In conversation today, you might hear words such as accountability and responsibility. Newscasters speculate about who will be held accountable for certain actions. Others postulate about what responsibility some aspect of society had for the actions of another. Yet so many times, there is very little reference to the actions of one being called into account simply on their own merit. We see shooters destroy innocent lives - then blame the lack of gun control as the "responsible" party. When "breaking down" the influencing factors in the shooter's life, we gravitate toward what the parents did or didn't do, who should have recognized the mental health issues apparent in the shooter's life, etc. We rarely gravitate to the place of saying this man or woman was totally accountable for their own actions. Why? Society today seems to want to "share" accountability and responsibility for the actions of individuals - not because they want to "own up" to the ugliness of the actions, but because there is some sense society "failed" the individual. This may be true in a sense, but ultimately we are all held accountable for our own actions. We don't stand on the merits of another - unless those merits are those of Christ in us.
The people I love, I call to account—prod and correct and guide so that they’ll live at their best. Up on your feet, then! About face! Run after God! (Revelation 3:19 MSG)
The Church of Laodicea is being "called into account" in this passage, but the message rings true to the individual believer, as well. The issue as Jesus puts it is the believer is neither hot nor cold. They are lukewarm - tepid at best. In other words, they have not decided which side of the fence they want to stand on. They have a foot on each side, so to speak. On one side is the independent way of life - managing one's own life, choosing one's own destiny, living pretty foot-loose and fancy-free. On the other side, in direct contrast, is the dependent life - not on society, but on Christ. The situation as Jesus sees it is the issue of "staleness" or "stagnancy". The one who is neither hot nor cold is really at a place of "staleness" in their lives.
The ones who "ride the fence" really don't want accountability in their lives - they want to be able to choose the "side" based on the circumstances they are presented with. If the offer on one side seems beneficial, they choose it over the other. Then, as quickly as they might have chosen one action, they might determine the action did not produce the results they hoped for, so they "swing" to the other side. It is both difficult to see oneself as responsible for the choices we make, nor accountable for the outcomes of those choices, when we are "swinging" back and forth all the time. We have very little stability.
Don't lose sight of what Jesus says about these "fence-sitters". He calls them the people he loves. I don't think we realize how much Jesus loves those who have allowed stagnancy, or provided a way for the heart to grow stale, almost cold. He loves them so much that he calls them to an "accounting" of their actions. If you struggle over that one, let it sink in a while. God loves the cold heart enough to prod it, correct it, and guide it back into warm and passionate pursuit again. He brings the one who has drifted into lazy repose, resting on the ease of complacency, into lively pursuit. He gets them back on their feet - turns them squarely around - then calls them to him.
In order to pursue, there has to be an accounting of the present condition. The one standing squarely on the "wrong side" of the fence must take responsibility for where they stand. The one riding the fence, neither in nor out, is called to account - it is in making a choice to be "answerable" for the place we find ourselves that we take the first step in the right direction. It is in choosing to stand not in our own merit, but in and upon the merit of another, Jesus Christ, that we find our life doing an "about-face". It is in turning, we come face-to-face with the one who will turn up the heat in our lives - bringing us to a place of "full-boil" - disturbing both our stagnancy and staleness.
Jesus uses three terms: Prod - Correct - Guide. First, he prods - in order to stir us from our complacency. Then, he corrects - not to point out the "wrong", but to "make true" what he sees in each of us. He sees what he is in us, not what we are in ourselves. In other words, in the removing of the errors and faults of our sin, he places himself squarely into those gaping holes in our character. When he sees us, he sees himself - not the errors of our ways. Last, he guides - taking us through what is unfamiliar and sometimes a little uncomfortable to us. These three actions belong to him. Yet, before all of these actions, there stands one action which belongs to us. We become accountable for where we stand. We take responsibility. In this moment, we no longer stand on our own merit, but fully walk into the merit of the one who calls us into this place of accounting.
Where there is complacency, there is opportunity for staleness and stagnancy to overtake every aspect of our lives. The call is to take account of what we are producing - if it lacks life and vitality, we may just be on the wrong side of the fence! Just sayin!