The Elephant in the Room
You see it. Actually everyone sees it, but whether it is fear of an awkward conversation or just a lack of concern, we don’t talk about it. It’s that elephant in the room that is so tangible it probably even has a name. It’s the feeling of dread that fills your stomach and makes you queazy, but you just want to keep the peace and move on about your day. It’s all the words that remain unspoken because we have become a society terrified of speaking truth.
From social media to fake smiling and waving at church on Sunday, we fear looking anything less than picture perfect. We fear even healthy conflict. We fear people disliking us. We fear people finding out we don’t have it all together. We refuse to hold people accountable out of a fear that we too may be called out and so we use “grace” as an excuse to do nothing.
Galatians 6:1 (NIV) instructs us, “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.”
We help no one, especially God’s mission, when we choose to bury our heads in the sand and refuse to address sinful behaviors. We claim it’s because we are giving people “grace” and letting God remedy the situation. Grace is defined as “the simple elegance or refinement of movement.” Sometimes God gives us the eyes to see and ears to hear certain behavior because we are to be His hands and feet in helping point out and refine behavior. Ultimately, it is up to that specific person to either heed advice and correct behavior or simply ignore it, but as a brother and/or sister in Christ, our role should not be to remain passive and aloof while our brother or sister continues to blow up their life. That lack of doing nothing, in the hopes that God or someone else will remedy the situation or hoping it just disappears, is actually very selfish.
We would rather remain in our comfortable place and quietly observe a train wreck instead of stopping the train wreck from ever happening. We grow up with stories of Jesus being the quiet lamb where little children gather around Him and sing “Jesus loves me,” and we fail to remember stories like the following one found in Matthew.
Matthew 21:12-13 reads, “Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’but you are making it ‘a den of robbers’.”
Jesus was disgusted by the actions taking place around Him. Those found inside had cheapened the Temple by setting up shop. Their hunger for fortune and fame was a distraction from the holiness of the Temple. Much like today, our human desires for popularity, comfort and success, can cause us to act in ways that are far from holy.
Let me take a moment to make something very clear. Holding a Christian brother or sister accountable is very different than passing judgment. One of the most quoted (and sometimes misused) verses by Christians and non-Christians is Matthew 7:1 “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged.”
Out of context, this verse makes it sound as though we should never call out sin. If we keep reading, however, we see there is more to this instruction.
In Matthew 7:3, Jesus says, “Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.”
Yes how we choose to judge others will be the measure for which we will also be judged. We also must first examine ourselves before we can call out the sins of others. It is in that time of self examination of our own sin that we learn the difference between judgment and accountability.
It is also important to determine whether the person is indeed a Christian or not. We cannot hold people accountable to a standard they haven’t agreed to live by. However, if that person is a Christian, then as a fellow Christian we have a duty to hold each other accountable.
1 Corinthians 12:12 says, “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.” This Scripture suggests the importance of strong accountability between believers. It is important for every believer to have at least one other person in which to confide, pray with, listen to, and encourage. It is also important to have someone that speaks truth into your life.
Thirdly, it is important to consider your intentions for addressing the “elephant in the room.” Matthew 18:15-17 says, “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.” Our motivation for speaking should be rooted in bringing back spiritual health and wholeness to a situation. Jesus says that if the person listens to you, “You have won them over.” In other words, restoration has occurred. The goal should always be restoration NOT alienation or condemnation.
For many, Jesus appeared disrespectful and even crazy because of the actions taken (Matthew 21), but those actions were taken in order to restore the wholeness to this once sacred place. The world of today has made it acceptable to do whatever you want in order to be happy. There is literally an entire self-help industry that promotes helping people become “god” of their own lives. Even the church blurs lines and foregoes Christian standards to be attractive and successful by worldly definitions. And honestly, it would be much easier to bury my head and be apathetic toward the actions of others especially when it seems bad behavior is now rewarded.
But, Romans 12:2 instructs us, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
I do not know the answer to all the world’s problems, but I do know I greatly appreciate those that have and do speak truth into my life. I am not always happy to hear their “truth,” but I take it, pray through it and many times, there are life-changing facts in their advice. I have tried to speak truth to others as well. Sometimes it is appreciated and sometimes it takes years before someone finally sees what I am saying. If you are truly seeking God for your truth, you will never be led astray.
Proverbs 9:11-12 - Wisdom will multiply your days and add years to your life. If you become wise, you will be the one to benefit. If you scorn wisdom, you will be the one to suffer.
God, please help us to have eyes to see and ears to hear when You are speaking to us. Whether it be from a fellow believer, a mentor, a pastor, or reading Your word, let us not be too prideful to listen and receive it. Also God, please give us courage to help be truth-tellers for someone else. Help us to keep humble hearts and spirits, so that our words are not like thorns, but can instead serve the purpose for which You intended. Help us to care enough about others that we don’t allow our comfort and/or fear to keep us from helping save a soul from destruction. In all this we pray, Amen.