Over the last couple of days we’ve been talking about accountability to our Father, asking him to point out areas in which we’ve disobeyed and disappointed him. Today I’d like to focus on another aspect, another “outside audit” that we need on a regular basis. In case you haven’t figured it out from the passages, I’m talking about “horizontal” accountability as opposed to “vertical” accountability, namely towards godly friends.
The title for today’s post comes from the first passage. I think this passage from the Psalm is really is high point for David. When someone comes up and “strikes” me with a word of rebuke, what’s my instinctual response? Of course the natural thing to do is to retaliate or defend myself: “You’re one to talk! What about the time. . .!” “But I had a really good excuse for doing what I did. . .”
That’s not David’s response, at least not what he wanted it to be. If a righteous man struck him, he considered it an act of kindness. To pour oil on someone’s head was a way of honoring someone. If you had a guest in your home, for example, you might pour olive oil on their head. And they poured oil on someone’s head to appoint them to an official office or important task. That’s how David saw a rebuke from a righteous man.
Two quick points before we move to the other passages: First, this mainly applied to a righteous man’s rebuke. Now, a nonbeliever might have something important to say to you, and he still might have caught something about you that you’ve missed. But he doesn’t have access to the Spirit of Wisdom who dwells inside every believer. So be careful of who you take counsel from. And second, the reason David called a rebuke from a righteous man oil on the head? It’s an honor. So how is a righteous man showing you honor by rebuking you? By sharing the truth in love, he’s showing he cares about you and respects you enough to try to call you back into line with what God says.
On the second passage we have a well-known proverb: “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Notice the image here: Iron sharpening iron. These are two essentially equal materials. We don’t see a diamond sharpening iron. This reminds me that when you have two Christians and one of them rebukes the other, it doesn’t matter if one of them is more godly than the other or more mature than the other. They're essentially—and I mean it literally, in their essence—the same. The one who rebukes must put away any feelings of pride or superiority. You’re not superior.
It also reminds me that I can be profit from being rebuked by a less mature Christian. I have my blind spots just like everyone else. I can easily see how even a new believer might see something in my life that I—in my mastery of self-deception—have missed.
Then we come to the last passage in this short montage. James urges—no, it’s a command to do two things. We need to confess our sins to each other and to pray for each other. The reason why we confess to each other is not so one of us can judge the other or condemn the other. Again, we’re “iron sharpening iron.”
A word of caution here: Based on the verses we’ve read today and in the context of the whole of Scripture, obviously James doesn’t mean that we’re supposed to share our secret sins with just anyone, or even with just any believer. You need to find someone you trust, someone whose life direction is towards Christ-likeness, and ideally one who can personally relate to your sin issue, who struggles in the same areas you do.
My friend, this world can be a dark and lonely place. When the Holy Spirit tells us thru his inspired word that we need to help and get help from each other in this area, he means it.
So whom can you approach about this today?
Father, I have some friends who fit into this category. They’re more precious to me than their weight in gold. Please help me be a true friend to them, and when they “strike” me, help me respond like David did.
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