“Why not say—as we are slanderously reported as saying and as some claim that we say— ‘Let us do evil that good may result’? Their condemnation is deserved. Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.” Romans 3:8,19, 20 New International Version
Accountable: required or expected to justify actions or decisions. Explicable, understandable
For several years I worked as a route salesman or as we eventually became known, Customer Service Representative. Something that went along with this illustrious title was a yearly weekend Customer Service Representative Convention. Each year we would be exposed to the newest catch phrase designed to motivate the minions to scale Everest! The phrase “Raise the Bar” is one I’m still pondering nearly 25 years later. Most of these motivational jump starters were to fire-up the employees to produce with greater results, more sales! Along with phrases, there were also stand alone words. One such word from a few years ago was “Accountable”.
I developed the habit of looking up the dictionary meaning of most words after having attended a week-end seminar on Bible study development. In checking out the Strong’s Concordance for the Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic meanings of words in the Bible, I discovered the joy of finding the meaning of the words in my Oxford Dictionary.
The seminar presenter helped us understand that how words are applied changes over the years, even impacting the meaning. Joni, my much better half, has helped me understand how we each carry our own internal dictionary. This creates many interesting communication challenges as each of us believes we understand the meaning of the words in the same way the other is using each particular word. In reality they may have very different applications, or even have differing meanings to every individual involved in the conversation!
All this began with the word “Accountable,” and finding it in the scripture reference was quite illuminating. In one of the several forums I am involved with (in varying states of anticipation) there was a recent discussion on accountability. This discussion revolved around the feasibility of holding members of the modern Christian church accountable to a Biblical Set of Standards. The key was looking into the circumstances surrounding Paul holding the church at Corinth accountable for tolerating what Paul describes as, “… the kind of sexual immorality that is not even condoned among the Gentiles…” I Corinthians 5:1 Holman Christian Standard Bible
Paul takes the church to the proverbial woodshed for not holding its members accountable for morals even the Gentiles would not accept. The question posed in the forum was: “Is it possible to hold Church members accountable for their actions which are contrary to a set of Christian beliefs?”
It was quite interesting to read the various responses. There was expressed a consensus of sorts that accountability was a needed discipline, a responsibility of the Body of Christ. The question was how would this be possible in an era where church membership is viewed as of very little consequence!
There was a time, even in this country, where to not be included in a church fellowship was anathema to the majority of the population. The town/village social hub was often the Church or Churches. Being ostracized from one’s church fellowship meant to be shunned, as if one no longer existed. “Shun: reject through antipathy or caution.” Essentially one had no social life or standing apart from the Fellowship of the Church.
During this time many were caused extreme embarrassment, forced to confess their sins before the church, and find themselves rejected because of their sin. The other remaining option was equally painful, to face a shunning and be rejected because they refused to stand and confess their sin. In my understanding, this was and is a most destructive way to teach accountability. In light of the issues and even more devastating actions surrounding one’s “Fall From Grace,” the offender was now forced to confess before those selected to sit in judgement, usually the Elders or Deacons of the church. It was not unheard of for an individual to be required to make their confession before the entire church, the Body of Believers!
Accountability is a necessary tool in the discipline of the Christian experience. As it is pointed out, the whole world is held accountable to God. Accountability is a way to be held responsible for our actions and choices. And let’s face reality, it hasn’t been a very common or comfortable concept to accept responsibility for ourselves and what we choose to do or not do! Inherent in Grace is accountability, a recognition of why we need Grace, how Grace fits.
In Romans 3:9-18, Paul describes exactly what we are as people under sin. Whether Jews or Gentiles, Paul reveals we are all the same. We need exactly what Jesus offers, however our need and what Grace provides in the life, death, and resurrected life of Jesus is never an excuse to continue in rebellion, the God Complex. This is where the Law and Accountability are the needed tools to reveal how desperately we need Grace. Without the law we would never have the “Looking Glass” to reveal our reflection, show how we actually look in the very heart and mind of who we really are! Accountability is the tool box with the various tools available to remind us of our need, to keep us looking into the “mirror of the Law” lest we become arrogant, forgetting what exactly is at stake!
In our current culture and society, I believe the best we can do with accountability is offer it as a gift. The days of making people accountable in the church setting have long passed, yet we desperately need the tools provided through accountability. However, we have moved in a direction where we will not accept being accountable to just anyone! Therefore, there’s the option of choosing to be held accountable by someone we trust, someone we know is looking out for our best interest, who wants us to experience God’s Grace to it’s fullest. Accountability as a gift is an amazing opportunity to bond in the Process of Grace as a ministry of the Holy Spirit.
We can’t do life on our own, it’s not possible. We were never created to be on our own. When sin interfered with the relationships God had created for Adam and Eve, the damage was horrific. The two who were to become one fled into hiding from themselves and each other, leaving us a legacy of fear anchored in hiding who we believe our real self must be! And we remain isolated in relationships in which our Creator is longing to bring oneness to our hearts and minds that heals a multitude of sins and damage! We continue trying to create an atmosphere of inclusion to replace the one of exclusion experienced in this world of rebellion.
The Grace of God offers many processes of healing the wounds of the rebellion, the Gift of Accountability is just one. It is one worth exploring as a possible discipline in your Grace Process, remember we’re all accountable to God, and I guarantee it comes as a Gift of Grace from Him!
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly desires, we should live soberly, righteously, and in godliness in this present world, as we await the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all lawlessness (rebellion) and purify for Himself a special people, zealous of good works.” Titus 2:11-14 Modern English Version