Valerie is a 42-year-old, single, Reformed Christian lady who lives in Baltimore. She doesn't remember a time
before she knew and loved Jesus, but she does remember accepting John Calvin into her heart in March of 2000.
Valerie is a member of Christ Reformed Evangelical Church in Annapolis.
Though her career aspiration is to be a housewife, Valerie has not yet found anyone suitable who wishes to hire
her for employment in that field (or, more properly, anyone suitable has not found her), so in the meantime she
earns her daily bread working in communications -- editing, writing, print design and website management.
Does it work? If so, why? What exactly is it? What's the biblical basis for our understanding of it?
Here are a few things I think are key to the idea of holding someone accountable:
To be accountable means to be ready and willing to give an account of your behavior...whether it's a good account or a bad account. Ultimately we must all give an account of every word and deed to God.
We are to encourage one another daily. Accountability involves a specific application of that command to a particular area of sin, a spiritual discipline, etc. where a particular person needs to grow. Of course the ultimate goal for all of us is that we be self-controlled, self-accountable, but I don't think verses like Hebrews 3:13 leave room for thinking that anyone ever completely grows out of the need for encouragement this side of glory.
Growing up out of spiritual childishness into Christlikeness is parallel to growing up out of natural childishness into adulthood. It doesn't happen automatically. We would not expect a 5-year-old to suddenly be a mature adult. We know that he needs training and lots of attention to help him grow up. But somehow, if he's physically an adult, we expect him to suddenly be a mature adult even if he hasn't had that training and attention. I think this is an especially important principle to understand in a culture...even a Christian culture...that has failed for decades to raise children in a way that makes them fit for adulthood. Without investing the effort to help immature brethren reach maturity, we might as well be saying, to paraphrase James 2:15-16, "Depart in peace, be mature and be holy," without giving them the things which are needed for the soul. Or we're being like the Pharisees who "bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers" (Matthew 23:4). If two children are learning to walk, and one keeps stumbling and falling down while the other gets the hang of it more quickly, what good does it do to say to the first, "You should be like that one over there. Get your act together."
We are to practice mutual submission among the brethren. When we seek accountability from a brother on a specific matter, we are giving him authority over us in that area. We are giving him permission to correct us. We are agreeing to receive that correction with meekness, with remorse, with grief that we've let him down as well as that we've sinned against God. We ask him to be Christ's representative to us.
For one joined to Christ's body, sin is a corporate thing. I've written before (1, 2) about Achan's sin and corporate responsibility. The flip side of this coin is that we hold one another accountable because we are accountable to God. We see this most clearly with leaders in the church, who "must give an account" for those under their authority (Hebrews 13:17), but each of us is, to some degree, his brother's keeper. We should be motivated to serve one another by holding each other accountable, because our brother's sin is our sin, too. (Note that this is a way to serve one another, not a way to lord it over one another!)
We should seek accountability from those who are more mature. To quote Doug Wilson, "Don't seek out the phony accountability of drowning swimmers clutching at each other." What I wrote here ties in: We don't necessarily need someone who has "been there," and we especially don't need someone who is still there; sympathy is not accountability; if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a ditch.
We shouldn't always wait for a request for accountability before we hold one another accountable. "Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted" (Galatians 6:1). Of course this doesn't mean being a busybody. I think that's a particular temptation of women, who are far too eager to confront their sisters on issues such as hemlines. There may be a time for such a confrontation, but it's not as frequent as we would like to think.
The next verse says, "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." Accountability is bearing one another's burden of struggling against sin. We are to be comrades in arms...not a collection of lone rangers who have a weekly support group meeting on Sunday mornings.
Accountability requires really knowing the person you are holding accountable, so you can ask insightful questions to get to the root of the matter. Of course this sort of thing requires time and growth in the relationship. We can't expect to be instant masters of one another's psyches. The instruments by which we read one another are delicate and require fine tuning based on much data. This means we'll also have to be gracious and patient with one another as we'll no doubt blunder frequently as we trial-and-error our way toward understanding.
That means it also requires the accountable person to be humble enough to let himself be known. We don't want the popular sort of vulnerability that is seen as a virtue in itself, but the courage to open oneself up for a specific and strategic reason -- to be challenged and corrected. This should be done narrowly...not broadcast to the whole world (as I too often have done on this blog). We see in Hebrews 4:13 that accountability is akin to nakedness, and there should always be parameters around nakedness. A man visiting the doctor may need to take off his clothes to get treated, but he doesn't need to make the journey there and back again in the buff. That would, in fact, probably be quite counterproductive in every case.
OK, that's enough for now. That's the product of about two hours of writing down everything that came to mind and following rabbit trails in Scripture and other sources, but I'm sure I'm just scratching the surface. Feedback is welcome!
Posted by Valerie (Kyriosity) at 11:26 PM