “discernment,” we seem to mean, “Turn on a spiritual X-ray and approach with extreme caution.” Maybe it’s supposed to mean that a little bit. But when discernment is just looking out for negatives, that’s a stalemate with no purpose or direction. So-called discernment without an eye to healing is just prejudice.

When I discern someone has an issue, I want to see them as God does: with compassion and a vision and with good will. Sometimes this means backing up because you’re likely to enable that person. Other times it will mean intervening, even harshly, because love means much more than being nice.

 

If your friend is struggling hard, please consider:

- Asking the why question.

- Not interrupting, but letting them paint their whole story.

- RTP: Rock The Prayer. You can say, “I’ll pray for you,” but it’s also awesome to pray right on the spot.

- Suggesting help outside of you. It’s okay if you’re not equipped to help with some serious issues. You can go with them too.

- Drawing clear boundaries. They can’t see you as a savior, and you can’t be one either.

- Sharing. Bible verses, sermon podcasts, blog posts, good books, funny videos, and your own insight. When you get excited by something you see or read or hear, share it.

- Having a good time. Sometimes your friend just needs a hamburger and Haagen Dazs ice cream and a comedy from Redbox and a bike trail. Not every conversation has to revolve around recovery, and it’s okay to giggle at dumb things and talk crazy and geek out over fandoms.

- Praying on your own. You’ll need strength too. Much love to you, my friend. You’re a kind heart for caring this much.

— J.S.

Jan 3

Why I Stopped Helping Porn Addicts

image

 

It’s been a few years since I quit porn, and I’ve written and podcasted tons about porn addiction.  I still get random emails and an assortment of friends who ask me for help to quit.  I used to reply eagerly, get in their mess, ask them tough questions, keep them accountable, and keep track of sobriety.

But I had the feeling that most of these dudes were just using me to feel better about their failures and I gave them permission to stay addicted.  I handed them a clean conscience and a delayed adolescence.  I pampered men into whining first-world blame-shifting boys: and it was really my fault.

Inadvertently, I became an enabling cheerleader, a co-conspiring accomplice to their crimes.

I got jaded.  I started thinking it was helpless.  And while I still press in to help, I wave a flag upfront: If you’re not serious about quitting, you’re wasting our time.

 

This probably sounds mean.  But I’ve learned that if you keep saying “Jesus loves you” over and over and over again, it gets old.  It gets abused.  Not because the love of God is inadequate or incomplete, but because our definition of it is so lazy and lacking. 

We easily distort God’s love as some kind of loophole for any kind of behavior, and I’ve seen it used as a get-out-of-jail-free card too many times. Some of your favorite Christian bloggers and pastors are actually a-holes because they treat grace like a cheap dress.  It makes me sick, but really just sad.  They’re the people that Apostle Paul talks about while sobbing, those who live as “enemies of the cross of Christ.”

If you keep saying “God has grace for me” while you stay the same, you have not even begun to understand the implications of the cross.  It’s still just abstract doctrine.  You couldn’t possibly have met the man who carried the cross up a hill to die for you.  You need more grace then, and not less. 

I’m saying all this not because I love you less: but because I love you more.

I know it’s mostly subconscious: almost no one wants to abuse God’s love.  But if you do not define God’s love as a relentless, furious, soul-shattering power that rescues you from death, then you’re left with a tiny two-inch keychain-god who fits in your pocket and can be tossed at your convenience. 

 

So if you ask me or anyone else for help to break your addiction, I exhort you: Please do not ask for help unless you are serious to quit and move forward.  Everyone is willing to help you: but you have to want it for yourself more than we do.  This isn’t some kind of prerequisite.  I will love you anyway, and so does He.  But no one can make you want to quit.  God gave you the gift of free will to choose.

If you’re not serious about it, then go find out why it’s so bad.  Go meet some porn addicts who have destroyed their marriages, families, careers, and their own bodies.  Find them.  Meet the porn addicts who now suffer from ED, have gone bankrupt, and destroyed the lives of young women.  And when you hear enough horror stories, maybe then you’ll really want to quit.  Maybe then you’ll see the depth of God’s love, who loves us even in our worst depravity.

