One of the most frustrating sights on my vehicle dashboard is the “Check Engine” light. The problem is not necessarily the light itself. It’s the fact that the light can indicate so many things. Three years ago I was in Denver, CO about to head back to Abilene when I noticed that my “Check Engine” light had come on in my truck. I started to panic a bit as I thought about making the lengthy drive home and worrying the whole way about breaking down. I took my truck to Auto Zone and had them run a diagnostic test before I left. Like an expectant father waiting to find out the gender of his unborn child, I waited with baited breath for the results. I was delighted and even more irritated that the prognosis was my gas cap. The seal must have been damaged and that was causing the annoying “Check Engine” light to stay on and, thus, causing my blood pressure to stay up. What do you do when your “Check Engine” light comes on? Do you rush over to Auto Zone or O’Reilly’s and get it checked out? Do you ignore it in the hope that it will eventually burn out or whatever is wrong will magically fix itself? I know of one individual who took a piece of electrical tape and placed it over the light so that he wouldn’t have to see it? What about you? How do you respond to the “Check Engine” light?
Think about that question in terms of the spiritual. How do you respond to a spiritual “Check Engine” light? How do you respond when a brother or a sister comes to you and says, “Hey, I’ve noticed that you’ve been missing church quite a bit lately? Is everything alright?” How do you respond when your conscience is saying, “I wouldn’t do that if I were you? That’s going to be trouble.” How do you respond when an elder approaches you and says, “Let’s talk about your sin so that we can help you overcome it?” How do you respond when the spiritual “Check Engine” light is flashing? Do you ignore the phone calls and texts from concerned brethren? Do you walk away from the church completely? Do you suppress your conscience? Do you get defensive and tell your brothers and sisters to mind their own business? Are you willing to flash the light of accountability when necessary?
Church is not always pretty. It can be messy. As much as we would like the church to be pristine and elegant, sometimes she’s not. There are scars. There are warts. Sometimes there is even deformity. But you know what? That’s okay. I don’t want a church filled with perfect Christians who have never messed up or who have never experienced failure. You don’t have to be perfect to be a part of God’s family. However, with this imperfection come problems. Fellowship is not just about hanging around after services and shooting the breeze. It’s not just about potluck lunches. Fellowship is about accountability, and accountability is not always pretty. The apostle Paul wrote:
Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ (Gal. 6:1 & 2).
Paul is pointing the finger directly at you and me. “You who are spiritual,” he says. You. The Christian. It’s your duty to reach out to one who is caught in sin and do your best to assist them in finding restoration. It’s not just the preacher’s job. It’s not just the job of the elders. We are family, and family loves one another, even when it’s messy. Burden-bearing is not always a glamorous job, but it’s a necessary one.
Church isn’t just a formal gathering. It’s an investment. It’s an investment in people. Christians are called to invest in the lives of others, even when it’s messy. Love cares enough to correct; therefore, we must be willing to hold one another accountable, as well as be held accountable. It would be easy to let it go. The easy thing is to not say anything. What if I offend them further? I don’t want to run them off by saying something. But at some point you have to risk it. You have to be willing to say, “It’s worth confronting them about their sin, even if it drives them further away.” For a family to tolerate wrongdoing among its members is not a sign of love. It’s a sign of irresponsibility. You don’t love your brother if you allow him to go to hell rather than attempting to correct his behavior. Accountability is a family matter.
Don’t be a spiritual lone ranger. We all need someone to hold us accountable. We all need to be willing to be held accountable. There is beauty in burden-bearing. It’s a glorious thing to behold when a family is compelled, by love, to encourage and lift one another up. To restore a precious soul is the greatest of all victories. May we never be so concerned with someone leaving an empty pew that we allow them to have an empty soul. And may we never be so full of pride that we refuse accountability. May we always properly respond to the spiritual “Check Engine” light.