In part one, I talked about the difference between judging and accountability. Today, my goal is to paint a picture of how accountability is supposed to work. It’s God’s plan for His people to work interdependently to make each individual stronger.
Accountability is wonderful and painful. I have two girlfriends I’m accountable to, as well as my Mom and two sisters, and of course my husband. Why all this accountability?
The number one reason is we need someone outside ourselves who can give us a more objective view. We tend to either be too hard or too easy on ourselves. When we’re beating ourselves up, we need someone to give us a hug and encouraging word. When I got discouraged in my dieting efforts and felt deprived, I devoured a bunch of forbidden desserts. My husband didn’t scold me (like I was doing to myself), but encouraged me to get back on track.
On the other hand, when we rationalize our behavior and give excuses for why our sin is okay with God (when we convince ourselves we have extenuating circumstances and somehow get a free pass), our accountability partners can set us straight. That’s what Nathan did for King David (see 2 Samuel 12:1-13). He used a word picture he knew would touch King David’s heart and break through his defenses. We all need someone who loves us enough to tell us the hard stuff and keep us soft and repentant before God.
And now, for the meat. Here’s what the Bible says about accountability in the Body of Christ—the Church:
Examine yourself first:
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips… Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. Col. 3:5-8, 16
Be humble, love deeply, and lift up:
Paul’s teaching in Gal. 6:1-2: Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
From Jesus’ half-brother: Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective…My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins. James 5:16, 19-20
From the writer of Hebrews in Heb. 3:12-13: See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Heb. 10:24-25
Speak to them privately at first:
Jesus’ said: “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” Matt. 18:15-17
Jesus’ words in Luke 17:3: “So watch yourselves. If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them.”
Don’t hang out with unrepentant “believers”:
Paul’s instructions in 1 Cor. 5:9-12: I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?
Things to Think About
There is a fine line between judging and accountability. Have you accused others of judging you who warned you of the consequences of your choices? Regardless of whether they hurt your feelings, or how the words were spoken, your job is to ask God if you need to change.
Have you overstepped your role and begun to judge others, or spoken harsh words?
Are you accountable to other believers, or do you live your spiritual life in secret? Who knows how you’re really doing and encourages you to stay on track? Are you approachable and submissive? If not, you will be held accountable, but by the time you’re standing before the judgment throne it will be too late to change. Now is the time to walk with others who seek God in this faith journey.
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