This probably sounds harsh right now.  But that’s the problem, isn’t it?  That we’re not willing to hear the truth about ourselves.  That we’re so entitled to positive thinking and self-esteem that we can’t confront the ugliness inside.  That often times we only ask for help with all the benefits of help, but none of the change.  That we’re willing to be honest, but not do the hard work of leaving sin behind.  That we like all the nice parts of Jesus, but we skip all the difficult things he said. 

 

It’s also easy to forget that the Christian life is not just about running from sin, but running to Him.  That means if you quit porn today, you suddenly have 15-30 hours that just opened up every week.  What will you do?  Because God didn’t merely forgive you, but He gave you a mission.  He made you for something.  The spiritual walk isn’t just sin-avoidance, but walking intentionally into God’s purposes.  Lust is not the problem: but a lack of direction.

Jesus does love you.  He also said it’s better to get into Heaven with no eyes and no hands then you get into Hell with both.  We can abuse God’s love without ever changing, because His love is inexhaustible: but why would we even want to?  Why settle for a halfway grace?  God is offering a glorious life of freedom ahead.  I’ve tasted that freedom and I can’t go back anymore.  I wouldn’t trade that joy now for anything.  I hope you’re desperate enough to find that joy, and that you really mean it.

— J

If You Haven’t Been Told “You’re Wrong” In A While — You Have No Real Friends and You’re Not One Either

image

 

I’ve never met a single person who has maturely handled rebuke. Not a single one. Including me.

I don’t blame them. It’s hard to hear the awful truth about yourself.

In general:

When men rebuke each other, they will make millions of excuses and logically try to justify themselves and find ways to say “You’re no good either.”

When women rebuke each other, they will scratch each others’ eyes out and declare the friendship over and find ways to say “Remember that time when you also ___?”

I’m sure there’s overlap here and I’m probably being mean. What I’m really trying to say is: When rebuke happens, expect melt-downs, flip-outs, childish tantrums, tons of backpedaling, and an ugly look into the self-justifying human heart. It’s not pretty. No one ever likes being told they’re wrong, especially when they’re wrong, and we desperately claw to protect our ego-fortresses because being wrong feels like death.

But we need this.  We need to push past the initial hostility of our overreactions.  Some of us need to die. It is a good death.

Because sometimes, just once in a while after a messy rebuke, you get surprised when the mature person comes back. They want to hear you again. After the inevitable awkward weirdness when there’s silence for a week, your friend returns: because maybe there was truth to what you were saying after all.

Maybe your motives were to restore this person and not tear them down. Maybe they discovered you were brave enough to put the friendship on the line to say the hard thing, and that you yourself didn’t get any benefit from telling the truth.  Maybe not everything you said was correct: but there was even 1% in there that needed to be heard with full conviction.

Maybe they’ll see you’re a real friend, and all these other flattering yes-men are just fakes.

We occasionally surprise each other and learn that friendships are not fun little fantasies built on the shoddy scaffolding of entertainment and hormonal highs: but there is a deeper wellspring, a furious love that cares about the future of the other person and will push you out of the way of a bus, even if it’s a hard shove to your head. It’s a love that knows when enough is enough and it’s time to stop the shallow games and quit the fake laughter and maybe grow the hell up a little bit.

I hope you have a friend like this. Someone who with tears in their eyes and a trembling voice can simply tell you with grace: “You were wrong. The way you handled this, what you’re doing to yourself, how you treated that guy, the choices you’re making: I can’t pretend this is okay. I love you and I would die for you and you mean everything to me, but you’re wrong.”

Please be willing to hear this. Go ahead and flip out and melt down: but come back around, because this rebuke could save your life.

