A few days ago, I was challenged by a great friend to consider the following question.
“Are you an accuser or an advocate?”
The question was posed in the middle of a conversation about what it means to truly reflect the heart of Jesus in all of our interactions. It was asked in a spirit of collaborative inquired and from a place of love. My initial reaction was to reject the premise of the question. However, as we continued to explore the question, conviction settled in my heart. All to often I find myself inadvertently and unintentionally assuming the posture of an accuser.
The words accuser and advocate are weighted and heavy words. They evoke strong emotion. We love the notion of an advocate, if the one advocating is on our side. The word accuser however, is a scary one. It really doesn’t feel good to think about.
As we pondered this question together, it became increasingly and painfully obvious that my attitude and assumptions about others all too often falls on the accuser side of this dynamic. It is easy to hear part of a situation and assume the other person is at fault. Often, without full understanding, I jump to the conclusions of an accuser in my mind and make judgments that are not accurate or helpful. A bias toward the posture of an accuser is easy to assume with out being aware we have done so.
A former co-worker used to respond to biting comments or misplaced assumptions with the phrase, “Was that helpful or hurtful?” This perspective seems to capture the tension between the posture of an accuser and that of an advocate. Are we seeking to bring harm or help into a given relationship or situation?
This is not just a nice idea… it is actually a spiritual reality. In 1 John 2:1 we read, “But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ…” The root word for advocate is the Greek word “parakletos” which means to intercede, defend, help or comfort.
In John 14:16 Jesus promises that God will, “give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit…” The word used here to describe the Holy Spirit as our “Helper” is also “parakletos,” the same word that described Jesus as our “advocate.”
In contrast, Satan is referred to as “the accuser of our brothers” in Revelation 12:10. The word translated as “accuser” in this passage is the Greek word “katagoros” from which our word “category” finds its etymological foundation. Think about the implication here. An accuser seeks to categorize and limit the object of his scorn. Essentially an accuser seeks harm, where as an advocate seeks to help.
Jesus was never once referred to as an accuser.
Think about that… two of the three members of the Trinity are characterized as an advocate, and Satan is described as an accuser. Those of us who have chosen to follow Jesus, ought to strive to adopt the posture and attitude of an advocate.
This is not to suggest that there is not accountability for people’s actions. The justice of God demands an account for sin. We can not ignore sin or brush it’s consequence aside. An advocate does neither. An advocate, fully aware of the reality of what has transpired, supports, catalyzes and challenges the offender back to a place of wholeness and restoration, while not overlooking the need for accountability and consequence.
Every day we are confronted with challenging situations and difficult relationships. Every day, and in every circumstance, we have the opportunity to choose whether we will be an accuser or an advocate. This doesn’t mean we allow people to get away with wrong or allow them walk all over us. But it does require us to consider the way we respond when perceived offense occurs. The difference is found in the attitude and posture we choose to take.
While reflecting on this I have noticed the posture of an accuser finds its way into my life too often. I don’t want to be this way and am working hard to change my proclivities in this regard. When I notice this tendency, I am choosing to pause and ask God to rewire my heart and my response.
I don’t want to be a person who hurts. My desire is to be a person who helps. I’m so glad my friend challenged me with this question. I believe the courage of that conversation has helped me reorient to a better, more godly way of approaching difficult relationships. So let me ask you the same question:
Are you an accuser or an advocate?
If you have ideas for how to be a great advocate, I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.