Loving Accountability

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Does not judging mean I have to tolerate abuse or evil behavior against me? The perps would like us to think so. Abusers try to pervert the whole “don’t judge” principle to their unholy advantage. So let’s get this sorted out and bring some balance here.

Judging, accountability, and our emotions are all totally independent things. Our society, and even the church, constantly gets these confused. You can forgive someone and hence not be judging them, while at the same time holding them accountable for their behavior, while at the same time still being very angry and hurt. If their behavior was criminal, you can prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law while completely forgiving them.

We should always hold abusers and criminals accountable for their behavior, for two main reasons:

  • To protect others from being victimized like we were.
  • So (hopefully) the person, when confronted with their sin, repents and turns to the Lord who sets them free from it, healing them from the pain in their lives that made them vulnerable to that sin and deception in the first place.

Working through our emotions over the matter is totally separate from whether we hold the other person accountable or not. If the sin against us was grievous, we may need to walk our emotions through the stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance). Get Christian counseling, inner healing, deliverance, probably all of the above, whatever help you need to work through it. It’s normal to need help to work through the emotions in a healthy way. An excellent plan is to work with both a Christian counselor and your Pastor.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean pretending it never happened and or not holding the person accountable. It means releasing them from owing us anything for it. Because we realize they are not the evil they did to us. We can still set healthy boundaries as long as our heart is right – not to punish them but either to (1) keep ourselves safe, or (2) hold them accountable (for example, if we have an authority-to-subordinate relationship to them like parent-child or employer-employee).

Judging and forgiving are not activities centered in our emotions, but in our will. They have nothing to do with how we feel about the person who hurt us. They have everything to do with what we choose to believe about that person. They have everything to do with what we declare about that person.

So what do we declare about the person who wronged us? Are they the evil they did to us? That’s judging. Or can we declare that they are not the evil they did to us? That’s forgiveness. It really is that simple (but it’s not easy).

Mercy toward others triumphs over the judgement we deserve.

So what do you think about all this? Are you trying to sort out forgiveness versus accountability? It took me a while to sort this out in my own life, and I have to keep going back to it. We’d love to hear your story. If this resonates with you, or challenges you, please leave us a comment or shoot us an email (click the “Contact Us” button on the menu bar).

Becoming What We Hated

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We become what we judge. When I first heard this, I took some convincing. But they showed it to me in the Word of God: Romans 2:1 says, “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgement on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.”

See? You become what you judge.

Since learning about this, I have witnessed it to be true, both in my own life and in the lives of those close to me. When we harbor resentment and judgment, we will eventually start doing the same things, and eventually become what we hated.

If it’s not too corny, think about this. Even George Lucas has figured this out. It’s the theme of the Star Wars movie Return of the Jedi. Luke’s vengeance against his father (Darth Vader) gives him the opportunity to become his father. This is the choice Luke must make at the end of the movie – to complete his judgement on his father, and hence become him, or to forgive his father. And it’s the power of Luke’s forgiveness that frees his father from his deception, and he saves Luke. But whether Luke lived or died, he still made the better choice. Better to die at the hands of Emperor Palpatine than to live as Darth Vader II.

Judgment sets us up to become what we hated. This is why forgiveness is so vitally important. It releases us from repeating the evil done to us.

Mercy triumphs over judgment (James 2:13b NIV).

We’d love to hear your story of mercy and judgement. Please leave a comment or shoot us an email.

God’s Return

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What does “don’t judge or you’ll be judged” mean? (Matthew 7:1) It means we will be judged in the same way that we judge others. This is an example of sowing and reaping that we talked about in the last post. And this is really cool, because we can set ourselves up for blessing (or the opposite – it’s our choice).

Judging and forgiving are complete opposites. When someone does evil against us, we are either doing one or the other. This relationship law goes far beyond the evil done to us. Because unfortunately, our judging often goes far beyond the evil done to us.

We judge things we don’t like, even though the person isn’t doing anything to us. We sometimes make our personal preferences into idols, and then our self-righteousness makes them doctrine to impose on others. At that point, we’ve become Pharisees, who made the Traditions of the Elders equal to the Law of Moses (Matthew 15:1-6).