— J

Please, please, please do not rebuke your friend with self-satisfying relish.  No one should ever enjoy rebuking a friend.  There will be a shaking voice, tears in your eyes, trembling hands, a sincere conviction, and a heart dripping with gracious love.  You won’t expect them to listen to you, but to listen to the truth.  Anything else is just your flesh trying to prove a point.  Then you need to go back to the lab in prayer to wrestle that flesh into the ground.  You don’t ever rebuke to prove something.  You rebuke to help your friend away from the edge of death.

— J

Say Everything.

image

A billion problems could be solved today if we just said everything.

Whenever someone tells me about their impossible conflict with an impossible person, I always sense the solution is: Get with this person, sit them down, look them in the eye, and say everything.

I know it’s not always this simple.

Because —

1) They don’t want to give you the time of day.

2) You already know what they’ll say.

3) They won’t care after you talk with them.

4) They might hurt you again.

That’s all very understandable and very true.

But the thing about saying everything is that it’s not always for them.  It’s for you.  Whether they blow up, flip a table, throw things, shut down, cry a river, or punch a wall — you still need to tell this person everything that you’ve been telling everyone else. 

All that talk behind someone’s back needs to be said to this person’s face.  Not only for integrity, but because you’re lighting a time-bomb of resentment that will bleed into your roots, and that needs to be dropped before it poisons you.  

I know it’s scary.  Confrontation sucks.  It also has a way of making us prideful, hostile, more prone to outbursts, more aggressive.  But there’s a way to do this that communicates what’s most important to you, in hopes that this creates a good will on both sides moving forward.  If not, you did your part, and you learned a lifelong lesson on being real to yourself.  And if so, then you’ve made a lifelong friend who knows you’ll be real, even when it’s uncomfortable.

It could be a leader, a pastor, an older person, a family member, a close friend, a loved one: and something is really bothering you.  That crass joke, their style, the way they handle business, their lack of empathy.  Let go of the petty stuff.  But bring up what really matters.  Be gracious and ask if you’re misunderstanding them.  Don’t guess motives.  Trust what they say.  Expect a temper tantrum.  Expect the resistance and preprogrammed defenses.  But speak your heart.  Respectfully, tactfully, graciously, and holding nothing back.

The world needs this, and so do you.

— J

Ever since I read the book Real Life by James Chuong, I wanted to learn even more about how to disciple people. Any suggestions?

Anonymous

Hey dear friend, I wrote a post on that a little while ago!

- Question: How To Do Discipleship

I also preached a sermon on that here:

- The Sloppy Truth of Discipleship

You know, I haven’t read many great books on discipleship because they’re all based on a formula or some gimmick.  Discipling another human being is always an organic, messy, heartbreaking, crazy task — but it’s a privilege, and it’s awesome. 

— J.S.

Question: How To Slap A Brother Upside The Head (With Love)


Anonymous asked:

hi! i was wondering if you could give me some insight on accountability within the church. a brother of mine is acting irresponsibly but doesnt believe that “he should be held accountable to me.” i understand that God is the ultimate judge, and that i’m nobody’s parent, but i believe that i’m supposed to hold him accountable as a sister in Christ.

(I made you anonymous just in case)


You’re absolutely right to hold a brother in Christ accountable.  Please allow me the grace to first point you to some previous posts:

- My Friend Doesn’t Care, Now What?

- My Stubborn Unbelieving Friend

- So About Accountability and Confession

- Four Things To Remember When You Rebuke


However, there are no formulas or guarantees with this sort of thing.  There are at least some guidelines to know —


1) Totally check your motives.

We have to examine if we want to speak in love or just prove a point.  Am I telling this person off or trying to help them? Am I loving them towards Jesus or twisting them to my preferences?  People will be able to tell your motives by your voice and methods, and if it doesn’t look like love, it won’t work.  Love, love, grace, truth, love.

I do a 30-Second Test.  If this person were to die in thirty seconds, how important would this be?  I did the Test recently and found that I couldn’t let my brother die with hate in his heart, so it was worth my time to rebuke him.  And because he knows that I love him, he listened.  It was difficult but we got through it.


