Have you ever asked for accountability and regretted it? You know, when you share goals and desires with a friend who ends up being more obnoxious than helpful? Perhaps you end up feeling more guilt instead of getting helpful encouragement? On the flip side, maybe you’re the annoying friend that makes people feel bad when they mess up.
Regardless of which side you fall on, accountability is a worthy and necessary pursuit. God says we need each other. Still, it’s a tall order.
But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. Heb 3:13
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works . . . encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Heb 10:24-25b
We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. Rom 15:1-2
We’re all weak, which means we all need one another to be steadfast in obeying Christ. How then should we seek to hold one another accountable? By relishing God’s mercy and grace, being realistic, offering kind correction and loving one another no matter what.
Relishing Mercy and Grace
Mercy saves and keeps us; grace saves and transforms us. God is good and compassionate; he knows that we’re dust (Ps 103:14). He knows what we deserve and sent Jesus to help us out of hell (Eph 2:1-7). But also, to comfort us when we fail. Which means when I disappoint, I’m forced to find his mercy. Failure leads me to his feet and causes me to worship in ways I otherwise wouldn’t. When I fail, I’m forced to reckon his kindness with my sinfulness.
As we keep each other accountable, our first job is to display his mercy and grace. As we help one another be obedient, we’re demonstrating the goodness of the gospel and the gloriousness of Jesus. Grace reminds me that at the right time Christ died for the ungodly (Rom 5:6). It’s not my earthly goal to be perfect, it’s my job to faithful—ever keeping my eyes on the Perfect One. If God is the one who makes us perfect, we can be long-suffering towards one another as we fail and repent, fail and find Jesus, fail and worship.
If I’ve spent decades sinning or struggling in a particular way, why would it take a quick couple of days or weeks to transform? Grace leads us to be realistic about what we are capable of: nothing good apart from Christ (Ps 16:2). People love hearing inspiring stories of others doing great things. And we should, it’s God’s great image on display. But realistically, since nothing good or worthy comes apart from God, only he can help us change. Rarely does he do that overnight, typically he changes us through ongoing, deepening relationship with him. Realistically, the journey of change is just as important to God as the actual change itself. Personal stories of transformation flaunt the radical redemption of a good Father.
Offering Kind Correction
If we seek accountability, we know correction is needed. But a kind corrector leaves justice up to God and doesn’t take it upon themselves to disperse punishment for sin. Harsh expressions or disingenuous help is hurtful, but loving correction is gentle patience. After all, it is God’s kindness that leads us to repentance (Rom 2:4). Why would it be any different with one another? Frustration nor coercion has any place in holy accountability. If we correct with force or compulsion, it is hypocritical control. Kind correction happens when both friends are loyal to Jesus above all else, not selfishly seeking to gain from one another’s righteousness or a desire to be right. Kind correction flows when we truly believe we are depraved and recognize we are not above another’s sin (Rom 3). In other words, when we aren’t “holier than thou.”
Of course, above all we should love each other (1 Pet 4:8). This means not having personal standards but knowing we fail God’s. If you’re angry that people aren’t changing fast enough or doing or acting how you want them to act, this is pharisaical selfishness at best. It is only Jesus who brings transformation in his time and in his way. Loving someone is more than declaring it. Godly love is having the attitude of Christ, a willingness to lay your life down for your brother or sister.
I’ve never really liked the word accountability. It sounds clinical, a bit harsh and unwavering. Perhaps I just know how bad I am. In reality, loving relationships and encouraging others towards Christ is anything but clinical. Good accountability is built in gracious relationships that are long-suffering, long-standing and predictably kind.
Questions for Reflection:
1. Are you asking others to help you in your struggles?
2. Are you honest about where you need to grow and change?
3. Is your understanding of the gospel deep enough to encourage you to admit your weaknesses?
4. Are you loving others enough to help them amidst your own failure?
5. Do you pray for those whom you keep accountable?
6. Do you get frustrated when other’s sin or do you remember your own weaknesses first?
7. Do you avoid accountability? If so, what are you afraid of?
8. What are some ways as a friend you can be bold to ask for help and offer it in return?
9. What part of God’s character do you need to grow in understanding to help you trust him as you grow and change?
10. Is there someone you need to repent to for being unkind in accountability?