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I'm always hearing about the benefits of "accountability."  Men in particular, apparently, are meant to get together... for accountability.  (I think it's "men in particular" because women already actually share life with each other.  Men have to be corralled under false pretences).

It's not so much that we're meant to meet for fellowship.  Not so much to speak the good news to each other, but to hold each other to Christian standards.  We're being called to mini-communities of law, where a combination of fear, pride and resolve dis-incentivise the appearance of sin.  Not "sin" itself.  I can easily survive an accountability group while nurturing a love for sin.  It's the "not appearing to commit sin" that counts.

Behind this drive towards "accountability", so often there'a a vision of the Christian life as sin-management.  It's not even that we're aiming for Sinlessness.  We're aiming for Sin Less-ness.  We're trying to keep the 'flagrant transgression count' down.  That way we won't have to appear before our brothers and sisters as "a sinner."    Phew.  That'd be awkward.  Having to confess I'm a sinner - Yikes!  No, that horrible feeling becomes the dis-incentive to transgress.  What's important is avoiding the need for, you know, confession, grace, forgiveness, the blood of Jesus.

And even as men herd together for accountability - the big issue we're meant to drill each other on is... the dreaded P word.  No, not Pride.  How intangible!  How can we measure progress in that?!  And no, not Prayer.  Goodness me - let's not over-spiritualize things here.  We're after indicators of performance.  No, no, every man's struggle is Porn.  Obviously.  (Of course with every man who's ever confessed struggles with porn to me, it hasn't taken long to establish that pride and prayerlessness are way bigger problems contributing to the mess.  And yet, those are problems it never occurred to them to confess.  It's "Porn" that's the issue, right?? That's by the by...)

What am I saying?  Stop meeting up for accountability?  Well look if you're a guy in an "accountability group" - well done.  Everything you love about this group is good and godly and biblical - you enjoy brotherhood, you enjoy sharing life, you enjoy another human being speaking forgiveness and grace into your life.  Hallelujah!  That's what fellowship is meant to be like.

But "accountability"?  Thing is - it doesn't even work.  But confessing your sins to each other... speaking words of forgiveness in Jesus' name... opening up to each other as a fellowship of the broken... having a cry... having a laugh... that's the Christian life.  And guess what?  It doesn't have to be gender specific!!  Cos, heck, you don't have to "fellowship" around "men's problems" or "women's problems."  You might just be able to, you know, be family together in Jesus.

And at the end of it all, you'll almost certainly sin less.  But that's not the point.  The Christian life is not sin management.  It's life together in Jesus.


9 thoughts on “Accountability

  1. Cal

    Wait, so the family isn't just a natural model of Accountability?!? I thought Ekklessia in Greek meant "Pool of Possible Accountability Partners"?!?

  2. Steve Martin

    Great post!

    Those reason that you mentioned, Glen, are good ones to gather.

    But to be accountable for sin? Hmm...We can no more forestall our own sin than we can forestall our own death.

    But, we do have a Savior who loves real sinners. The kind we know we are.

  3. Howard

    Absolutely, Steve. There's one who truly loves and truly rescues us crooked creatures. People fail us pretty quickly - even those who really know us and love us will find days which are very hard to bear, and we loose those closest to us very often. He is His faithful and true, and His love is stronger than death. He will keep us by His everlasting mercy, and in Him and that love, we can truly walk together in the light.

  4. David

    I've never been particularly tempted to join an accountability group, so I can't comment too much on that; but I think that Glen is right on the money here.

    Eradicating sin from our behaviour would not stop us being sinners, because our sin is a consequence of an already fallen nature. Accountability groups such as he describes are suggestive more of enforcing normative behaviour that is acceptable to the wider group than they are of affecting us towards Christ. This is no different from the monastic discipline that Luther struggled to achieve prior to his conversion.

    Obviously not sinning would be a good thing, but even better would be a sinner's heart ablaze with love for Christ.

  5. John B

    Seems to me that there really can't be a body apart from accountability. I don't see a problem with accountability. The problem is with groups formed specifically for that purpose. James in chapter 4 instructs against judging others. Then in chapter 5 he instructs to "confess your sins to *one* another". This *is* accountability, but without the groups. Confessing that I'm a sinner in the sense that "oh, you know, we all are and I'm certainly no different from the rest", is easy, but, to confess "my sins" to a brother through whom I am accountable to Christ is so difficult that it can only be done by the power of faith. James concludes his letter by instructing the church that we have accountability for saving the souls of brothers who have wandered from the truth. In a body, accountability is mutual.

  6. Glen

    Hi John - yes I'm all for a sharing of life that explicitly includes confession of sin and speaking forgiveness into each others' lives. But often I hear Scripture's calls to community being unpacked by preachers as calls simply to "accountability". And there's a certain popularity for "accountability groups" set up specifically for accountability's sake. That's what I'm on about here.

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