Guardrails (Part II)

guardrails

 I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord… wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come from God.” (1 Corinthians 4:4,5).

As suggested in a prior post, guardrails are quite simply those things outside of ourselves that keeps us from getting off the path.  In the above picture, the guardrails protect cars from plunging down a cliff.

As the above passage notes, we will have an ultimate accounting of our lives before the Lord.  Yet, I don’t find it to be something in the top of my mind every moment of the waking day.  In fact, I would have to admit that my behavior is rarely dictated by the thought that my day-to-day actions will face scrutiny of God.    For me, it is not a strong guardrail.  I am not alone.

In a post-modern, post-Christian era, the next generation suffers from a lack of value formation which often results in bad choices.  They don’t have the guardrails of a biblical view of life. Their bad choices, can and often do, last for a lifetime.  The unwanted teenage pregnancy, for example, often results in the inability for the mother to finish her education.  In turn, that results in an inability to get a reasonable job to support her family. The child also becomes a victim of this bad choice.

This point was driven in years ago at a lunch with several of my close friends.  Three of them were seminary graduates. They were lamenting the fall from grace by a seminary colleague who had an affair which ruined his marriage and cost him his job as a senior pastor.  He made a bad choice. There was a disbelief by my friends that knew him well that this man could have made that kind of mistake. Before this failure, he was perceived as above reproach.

It dawned on all of us, that if this man could fail, we all could fail.  No one is exempt. One man in our group, though took a different tack. He said that his marriage was too important to him to blow it on an affair.  In effect, he was saying fear of consequences kept him between the guardrails.

Another guardrail came out of that discussion. In interviews with 200 pastors who had moral failures, one thing was missing:  they had no one to hold them accountable. They had no one who could ask them questions about their thought life or how they were doing spiritually or emotionally. No one to ask them what God was teaching them in the word.

I have developed a close relationship with these men who have acted in one capacity as being an accountability group (although we don’t call it that).  We have met together almost weekly for 25 years. When we get together, we share each other’s lives – the good and the bad- along with the challenges we face.  It’s really a peer mentor group, although we didn’t apply that label to it until recently.

The theme of accountability has been a strong influence in my life.  I have urged others to adopt it. While I have failed in my own weak areas from time to time, my failures have been kept in check in by knowing that my failure would be subject to periodic reviews by others.

Before high speed internet, most sexual failures were the physical kind – people having affairs or being unfaithful. Now the issue is more complicated, particularly with the next generation.  Online pornography (and to a certain extent gaming which has taken a turn to violence and sexual content) is readily available on every smartphone, iPhone, iPad or computer.

The negative impact of pornography is only now emerging, partly because researchers have been unable to find enough participants in the next generation who did not view online porn. Thus, the classic two group study of the outcomes of participants – one group having viewed porn and one group that had not – failed because of the lack of one group.

I take it as a given with the next generation that porn is an issue in their lives.  When speaking about mentoring, I bring this up as a topic because of its prevalence. As a mentor, one of our tasks is to probe into the dark areas of a mentees’ life, and hopefully help them bring light to it.

I recall reading recently that the most effective antidote for dealing with pornography was having an accountability partner or mentor. Made sense to me, given the results of the study of the 200 pastors who had affairs.  Having someone to whom you are accountable to increases the likelihood of success by some 5 times more than anything else.

In James 5:16, we are admonished to confess our sins to one another so that you may be healed.  That’s what accountability looks like in scripture in the horizontal world. Yes, we are accountable to God, but if one is serious about his faith and walk as a follower of Christ, I submit that accountability to another person is a guardrail that we all need.

The challenge here is to recognize the issues facing the next generation. Changes in technology have created new threats that didn’t exist until just recently. One of the tasks that we have as mentors is to help the next generation face these issues head on and not keep them in the dark. Urge them to seek an accountability partner or mentor.  The Christian life is a team sport, as I have said many times.  Having a teammate to whom you are accountable is an invaluable guardrail for your life.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Mentors should be aware of issues that face the next generation. While the issues may be general in nature, it is quite possible that your mentee struggles with one of more of them. You can be guardrails in somebody’s life.

WORSHIP:  Listen to Kari Jobe sing “I Am Not Alone”.

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

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