Answering to No One

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Jon was an older bachelor, although still in his thirties, who had been part of the church since he graduated from college. He had always been reclusive, and almost never had people over to his apartment. In years past he had attended worship regularly, but over the previous three years that attendance had grown increasingly spotty.

One day his pastor asked him about it, and this is what precipitated his final departure and withdrawal of his membership. In that conversation the pastor discovered that Jon had really strong objections to the church’s statement of faith—not to any of the content, but rather the mere fact of it. It was made up of the “words of men.” In addition, the fact that the pastor used commentaries in the preparation of his sermons came up, and Jon let it be known that he thought that Christians, and especially pastors, ought to be individuals “of one book.”

Jon was an engineer and prided himself on being a perfectionist, and so the reason he wouldn’t invite people over to his home was because he did not want anyone to know what a disordered state it was in.

When his pastor pointed out to him that he was not a man with no commentaries, but rather that he was a man with one running commentary in his head, and a somewhat poorly informed one, Jon interpreted this as reliance upon the “arm of the flesh.” There were many aspects of Jon’s life that were admirable, but there was one characteristic that every aspect of his life had in common. He would not be accountable to anyone else for any part of it. He answered to himself alone, and that was simply the way it was going to be.

And so it was that he withdrew from Christian fellowship completely, isolating himself as neatly as you please. When his pastor gave his report to his elders on their last conversation, he summarized it nicely. “His besetting sin was refusal to be accountable, and by sheer effort of will he managed to make his besetting sin into his supreme virtue. And no one is ever going to tell him differently.”

All the characters and situations in this Fifty Ways series are entirely fictional. The patterns being described, however, are not entirely fictional, and will no doubt be recognized instantly by any experienced pastor.

Image from Unsplash, by Mantas Hesthaven, @mantashesthaven