An artist that I respect released a track off of his latest record that questioned accountability as biblical. In fact, in it’s context, if I understand him correctly, he said that it is not.
That is an interesting thought to me, especially considering how much time and attention XXXChurch – let alone Christian culture as a whole – gives to “accountability” that I know I have greatly benefitted from. I know that when I was younger, my family had internet accountability and filtration software that Covenant Eyes offered, and, of course, I feel as though XXXChurch, Safe Eyes, and now X3Watch have been used instrumentally of the Lord to help me through pornography addiction and abuse. These programs are not the sum total of what it means to be accountable to someone, but they are a part of the conversation.
So what of the attack on “accountability”? It’s not just this particular artist that has questioned it’s usefulness. Generally, I hear most of the emphasis away from the word from the Christian reformed movement. If I am to be entirely honest, I have been off-put by the word numerous times during the last few years, myself.
Is it a question of semantics? Does the movement shy away from a word that, outside of reformed lingo, is used synonymously with its love of the word “community”? Does what we say in exhorting others to “be accountable” simply mean “be in community” – and all we’re arguing about is two ways to say the same thing?
Or is it deeper than that? Have we elevated our work in “being accountable to one another” to the work of Jesus in saving us from sin? Is there legitimacy to the concern given when Christians place so much of an emphasis on sharing our struggles with one another that we truly lose sight of the One who crucified the flesh and saved us from those struggles?
Frankly, I think it’s a bit of both. I think that when it comes to accountability, we place far too much emphasis on our own strength – strength in numbers though it may be – and lose sight of the fact that even our accountability is a gift given in grace. Isn’t it a wonder that other people even resonate with our convictions, or ours with theirs? Do we think that we’re the ones responsible for our commonality? Praise God that he gives us the longing to do life together, and don’t forget that though we do, it is he who sustains the life!
We do not change just because we have shared with others what needs to be changed. We do not change because we have other people watching what should change. If accountability becomes more focused on the problem than the solution, then I believe that many people do have reason for concern, because we will miss the forest for the trees. We will miss the savior for the things that, for the Christian, Jesus has already saved us from.
On the flip side, I was encouraged recently while reading Craig Gross’ new book, Open, because of his description for what accountability is not. I’m paraphrasing, but in essence: it is not a surveillance group, it is not sin management, it is not an attempt to work our way into heaven and it requires no specific methodology. Of course, people can make it into any one or all of those things, which is dangerous, because in doing so, we become arrogant moralists instead of humble people who recognize that they have been radically and undeservedly saved from sin and death. But when accountability looks like community living life together – for the purpose fleeing something, for the purpose of pursuing something, or, ultimately for the purpose of loving one another in relationships that reflect the Creator of them to one another – I do think that Jesus would call us to that kind of life.
It’s funny, this blog was supposed to be about sharing my struggles with a friend. I’m a thinker, though, and the “why” of it all matters to me. Why should I share my struggles with a friend? So they can crush me beneath the weight of the law with a ruler in hand, ready to slap my wrists, keep me in line and remind me that I am not perfect? No! We are transparent for love, as walkers in the light, as servants of one another and people in need of mercy!
Let us not for a moment think that we can run this race alone, but let us not for a moment think that we can run this race together, yet without the Savior who makes us family.
In closing, a thought that I shared with a kid in Florida while out on tour a couple weeks back, who had been blessed by my poem, “Pretty In Pornography” – a thought that readers might find challenging, as well: I am grateful for the opportunity to be of service and influence, here or abroad, but I am not a part of your consistent community. It is amazing that Jesus has allowed my story to resonate with those of others, and to give them hope, but if you are to experience freedom from sin, it must come both from surrender to Jesus, and local community. Sharing your struggles will be hard. It will be awkward. It will attack your pride. It will make you angry. It will make you humble. When I leave this city (or when the next blog is posted), I will not be here to walk through the ups and downs of life with you. You need to find people – and I pray, people in your local church – who are willing to allow you to be uncomfortable in repentance, and who are willing to be uncomfortable in rebuke, and who are willing to walk through the fires with you to see restoration in the end. By all means, share your struggles with a friend, but let that friend be a true brother who is willing to call your bluffs, rebuke where necessary, and serve you with the grace and patience that will allow you to see Jesus in his love, that you may desire Christ with all that you are.
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