Churches have split over the style of music or the color of the carpet. Ever condemn a style of music you didn’t like? If the words are sinful, then the words are certainly wrong, but not the style. The style, the instrumental music itself, is ok even if we don’t personally like it.

So if it’s something that doesn’t affect us, if it isn’t a black ‘n’ white contradiction to the Word of God, and if it isn’t self-destructive behavior, we’re better off dropping it. It’s probably just our personal preference. And we’ll receive the same grace from God we give the other person (or not).

Mercy triumphs over judgment.

We’d love to hear your story of mercy and judgement. Please leave a comment or shoot us an email.

What Goes Around

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We reap what we sow. Galatians 6:7 says, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” This one is all over scripture. We’ve all heard the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12, Luke 6:31), treat others like you want to be treated. But rarely are we told the reason. Growing up, I always thought it was just one of those “must do because it’s the right thing” things.

But the truth is, even from a selfish point-of-view, we want to do this. Because we reap what we sow. Give into the relationship what you want to get out of it. People will treat us the way we treat them. This concept is actually getting a little traction in the culture with the phrase, “Pay it forward.” Or how about the bumper sticker I’ve seen so often, “Practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty.” Or to put it more bluntly, “What goes around comes around.” See, even the world has figured this one out!

So what about when I sow kindness and mercy and people give me crap? What about when I’m nice and people are still jerks to me? Huh? What about that?!? Wow, then you’re very lucky. Because then, God makes up the difference, because you’re being like him. He will be kind and merciful and gentle and understanding to you. He will “pay it forward” to you. And that’s way better than any person could ever do anyway.

And if you’re really lucky, he’ll pay you back in the currency of intimacy with him. There are no greater riches.

Has this worked for you? Tell us your story in the comments. We’d love to hear from you.

Honoring Authority

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Honor is the currency of the Kingdom of God. “Honor your father and mother … that it may go well with you” (Deuteronomy 5:16) goes way beyond honoring your father and mother. It applies to authority in every area of our life – our work, our school, our church, everything.

So how do you handle a difficult boss? A difficult professor? Honor them. The authorities in our life have been put there by God for our good, whether they realize it or not. God will bless us in that situation based on our own actions, not based on good the authority figure was at being an authority. God holds them accountable for that.

God will hold them accountable for whether or not they were a good authority figure. God will hold us accountable for whether we honored them or not – regardless of whether or not they were a good authority figure.

So if you have a difficult boss or teacher, ask the Holy Spirit how you can honor them (in a godly way) in which they will feel honored. That’s a prayer the Holy Spirit will always answer. Then if you make it your life-style to honor that authority figure by following the Holy Spirit’s prompting, God will make sure it goes well with you in that area of life, whether the difficult authority person does or not.

Have you tried this? Did it work for you? What was your experience? Please tell us in the comments. If you’d like to tell us about on on-going difficult situation, feel free to shoot us an email (click “Contact Us”). We’d love to hear from you and pray with you.

Honoring Parents

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One of the basic principles God has woven into the fabric of the universe involves the very first relationship we ever had – the one with our parents. “Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” (Deuteronomy 5:16) This one is so important it made the Ten Commandments. And it’s the first commandment with an explicit blessing (Ephesians 6:2).

Honor is the currency of the Kingdom of God. In whatever area we honor our parents in, we’ll be blessed – it will go well with us. That’s a promise from God. But the reverse is also true – in whatever area we do not honor our parents in, it will not go well with us.

There’s no age limit given in the commandment. Even as an adult living on our own, there’s still a blessing for honoring our parents. We can still make our own decisions. But we should listen to them, and prayerfully consider what they say, even if we think they don’t know what they’re talking about. Just because they’re not experts, or even knowledgeable, about the domain they’re giving us advice about, doesn’t mean it’s not from God. God often speaks through parents, especially godly ones, even in stuff they know nothing about. The Holy Spirit is giving us wisdom through them – it will go well with us if we listen, and it will not go well with us if we don’t. Ask God how to apply what they’ve said.

What if they’re abusive? We don’t have to submit ourselves to unsafe situations. We can set healthy boundaries, and they don’t have to like them. Just because they accuse us of being dishonoring doesn’t mean we are. But there are healthy boundaries within which we can honor our parents, whether they deserve that honor or not. In an abusive situation, please ask a Christian counselor and your Pastor to help you set healthy boundaries.

