Editor’s note: Today's article is the first in a series about "fine line" areas of our lives. Areas where we struggle to discern truth from sin. Areas we prefer not to deal with so that we can continue living on the edge, where the "fine line" is. 

Part 1: A Fine Line: Judging Versus Accountability

"Oh, look over there. She is dressed like a prostitute again. Can someone please tell her that we do not want to see her bellybutton anymore? Oh and there is Mr. Jones with some new woman and her kids. I think he must have a different woman each week. I don’t think that is right with God. Where have all the bulletins gone? That church secretary is no good. We need to fire her. What did you say, Pastor? We need to pray for whom, the Smith family again? Shoot, all we do is pray for their finances. Maybe they would get off their duffs and get a job and stop asking the church for help all the time."

Does any of this sound familiar? I know I have thought and said similar things a few times in my life. In the south, where I live, we have a way of getting into people’s business and call it concern. We say we are praying for them to others but really we are just spreading gossip. We want to hold them accountable in truth but end up judging them in lies. Don’t get me wrong, there are some folks that are concerned and do care. But I have found that there is this “fine line” between judging people and holding them accountable. I think most people get them confused. I think most people say they are holding someone accountable, giving them approval by God when in fact they are making a judgment. A judgment without enough information, without truth, and without love.

So how do you know the difference? How do we know as Christians when we are judging someone or simply holding someone accountable?

Let’s first establish what accountability is:

Accountability is something God established to help us grow in Him. If done correctly by others, the results should be evident by our attitude, our walk with God, our faithfulness, and the awareness of our sin. We will become more humble, more teachable, and we will want to change.

We are all accountable to God. As we spend time in the word, serve, tithe, pray, have a great attitude, etc. we are storing up good things. Out of a good walk comes a good witness.

Matthew 12:35-36

The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.

We are accountable to those we serve under. God has placed those over you to teach and guide you. Even if this means some of them are not Christians. We are still accountable to our bosses, government, police, our parents, etc. They are being held accountable by God in how they hold you accountable.

Hebrews 13:17

Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.

We are accountable to each other. It’s one thing to be held accountable by God and by those in authority over you... but another believer? Boy, that can be hard. So many of us won’t hold each other accountable because we don’t want to come across as judgmental. We don’t want to come across like we don’t have our own junk. God commands us to do this, but he has given us instruction on how to do it so that it isn’t judgment.