Last week, David Brooks wrote an opinion piece in the NY Times entitled: The Age of Innocence. He opens his column by saying the following:
“The people who pioneered democracy in Europe and the United States had a low but pretty accurate view of human nature. They knew that if we get the chance, most of us will try to get something for nothing. They knew that people generally prize short-term goodies over long-term prosperity. So, in centuries past, the democratic pioneers built a series of checks to make sure their nations wouldn’t be ruined by their own frailties.”
In America, we decentralized power building checks and balances that served “to frustrate and detain the popular will.” In Europe, they did exactly the opposite. They centralized power, which “was held by small coteries of administrators and statesmen, many of whom had attended the same elite academies where they were supposed to learn the art and responsibilities of stewardship.”
Even though the checks instituted in America and Europe where different, Brooks says, they “were based on a similar carefully balanced view of human nature: People are naturally selfish and need watching.” He then goes on to quote James Madison, who essentially says the reason we are naturally selfish is because we are depraved.
After setting the scene, Brooks then addresses the problem, which is that people no longer believe they are depraved. “They think depravity is nonexistent and they take self-government for granted.” Leaders no longer “believe their job is to restrain popular will.” Rather, they believe they are to “flatter and satisfy it,” which has caused many of today’s voters “to regard their desires as entitlements.”
This has caused massive problems in today’s society. Governments have made promises they cannot afford to keep, as well as it’s people believe they are entitled to benefits for which they are not willing to pay.
The reason this has occurred is because people no longer believe they are depraved. Their worldview has no room in it for human depravity. Causing themselves to believe they are capable of self-policing. But this is simple not true.
We are depraved and we will always be depraved.
In Romans 3:10 Paul says, “None is righteous, no, not one.” Even as Christians, unrighteousness lives in our flesh and wars within us, never leaving us. Speaking of the unrighteousness that lives in his flesh Paul says in Romans 7:21-25:
“So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.”
So, yes, as believers in Jesus Christ, we are Overcomers (1 Jn 2:13; 5:4-5), but we still are at war with our flesh, and, at times, will succumb to our flesh, as Paul makes evident in Romans 7.
So What are We to Do?
I think David Brooks’ column has a lot of insight for us here, not on a political level, but on an individual level. In his piece, he tells us that we as a nation have forgotten our depravity. I think we as a church from time to time forget that as well. While we live on this earth, we still dwell within a sinful tent; our flesh is still warring with our spirit. As a result, we too need a system of checks and balances.
This system has to exist outside of ourselves, for we cannot police ourselves anymore than our governments can police themselves. So what I want to challenge you to do is to find another person, preferably of the same sex, and someone other than your spouse, and form an accountability relationship.
Who to Look For?
When looking for someone to form this relationship with, you should pick a person who you can trust and who will hold you accountable. Someone to whom you can confess your sins and pray with about those sins. Someone who will check up on you throughout the week, as you do the same with them.
What to Do?
Once you find someone, start meeting with them once a week, or once every two weeks, whatever your schedule allows. These meetings do not have to be elaborate, they can be simple. To give you an idea of what a meeting would look like, you could read a passage of Scripture together, discuss it, talk about any sins that may be present in your life that the biblical writer brings out, and pray with one another. It is that simple! And a simple act like that can, and will, reap huge dividends in your spiritual growth.
So, I challenge you to begin praying this week for God to provide you with an accountability partner. If you already have someone in mind, I challenge you to get started.