A very common form of dishonoring our parents is holding judgements against them in our hearts. We need to release ourselves from that judgement by forgiving our parents – accepting that they are not the evil they did to us. We can acknowledge that they did evil to us, whether they admit it or not. But we release them from owing us anything – we claim Jesus’ sufferings as payment in full for the wrong they did against us.

If this is helpful, please share it with the social media buttons below so someone else can be blessed. And share your story with us, either in the comments below or a private message (click the “Contact Us” link in the menu bar). We’d love to hear from you and pray with you.

The Physics of Relationships

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Believe it or not, relationships are like physics. There are certain laws God’s woven into the fabric of the universe, certain principles at work whether we realize it or not, whether we believe in them or not.

Gravity can be a tremendous blessing or a terrible curse. If you jump off your house, you’ll find it’s a curse that brings you pain and a sudden stop. But if used correctly, like an airplane does, it can be a tremendous blessing, allowing us to travel huge distances in relatively little time. And gravity is always operating, whether we decide to believe in it or not.

God’s laws of relationships are the same way. He set them up to bring us tremendous blessing, but if we attempt to disregard them, they will bring us terrible pain. Here are the four basic laws of relationships:

1) Honor your parents (Deuteronomy 5:16 and Ephesians 6:2). This one is so important, it made the Ten Commandments. The currency in the Kingdom of God is honoring. Basically, in whatever area you honor your parents in, it will go well with you. That’s a promise from God. And in whatever area you do not honor your parents in, it will not go well with you.

2) You reap what you sow (Galatians 6:7). Even the secular world has figured this one out. Ever heard the phrase, “what goes around, comes around”? You can get whatever you want from relationships. Give to the other what you want, and the byproduct is it’ll come back to you.

3) Don’t judge or you’ll be judged (Matthew 7:1). This is talking about judging people, not actions. We get into trouble when we judge another person instead of (or in addition to) their actions. The other person is not the evil they did to us.

4) We become what we judge (Romans 2:1). When we judge another person, we condemn ourselves to do the same thing. Ever say, “I’ll never be like my parents and do that.” Guess what happens? We find ourselves doing the exact same thing, because we judged them for doing it.

We’ll talk about each of these in more detail in the next several posts. But what do you think? Do you have any doubts about any of these? (#4 was originally hard for me to accept.) Or have you seen these in operation? Tell us in the comments. And if you think this post would help somebody else, please share it.

Is It Enough?

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I was getting prayer ministry, working through the process of forgiving someone who had done something really bad to me. Really bad. It hurt a lot, worse than anything I’d ever experienced. It was really hard to forgive them because the person was completely unrepentant.

While I was learning about true forgiveness, and trying to see the person as not being the evil they did to me, I had a vision. Not an open vision, but a divine picture in my mind’s eye. I saw Jesus hanging on the cross. He looked at me and asked, “Have I hung here long enough?”

I didn’t get it. What?

He asked me again, “Have I hung here long enough to pay you back for the evil they did to you?”

That blew my mind and I broke down in tears. I’d understood since childhood that Jesus paid for my sins on the cross, but until that day I never realized he also hung there to pay for others’ sins against me.

When I answered him, “yes”, I was able to (finally!) release the other person from the debt they owed me because of the evil they did to me. I was able to see them as a hurting and deceived individual with their own story, and not as the evil thing they did to me. And I was able to pray blessing over their life and mean it. (BTW, that’s the sign that you’ve completed the forgiveness process.)

How about you? Are you struggling through the process (yes, “process” – it’s not an “event”) of forgiving someone who’s done something heinous to you? Or maybe you’ve already gone through it, and your experience would help others? We would love to hear from you and help you through it. Please leave us a comment or shoot us an email.

The Good Guy and Bad Guy Chairs

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When someone has seriously wronged us, it’s really easy to put them in the Bad Guy Chair while we sit in the Good Guy Chair. They go together – if we put them in the Bad Guy Chair, we are putting ourselves in the Good Guy Chair. And if we put ourselves in the Good Guy Chair, we’re holding them in the Bad Guy Chair.

Getting us to climb up into the Good Guy Chair and stay there is one of Satan’s greatest deceptions. Nothing will get our spiritual growth stuck faster than sitting in the Good Guy Chair. Because the Good Guy Chair has another name – the Victim Chair. And unforgiveness holds us in it.