2) Accountability doesn’t happen on its own.

There is almost no accountability that doesn’t come from an already established relationship.  If you hardly know this guy, then there is no trust.  We have to earn the right to be heard.  Just because we’re “older” or “leaders” in the church doesn’t mean jacksquat.  If I try walking into a prison as a “Bible preacher” without earning their trust, I’ll get as far as a shank in my side.  As much as we would love to conform people to Christ, there’s less of a chance when I come across as a nanny. Sincerely love them.


3) We can’t win them all.

Sometimes people learn the hard way.  I don’t say that as permission for going prodigal: I say that as someone who was blind to my own blindness and needed to start eating with the pigs to learn. 

Your friend might do whatever he wants anyway.  As hard as it is, you might have to let him.  When he runs dry on that season of sin — sin ends or it ends you — then he’ll be looking for help.  If you were the bastion of love the entire time, he’ll go to you.  If not, he won’t.

Apr 8

do you think that it's necessary that a Christian repent of ALL his sins before his brothers (aka accountability brothers)?

Anonymous

Ah, accountability groups.  The best and worst thing to pop up in modern ministry.  Like youth group and multi-site churches.

If you actually mean “confession” — since we should always repent of our sin before God — then that really depends on motives and methods.  If you’re holding back on something, that’s not a good thing, but if you’re revealing everything in a vivid, overly detailed, sensational sort of way, that’s also not a good thing.  Both methods point to some dishonest motives.

Sometimes our idea of accountability is a horrible practice because there’s so much morbid introspection that it becomes less about Christ’s finished work and more about man-centered struggles.  There’s certainly a place for being held accountable to your brothers, but it hardly ever goes well if we don’t set biblical parameters. 

Giving someone the active power to rebuke you can easily turn into deconstructive criticism, which causes them to judge you unfairly.  The filter gets set more and more negative and nitpicky.  I’ve had accountability partners that imploded into judgmental disasters: most of them are no longer friends.  We not only did it for the wrong motives, but had all the wrong methods.  

I would say that accountability grows out of friendship and not the other way around.  It’s weird to get a bunch of dudes together and say, “Hey let’s keep each other in line.” That sort of go-ahead greenlight gets egotistical fast.  Some guys will take that as a power trip, and again, it leads to catastrophic results. 

But if you’ve established a friendship, a trust, a graciousness, then of course you can confess ALL those sins naturally because you know they will be both firm and loving.  This doesn’t take a scheduled time or a group or a formal plan.  While formality can work, very rarely have I seen accountability groups not feel like forced interrogations. 

The number one help in quitting porn was confessing my sin to my roommate, who also attends my church.  We’re close — but we never said, “Hey let’s be accountable!” We felt comfortable to confess the craziest stuff, and he restored me gently like a Galatians 6 brother.  Friendship first, bro.

I’ve also written about it here. It’s a couple years old so please forgive some of the writing style.

What do you do when your best friend who is also a Christian, starts going the wrong path? My instinct is to try and stick it out with them. I've tried lovingly confronting him. he did not get mad but he is not looking at it as a struggle, he wants it. He is now an active homosexual, and it's just sort of going downwards. I ask because in the bible it says not to have fellowship with those Christians who accept their sin or something like that. This scares me, because I don't want to cut him off

Anonymous

This is just about the worst feeling in the world — when your friend walks away from truth, regardless of what sin he chooses — and I’m sorry to hear about it.  Please let me point you to three posts with similar questions:

My Stubborn Unbelieving Friend

My Friend Doesn’t Care, Now What?

My Friend Turned Atheist, Now What?


The passage you’re referring to about “no fellowship with sinning Christians” is 1 Corinthians 5, which is a difficult one.  I do think 1 Corinthians 5 needs to be balanced with other Scripture, specifically those about patience, kindness, and helping out a sinning brother.  Because the absolute last resort is to cut off a fellow Christian who’s in active sin.  Otherwise none of us would be “qualified” for church.

