We call it accountability. Beginning in 2001, I had the privilege each and every Friday afternoon to meet with two women for mutual encouragement and prayer. We did this for several years and remain accountable to each other to this day. The reasons we started meeting were simple: We were young Christians wanting encouragement in our walk with God, we wanted to build a deeper more meaningful friendship with a few women, and we were girls and loved any excuse to hang out and eat together.
It was real friendship. The purpose of our meeting was simple, but the benefits were endless and life-changing.
For Our Protection
We know that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. When I first became a Christian, I freely confessed my sin because I was acutely aware of God’s grace and forgiveness. I knew the depths of my heart and what it meant to be forgiven much. But then came knowledge, which, coupled with strides in godliness, can lead to pride (1 Corinthians 8:1). As I grew, I began to subtly believe I should “know better” than to sin — as if the temptation to anger or envy were beyond me. Accountability was a good reminder that it was okay to be needy of God’s grace. It reminded me that I am sinner and that, because of Jesus, God is faithful to forgive (1 John 1:8–10).
Consistent accountability has been a means of God’s protection in my life. To this day, though I’m further along in my walk than I was a decade ago, I do not believe I’m incapable of grievous sin (1 Corinthians 10:12). I am a new creation, and I have the Spirit’s power, but it’s no longer a surprise that when I want to do good, evil is close at hand (Romans 7:21). Understanding that we are all batting on the same team (all have sinned), means we can freely share with these close, trusted friends. Accountability allows us to confess patterns of temptation, and in so doing we are restrained from actual transgression.
Five Characteristics of Life-Giving Accountability
The point behind accountability isn’t just to share about sin and hear the hard words of rebuke. Though the wounds of a friend are a sign of his or her faithfulness, accountability should also be a time to build each other up and encourage each other toward God’s goodness and grace found in the cross of Christ. My friends and I reminded each other who we were in Christ: accepted completely, daughters of the Most High and forgiven. We reminded each other that we knew Jesus, he was ours and we were his, and we could draw near to him and his throne of grace. In my experience, there were five characteristics that made accountability particularly life-giving:
Each week we had a choice to extend grace or judgment. We could display the love and grace that God had already extended through the judgment of Jesus on the cross (Romans 14:13).
Each of us had an opportunity to be honest, which we may not have accomplished had we not established the habit (Ephesians 4:25).
There were times we would need to extend forgiveness. Honest friendship sometimes leads to hurting one another. Also, as one person might go through a season of struggling with the same temptation, we’d learn to bear with our friend (Romans 12:16; Colossians 3:13).
We bore each other’s burdens in prayer (Galatians 6:2).
More of Jesus
Ultimately, accountability can be a means with which God draws us, through the friendship and fellowship of others, to himself. Self-sufficiency says we don’t need anyone, but humility shouts for help from those God has placed in our lives. This habit of sharing and praying with others will inevitably teach us how to cast our cares on the only One who can fully bear their weight, and who loves us with an unfailing love (1 Peter 5:7).
God graciously reminds us that apart from him we can do nothing. And one great means of that reminder are the brothers and sisters he puts in our lives.