5 minute read

Careful Burden-Bearing: Instructions for Allies

Last Updated: March 16, 2022

Keith Rose
Keith Rose

Keith Rose holds a Master of Divinity degree and BA in Sacred Music. Keith worked with the Covenant Eyes Member Care Team for 15 years. During that time, he also served as a worship leader, Bible teacher, and pastoral assistant. He's now the editor of the Covenant Eyes blog and the author of Allied: Fighting Porn With Accountability, Faith, and Friends. He lives in Rexford, Montana with his wife Ruby and daughter Winslow.

Being an ally means stepping into the messiness of someone’s life. It means speaking the truth in love. It means just being there, loving them, and caring for them.

You’re not the savior. You can’t control their behavior. But you must be willing to get down in the slimy pit of buried feelings and hidden motivations to point them to salvation in Jesus—in your words and your actions.

The Bible teaches that it’s our job as Christians to be a friend to the person caught up in sin, and that includes porn.

Galatians 6:1-2 makes it clear:

“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

Paul says that restoring someone caught in sin is “the law of Christ.” Laws aren’t optional—this is part of our calling!

If you are filled with the love of Christ, that love is going to spill over into the lives of those around you and motivate you to help those in need and those struggling with sin. It isn’t optional.

It may seem like a fearful thing to step into the trenches with someone in the fight against porn, but this is part of the noble call of God’s people. It’s our identity: we should bear one another’s burdens.

In verse 4, Paul further warns us to “Keep watch over yourself, lest you too be tempted.” What does it mean to “keep watch” or to “take care” as we keep people accountable?

Take Care by Being Gentle

Struggles with porn are often connected to deep-rooted shame and identity issues. Many Christians are afraid to reach out for the help they need because they’re afraid of being shamed or berated for their sin.

This should not be.

Go back to Galatians 6 for a moment. Paul tells us that when someone is caught in sin, we should restore them in “a spirit of gentleness.” This means we should be merciful and compassionate toward people who are struggling with porn.

Gentleness does not mean you simply pat someone on the back and tell them it’s going to be OK! The more someone plays with fire, the more urgent your response should be. However, there is no place for shaming someone or responding harshly to someone who confesses their sin.

Why is that?

Jesus himself does not respond harshly when we confess our sin to him. Romans 5:8 says, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sin, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sin.”

Being gentle can be difficult, especially when we see obvious contradictions, inconsistencies, and self-destructive patterns in a person’s behavior.

But Christians are called to gentleness. So when you’re stepping into the messiness of someone’s struggle with porn, take care to be gentle.

Take Care by Recognizing Your Vulnerability

Even if you’ve never struggled with porn yourself, it’s a good idea that you have some kind of accountability in place for yourself.

Why is that? I’m not the one with the problem.

Not everyone is tempted by porn and lust, but everyone is tempted by something. Since we are all vulnerable to various forms of temptation, we should all have accountability structures in place to help us stay on track—to keep ourselves out of the shadows of sin and walking in the light of truth.

1 John 1:7-8 says:

“But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”

John says that fellowship is intertwined with acknowledging sin and walking in the light—that’s what accountability is all about.

Recognize your vulnerability and seek accountability for yourself, even as you reach out to help others.

Take Care by Modeling Accountability

This goes with the previous point: if you’re going to keep others accountable (and you should!), then you should model for them what being accountable looks like. This is true for individuals, church leaders, and parents.

In his letters to the early Christian churches, the Apostle Paul repeatedly encourages them to “imitate him” (1 Corinthians 4:6, 11:1, and Philippians 3:17). Paul makes it clear that he wants them to imitate him like he imitates Jesus. He sets the example for them to follow.

The Scottish preacher Robert Murray M’Cheyne is credited with the quote, “My people’s greatest need is my own holiness.” M’Cheyne recognized that people paid more attention to his actions than his words. He needed to model the Christian life for his people.

James 2:14 asks, “What good is it if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds?” You can talk the talk about accountability, but if you’re not putting it into practice yourself, it doesn’t mean much. It’s a powerful teaching tool to say, “I too am vulnerable and need help in my Christian walk. Follow my example.”

Take Care by Avoiding Presumption

When I was 10, I loved going sledding in the winter with my brothers. Our “sledding hill” was just a small ditch by the side of a remote country road. One day as we were sledding, I discovered a newfound joy: instructing my little brother on proper sledding technique.

“You need to put your feet like this. Now lean forward. Use your arms!”

Never mind I had no better idea of the “right” way to sled down a short ditch than he did. I felt like a coach at the Winter Olympics.

“Here’s the most important technique to remember when sledding,” I began. I had no idea, but I had learned the foolish joy of presuming to be a teacher.

This silly story comes to mind when I think about accountability and the tendency that many of us (myself included) have to dispense unqualified advice. James 3:1 says, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.”

James’ caution is against people who too eagerly take on the role of the wise sage dispensing advice. Paul mentions people like this in 1 Timothy 1:7, “They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not understand what they are saying or that which they so confidently assert.”

The role of the accountability partner or ally does not mean that you’re a wise teacher or advisor. As we’ll see later when we get into the specifics of accountability, one of your primary roles is to simply listen. Be circumspect about what you say.

Accountability is about stepping into the slimy pit to help, recognizing your own weakness and limitations, and doing this with an attitude of gentleness and compassion.