Rule 4 - Accountability

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We commit to developing relationships of accountability

In developing this rule of life, we are focusing on our own spiritual needs. However, Christianity only works well if it creates loving, accountable relationships with others, as well as a personal relationship with Jesus. From the beginning, believers connected with one another in practical ways. Jesus had his twelve disciples, Paul worked in apostolic teams, churches were led by bishops and elders; and ordinary Christians met together to share their lives:
Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts. (Acts 2:46)

Let’s develop the reasons for this:
I trust you can accept that all humans are susceptible to being deceived. For Christians this is especially true as we are engaged in perpetual spiritual warfare. This is something that Jesus warned us about:
You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! (John 8:44-45)
And again, near the end of his ministry:
Jesus answered: ‘Watch out that no one deceives you." (Matthew 24:4) 


The famous place in the bible which illustrates this is in Genesis 3, where sin entered the world through Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. God had told Adam clearly that he should not eat the fruit of the forbidden tree. This command was given before Eve was created, and so Adam would have had to pass on this important truth to her. After this the devil entered the garden engaging in spiritual warfare:
He said to the woman, ‘Did God really say, “You must not eat from any tree in the garden”?’
The woman said to the snake, ‘We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, “You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.”’
‘You will not certainly die,’ the snake said to the woman. ‘For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband.
(Genesis 3:1-6)

The lie which Eve was told is very clear to us. However, the deception happened because she failed to trust completely what Adam had told her. She did not accept his word as truth. It shows how vulnerable we are if we do not practise trusting relationships. There was nothing to prevent her checking with Adam whether what she had been told was true. She trusted only in her own competence and the fatal damage was done.

We all need to allow our own competence to be subject to others who are mature, and whom we trust implicitly. We call this accountability. It will only work when we feel complete trust in an accountability relationship. We also have to be totally assured of confidentiality in those whom we are trusting in this way.

This was a lesson the early church soon learned:
Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. (Galatians 6:1-3)
Becoming an accountability partner is a great responsibility. Make sure anyone you choose to bring into your life in this capacity is mature enough.


As well as helping us to avoid sin, accountability can prevent us from being led astray by manipulative people:
I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naïve people. (Romans 16:7-18)

We shall only make these relationships work well if we are ready to acknowledge the mistakes we make. This is another reason that accountability only works where there is a genuine trust, that the person you are relating to is your friend and has your best interests at heart. If this is true then you won’t react badly when you are inevitably reproved. Proverbs has great wisdom:
Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses. (Proverbs 27:5-6)
Whoever rebukes a person will in the end gain favour rather than one who has a flattering tongue. (Proverbs 28:23)
This kind of interaction between friends has the benefit of keeping us spiritually sharp:
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17)

Another important part of accountability relationships is the way they can help us to grow spiritually. This process is usually called discipleship. The word disciple means ‘learner’. Jesus had his disciples whom he trained to be ready to serve when he departed. A discipleship relationship does not need to work like that of a spiritual director who gives specific goals. In the relationships I am suggesting, you could bring your own objectives.

To try and get to grips with setting goals for yourself, you should try to make sure they are:

Having personal goals ties in with a healthy prayer life. As we grow and become aware of how we need to develop, we can respond by establishing a goal for change. It is important to make them personal and not just copy the ideas and goals of others. Goals have to be realistic and this means we must be realistic about who we are and what we are capable of. I had to learn to overcome my natural anxieties. I did this by making sure I put my worries into context. I had to ignore my pride, because it worried too much about how I appeared to others. My goal was to cast my anxieties on Jesus (1 Peter 5:6-7). Finally, by organising myself more, I learned how to be one step ahead of all that life threw at me.

If a goal is not measurable, how do you know you have achieved it? If I have a goal to love more, how much is more? It is easy to excuse yourself with woolly goals; so make goals as specific as you can.

Being time specific makes you think about your goals and generates determined efforts to reach them. Again, this needs some realism. If you do not reach a goal in the specific time you aimed for, then reset it. Don't give yourself too long a time to achieve something, or there will be no incentive to make anything happen. Hopefully a Rule of Life will provide plenty of ideas for goal setting. Try to visualise what your Christian life could be like in three to four years’ time, and keep this goal prayerfully in mind. 

These relationships need to be regular. This overcomes the possibility of drift, wherein we slowly lose the dynamic input that we need from others. It is good to put your meetings in the diary and not let the gap between them be too long. It may begin as just two of you, but if it works out well that there are more of you, this could be good. A group shouldn’t get too large or people might begin to get reserved through lack of trust. Jesus said He would be there with just two or three of us.

One of the saddest developments in recent years has been the exposure of many Christian leaders who led double lives. They were not realistically accountable to others, and allowed themselves to be deceived into committing sin . This is why this rule is so important. With the development of tech, there are so many more ways in which bad behaviour can be kept secret. We should be completely serious in avoiding these traps with the help of our accountability friends.

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