Below is an article written by Gina Cook, Gina and Tami write Through the Narrow here at Tulips & Honey Hub. They’ll be posting articles every other Tuesday. Both are published authors, and you can find Tami’s book here, and Gina’s book here. We’re blessing to have them apart of our team, and pray their writing will be as edifying to you as it is to us.
My husband and I vividly remember the day our Bible study leader’s wife, whom we had grown close to over several years of fellowship, sat in front of our group one Sunday evening and shared her passionate opinion on the subject of accountability. She boldly put it like this: “There are only two people who can hold me accountable, who I’ll listen to- they are my husband and my best friend. No one else gets to hold me accountable for my sin.” I sat in shock as my husband soon replied with, “well anyone here can hold me accountable, any brother or sister in Christ who sees I’m in sin; anyone God wants to use to hold me accountable can hold me accountable.” It wouldn’t be until years later that I’d become aware of how destructive and widespread this mindset was becoming within Christian circles, or with those that claim Christianity. More on that in a bit.
To not be misunderstood, I want to clarify right away that I believe we should have a few trusted people in our lives that are faithful Christians whom we can confide in with our struggles and personal trials -knowing they will be faithful to pray for us and direct us biblically as best they can. These people are what many call an accountability partner-ones who know us on a deeper level and not afraid to tell us the truth in love. This is biblically sound (Proverbs 18:24, Proverbs 27:6, Ecclesiastes 4:11-12) and should be sought out for every believer. Yet spiritual accountability is not something we can or should get from just one or two close self-appointed people; in fact, God is clear that the assembly of believers and true pastoral leadership, with the Word at the helm, are to also hold us spiritually accountable.
“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.” Hebrews 13:17.
“Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching.” 1 Timothy 4:13
“And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25.
Sadly we found out this woman’s statement and conviction on accountability was not really about having a biblical concept of accountability partners. For her and others it seems it’s about controlling what actual bit of truth will hold them accountable. It elevates and protects self and diminishes any unwanted wisdom or rebuke. This indirectly polices God’s truth, acting as if we can put them in categories of “Very important to me”, “Somewhat important to me” and “Not at all important to me”. It comes down to the authority of God’s Word being contingent on who is saying it to us and whether or not we see it as valuable at the time.I remember reading a statement from a charismatic teacher, who was reacting to criticism of their unbiblical beliefs by a trusted Christian preacher, explain why people who are not charismatic can’t judge anything a charismatic believes or does. They claimed that no one can judge them rightly if they haven’t themselves experienced or believed the same things. We would simply be outsiders who can’t rightly discern. How absurd. To them it’s not about what Scripture says, it’s not about what’s true. Instead, it’s about what they and their like-minded buddies agree is right and have experienced.
Recently others and I voiced our concerns about certain things going on with certain public figures in a certain denomination and being told, rather bluntly, that it’s none of our concern because it isn’t concerning our own denomination; we were to let those who are a part of that same denomination address it and take care of it. That may be ok to mind our own business if we weren’t commanded by God to help others know what sin is, to warn and rebuke, to love others by sharing the truth of God with them so they may repent and so they may not stumble others in their denomination and others. God doesn’t say to be concerned with only our denomination. There’s one Church and sin matters- it permeates.
Again, this is not to say we don’t go to a chosen few that we see as trusted Christian sources for advice and accountability. They, however, are not trusted because you feel comfortable around them or because you are of the same social group or denomination. They are trusted only because they honor and know the authoritative Word of God and put that first, before anyone’s feelings, before their own feelings. The Scripture is the actual authority in the situation. No one holds anyone else spiritually accountable if the Word is not the foundation; not the voice.
I realize this is a temptation for us all-to listen to only those we personally like or tell us what we want to hear.
We should not want to have our ears tickled.
“Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires,” 2 Timothy 4:2-3.
Don’t think for a second God can’t or shouldn’t bring along someone to hold you accountable to His truth who is 30 years younger than you, or a person you never clicked with from Church, a person who doesn’t fit your personal tastes or is not part of your own denomination. Do they say you are in sin? Then humbly go to the Bible to see if it’s true. Go to your trusted accountability partners who uphold the Word of God to see if they also find it true. Listen to faithful church leadership. Pray for God to open your eyes. Truth is, we don’t get to prescribe the whole process of molding and pruning God does in our lives.
Sadly but not too surprisingly, the Bible study teacher’s wife had eventually accepted her Catholic and Mormon friends as Christians, not desiring to hold them accountable to the truth of the Gospel. She refused to listen to anyone, even her accountability partners, who said otherwise. She chose “friendship and peace” instead of God and His Word.
May we desire the Lord and His Word over anything and everything else and be open to hear it, in and out of season.