Here’s the deception: We don’t think of ourselves as being unforgiving. We may have even overtly “forgiven” the other person. But secretly in our hearts, we haven’t. We still consider them the Bad Guy. Our unforgiveness holds them in the Bad Guy Chair, which holds us in the Victim Chair, which arrests our spiritual growth right there. It condemns us to a life of bitterness and victimization. Who wants that?

The catch is, the only way out of the Victim Chair is to release the other person from the Bad Guy Chair. But wait! You don’t know what they did to me! It was really, really bad!!! Yes it was. Forgiveness doesn’t mean pretending it didn’t happen. Forgiveness doesn’t mean minimizing it to seem less bad than it really was.

Yes, they did something horrible to you. Hold them accountable for it with whatever (godly) means are at your disposal. Press charges if it’s a criminal act. Confront them (speaking the truth in love). Set (godly) boundaries so they can’t hurt you again. Holding them accountable helps them out of the deception that caused them to do that thing to you in the first place. It also protects futures victims from becoming victims.

But here’s the point: They themselves are not that horrible thing they did to you. It came out of their own pain and their own deceptions that they are living under, which you probably have no idea about. That does not justify what they did, and they are accountable for it. But coming to the realization that they are not the thing they did to you is the essence of true forgiveness.

Is this ringing a bell? Have you gone through the process of forgiveness? Is this something you’re working through? Tell us in the comments or shoot us an email. We’d love to hear from you.

Forgiving Others

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What’s the one thing that will block our development and maturity more than anything else? God cares about relationships, and having unresolved relationship issues in this one area stagnates our Christian growth more than virtually anything else. Even the world recognizes this issue – as Bitterness. In the Kingdom of God, the Bible has another name for it – Unforgiveness.

Forgiving others is a two-part process.

First, we have to acknowledge that they actually sinned against us. Often, especially in our family of origin, we excuse and rationalize it instead. “Dad really worked hard” or “he never beat me unless I deserved it.” Forgiveness is not pretending it never happened or pretending that what was done to us wasn’t wrong. Even if we’ve convinced ourselves otherwise, our spirit knows wrong was done to us, and harbors judgement against the other person – even if we’re not aware of it. So by pretending it didn’t happen or wasn’t wrong, we actually condemn ourselves to live in the prison of unforgiveness. So the first step is recognizing the evil the person did to us, being honest about it without minimizing it.

The second step is deciding to believe the person is not the evil they did to us. Hurt people hurt people. They have their own story and their own pain and lived under their own deception that lead them to do evil to us. When we come to the point where we accept that they are not the evil they did to us, when we let them out of the “bad guy” chair, we come to the point where, in our hearts, they don’t owe us anything. That’s forgiveness – in our heart we’ve dropped the debt they owe us because of what they did. We can still hate what they did, but we no longer hold anything against them for it.

Not holding anything against someone who’s sinned against us does not mean they aren’t responsible for their actions. We can still put up healthy boundaries, especially if the person is unrepentant and hasn’t changed. But those boundaries are there because of their unhealthy behavior, not because we vindictively are holding something against them or are trying to punish them for the past.

I have an friend we’ll call “Damien” whose wife left him. There was no abuse or anything like that, she just decided she didn’t want to stay in the marriage anymore. While getting prayer ministry, he saw a vision in his mind of Jesus hanging on the cross. The Lord asked him very matter-of-factly, with no condemnation, “Have I hung here long enough to pay you back for what she did to you? Or do I need to hand here longer?” Damien broke down. He answered in his heart, “No, Lord, it’s enough. You’ve done enough.” From that moment on, even though his wife had not repented, Damien forgave her.

Damien tells me that, to this day, whenever he starts to get bitter, he goes back to that moment. Even though he had to place some boundaries in his dealings with her after that because of her continued bad behavior, Damien does not hold anything against her. That’s living in forgiveness. In fact, Damien prays blessing over her without any begrudging feelings in his spirit. That’s the litmus test of true forgiveness.

How about you? Is there someone you need to forgive? Have you experienced the incredible freedom that forgiveness brings? Tell us your story in the comments or shoot us a message by clicking here. We’d love to hear your story and pray for you.