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Before you ever try to hold a person accountable, you should answer the following three questions.
The reason I’m asking you these questions is that all biblical accountability begins with the heart and practice of the person who is bringing the accountability (Matthew 7:3-5).
It would be helpful to think about the accountability that God brings to you, and the reason you respond so favorably to His corrective care (Hebrews 12:6).
When God disciplines me, I am well aware of His stunning affection for me. The gospel reminds me daily of how much God loves me, so when He does discipline me, which He should, I’m not discouraged. I’m disciplined, but I know I am loved.
When my wife brings correction to me, it is a “sour drop” in an ocean of love. Why? Because Lucia aggressively pursues me in love to encourage and reaffirm her affection for me. And because of her practical love for me, I’m more eager to respond favorably to her corrections.
If you know you must bring correction to an individual, a wise person will be aggressive in gratitude. You want to put money in the bank, so to speak, and when the time comes to make a withdrawal, it won’t be deflating to the one you’re bringing correction to because they will be more aware of your love than your correction.
Paul modeled this approach to the Corinthians. He brought many correctives to this rowdy bunch of Christians, but he did not withhold his affection from them. Before you read about his correctives, read 1 Corinthians 1:1-9.
Here is a test for you. Go to your spouse, child, parent, or another individual you’re holding accountable, and ask them some of the questions in this “are you accountable” section. As you prepare to ask these questions, be sure to communicate the following.
If you knew I would not get mad and you were confident I would not respond negatively in any way and you had complete freedom to respond the way you felt, what would you tell me regarding these questions?
If you do not believe the person you’re holding accountable can change, you may disqualify yourself from being the kind of accountability partner that they need.
Only Christians can participate in biblical accountability because non-Christians don’t change (1 Corinthians 2:14). And God is clear regarding that which He has begun in a believer’s life (Philippians 1:6). He will finish it.
Philippians 1:6 communicates profoundly the Lord’s “faith for the process of change” in the believer’s life. What God begins, He will finish it.
Take notice of Paul’s “faith for the process” in the rowdy Corinthian Christians. They were sinning their brains out. The church was dysfunctional. Wickedness was around every corner, and many of them were lunging headstrong into strife and disunity. It was an awful church context with many erring brothers and sisters.
Carefully read how Paul began addressing this rowdy bunch of believers.
I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge—even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you—so that you do not lack in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 1 Corinthians 1:4-9
Paul loved them immensely. Paul had great faith for what God could do in their lives. Examine your “faith for the process” in the person you’re holding accountable. Are Paul’s thoughts your thoughts when it comes to those who receive your care? Say the following to examine your attitude.
It is easy to forget who the person is that you’re trying to help change. You can forget their identity, particularly if they are not changing according to your expectations and time lines. In such situations, the temptation to discourage them through impatience or harshness is strong.
Unkindness toward another believer, whether it’s a relative or not is unbiblical, uncaring and anti-gospel. Bringing correction never implies being unkind.
Jesus Christ died on the cross for the person you’re helping to change. Jesus cared that much for the person you’re holding accountable. He said, basically, “Kill me instead of them; let me take their sin.” And because of His great love, the person you’re holding accountable became God’s child.
The infinite Father killed the infinite Son to pay for an infinite crime against an infinite Being. Only an infinite sacrifice could pay for that infinite crime. My works, no matter how good they may be (Isaiah 64:6), would never pay the price for my sin. I’m a finite, tainted vessel, who could never please the infinite God by my dirty deeds.
God did the impossible, the improbable, and the overwhelmingly stunning. He made the ultimate sacrifice for all believers, even the person you’re helping to change, which makes that person profoundly loved.
I can understand–in a finite way–the specialness of children. I have no tolerance for anyone who acts unkindly toward my kids. I sacrifice daily for my children. I care for them. I love them. And it would be good for you to love them as well. Tread carefully with my kids!