Reverent Accountability

In Joshua 22 is recorded the story of the eastern tribes return home to their allotted territory after helping the western tribes of Israel capture their land in the promised land. In this story, the western tribes are concerned that the eastern tribes had quickly forgotten and turned away from God. So, they set out to attack the eastern tribes and cleanse themselves of their evil before God had a chance. The western tribes reference those who sinned among them during their wanderings in the dessert and preparation to take over the promised land. They recognize that the punishment of one person's sin affected the whole community. Luckily, the eastern tribes had a defense and explained that they had set up an alter to remind them to not forget the Lord and that they were still fully committed to following the living God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

What interests me about this story is the reverent seriousness of the level of accountability that Israel expects of one another. Their actions show deep respect and fear of God, recognition that the sins of one affects the entire community, and possibly care for the eastern tribes.

Perhaps, we as a western church, driven by the U.S. American value of Independence are not interested enough in the lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Would we confront a brother of sister if they had shown any hint of betrayal toward God? Would we consider how their departure from the faith would have an affect on us? Do we allow ourselves to be so focused on self that we dismiss the value of community accountability? When someone does confront a brother or sister in Christ on an issue that is legit and needed, do other brothers and sisters in Christ support the one doing the confrontation?

Interestingly enough, the western tribes' concerns were unneeded, the eastern tribes had remained devout. What would have happened had the western tribes attacked the eastern tribes on an assumed "act of justice?" If as a church we do confront our brothers and sisters in Christ about their waywardness, do we give them the time to explain themselves and actually consider their response or do we immediately jump to conclusions and offer our own punishment? And whose job is it to punish? Is punishment and correction different? And who is responsible for each?

As a western church, sometimes we need to think more communally, we need to adopt a little more of the east's way of thinking about responsibility. At the same time, if we choose to confront someone, we better allow them the opportunity for defense, for if we don't, we mind condemn ourselves.


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