I don’t want to water down 1 Cor. 5 either (how could I? It’s God’s Word), yet exhort you to be sensitive enough to work out some of the “extra room” questions.

Is there “extra room” in your friend’s heart to hear the truth from you? Is there any extra room where you think you can reach him at all?  Is there extra room for your church to approach him in love and seek his best? What about challenging your own heart in the process?

If he is totally ignoring you, dismissing you, cutting you off, and flaunting his stuff at church, you might consider the non-fellowship thing.  But even then, by the power of that Holy Spirit, do everything you can to love your friend with the truth. Don’t give up. Please pursue him and pray for yourself.  Your instinct is correct.

Mar 1

A Relational Quandary: When We Find Out Who Our Friends Are, aka Why Jesus Is More Like My Unbelieving Friends

Full post here.

The other day I pretended I had cancer. I don’t do this a lot. Tuesdays are typically not Cancer Day (that’s Ebola Virus Day).

I went through my phone to see who I could call about it. Out of so many numbers, I came up with just a few names. Everyone else: too dramatic, critical, self-centered, unhelpful, unpleasant. Maybe I was being harsh. But still, no thanks.

I imagined other scenarios. God forbid I had just cheated on my future wife, let’s say. Or caught with porn at church. My future kids run away from home. Unforeseen debt. Got into a fight at the bowling alley. Wife miscarries. Doubting God again. Miserable about family, life, faith. Wanting to quit ministry.

Again: only a few names from the phone. Everyone else: too judgmental, snappy, quick to fix, short tempered, too religious. Was I being just as critical?

But an even weirder, troubling truth was that I felt safer talking to non-believers like my mom and brother instead of good old-fashioned church people. Because they wouldn’t be so fast to throw a Bible at me, or spiritualize everything, or connect it to the mysterious sovereignty of God.

I was sure they’d talk to me like a human being, with grace and dignity, capable of seeing past my poor choices.

No, they couldn’t offer Bible verses or Christ-centered counsel. But they wouldn’t look at me like some anecdotal success-story waiting to happen. Not just some damn discipleship project they could brag about at church like God would turn it around by the end of the episode.

And I knew then that something was wrong with this.

Continue Reading

Hi, J.S. [: Since the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin, what is the point of rebuking fellow Christians? It's something I have been thinking about lately. Great blog, by the way. God Bless Ya, Brother!

Anonymous

Thank you! I consider it my second church so I appreciate your kindness.

Since we can grieve the Holy Spirit by resisting Him (Ephesians 4:30, Galatians 5:16-17), it’s possible that we’ll ignore the conviction of sin.  It’s in our free will to do so.  Which is why the Holy Spirit will send friends, events, circumstances, gifts, trials, and signs to rebuke your face off.

There are also tons of commands about getting real with each other. Some of my favorites are here:


24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. — Hebrews 10:24-25

Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. — Galatians 6:1

If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. — Matthew 18:15

Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid. — Proverbs 12:1

 5 Better is open rebuke than hidden love. 6 Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses. — Proverbs 27:5-6


The Holy Spirit’s initial and ultimate job is to convict of sin, but He can also use everything else to aid that process.  There are plenty of times when I came around to repentance in my personal prayer, and plenty of times when my friends had to beat some Spirit-sense into me.  Basically, I got Bible-whipped.

We should absolutely trust the Holy Spirit to do His job.  He doesn’t need our help.  So how awesome is it that He does flex each of us to rebuke each other?  God uses sinful weirdos like us for the weighty, wonderful, heart-wrenching task of rebuking a fellow believer.  That’s no small responsibility. 

One more thing: the Holy Spirit is love.  Bold, chiseled love. Most of us rebuke to “get it off my chest” or “tell them off,” which is sin.  It must be done to build, not destroy: to love.  We get that and we get everything.


For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. — 2 Timothy 1:7

Accountability closes the gap between intentions and actions.

- Craig Groeschel