Accountability can be Your Friend

handshakeThis passage I just found in Ezekiel which is quite extreme to illustrate the concept of accountability, which I think is sorely lacking in many of our friendships and church leaderships and other relationships today:

"At the end of seven days the word of the Lord came to me: "Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to a wicked man, 'You will surely die,' and you do not warn him or speak out to dissuade him from his evil ways in order to save his life, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. But if you do warn the wicked man and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his evil ways, he will die for his sin; but you will have saved yourself. Again, when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and does evil, and I put a stumbling-block before him, he will die. Since you did not warn him, he will die for his sin. The righteous things he did will not be remembered, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. But if you do warn the rightoeus man not to sin and he does not sin, he will surely live because he took warning, and you will have saved yourself." [Ezekiel 3:16-21]

One of the key themes in a healthy, growing friendship has to be accountability, which is something we all need. Your friends must know that if you do something wrong or are involved in something you shouldn't be involved in, or are putting yourself in a place where you are likely to be tempted to do wrong, that they HAVE THE RIGHT to approach you and challenge you about it.

I think that's basically what Accountability is - being Responsible in a sense for someone else.

Now I'm not talking about giving your friends the right to tie you mercilessly to a chair, shine a bright light in your face and insert needles under your fingernails in an aggressive interrogationary kind of way. But I am talking about having people who can make sure that you are not putting yourself in temptation's way when you could be avoiding it. I'm speaking of friends who can say, "Hold on a minute. I really think your attitude to your parents has been quite shocking lately." Or "I'm a bit concerned about those guys you've been hanging out with, because they are putting quite a bit of pressure on you to get drunk." Or 'I really don't think you should be doing that business deal because it means you're going to be compromising your standards of truth and integrity." Or anything like those...

Friends who care enough to risk you getting a bit annoyed with them because they are questioning (always in a loving way) your behaviour or attitude or lifestyle. Friends who will do their best to keep you walking in the ways of God and will do something if they see you starting to stray.

Proverbs 27:6 "Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses." as opposed to 2 Timothy 4:3 which says "For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear."

A real friend is one who it is safe to be accountable to. One that you can trust to get involved when the need is there. And a true friend is also one who will be accountable to you. One who will allow you to intervene in their life and show concern when things start to get questionable.

"Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ." [Ephesians 5:21]

By virtue of the fact that you made a decision to become a Christian you have in a sense immediately made yourself accountable to everyone in the world.

By saying you're a Christian, non-Christians will be looking at you, waiting for an opportunity to point fingers when you mess up. And other Christians should also have the right to "...correct, rebuke and encourage..." [2 Timothy 4:2] when they sense you stepping out of line.

Sadly, in practice this accountability does not really exist unless someone actually places it into someone else's hands and gives them the right to say something. Otherwise if you go to just anyone and say "Look, I think you were out of line there," generally their response will probably be one of defensiveness or aggression such as "What gives you the right to tell me how to live my life?"

So it is extremely important to be able to have accountability. The ideal person to be accountable to is a spiritual mentor or a more mature Christian that you can trust will speak to you in honesty and Love. But it is also an important ingredient of any good and real friendship you might be involved in.

You often see it in the leadership of a group where there is one person in charge who is not accountable to anyone else.

As long as that person and God are going strong in their relationship then it's usually not a problem, but the minute something goes wrong in their relationship with God there is nothing else holding them accountable and so they (and often the group/committee/church with them) can fall quite badly and often a lot of damage can be done.

I guess Accountability is kind of like the safety net for a trapeze artist - you can still fall, but the net stops you from hitting the ground - it increases your safety and makes it less likely that you will damage yourself in the long run.

So I want to really challenge you on this point. Who are you accountable to? Is there at least one specific person (or preferably a number of people or group) who KNOW that they have the right to approach you and caution you in an area of your life if it starts to slip or even to warn you about potential slippage. And is there a person(s) who you know WILL actually go through with that and risk some embarrassment or hurt because they care enough about you? And if not, then what are you going to do about it this week? Who can you organise to speak to and offer accountability for your life and actions to?

Please don't put this one off or think 'Ja I'll get round to it one day' - make it a priority and then act upon it.

As for me, part of my accountability group is each one of you. Whether I know you personally or not, whether we're really close or not at all, I give you the right to hold me accountable to matching up what I say with how I live my life. I appreciate constructive criticism (especially when it comes to what I write in these thorts) and give you the right to challenge me on anything I say or do in the light of God's Word and what it means to be a Christian.

p.s. In the light of the Friendship-themed double-week thorts I will finish off with this short section from my yet-to-be-published book 'All' summing up a picture of what friendship can be all about...

Everyone Loves a good friend.

A good friend is like a slinky. If you give it a start and it has space to move it will just keep going and going. You just need to give it a chance and give it the opportunity to function and it will go on forever. You don't have to take it down every single step or show it how to work or have a set of rules or anything. You just need to get it started. A slinky likes to slink.

It's the same with a good friend. Proverbs 17:17 says it perfectly that "A friend loves at all times..." A good friend loves just that - being a friend. There's no "because". There's no "I do this for you and you do this for me." As long as you don't cut off every opportunity for it to move (like putting a slinky at the bottom of the steps) the friendship will happen.

But when God is in the centre of a friendship there is even greater potential. You may even find your slinky, that should have had no potential to move at all, is suddenly even climbing up the stairs, coz with God "All things are possible" [Philippians 4:13] and God can make any friendship work against all expectations.

When a slinky is doing its thing, like down a long flight of stairs, and it is really going well, it is a beautiful sight to watch. The movement is so fluid that the toy could practically be liquid. There is a certain rhythm and continuity that is almost musical, and I'm talking 55 piece orchestra, not some little guy on the pavement with a mouth organ and pet monkey.

Likewise and even more so, when a friendship is doing its thing, and I mean really doing its thing in an "All for one and you're the one" kind of way, it is one of the most beautiful things in the world. People are uplifted, loads seem lighter, things get done, and life is just that little bit easier.

Having friends is great, but it really is important to remember that "To have a friend, you have to be a Friend." Don't settle for mediocrity when it comes to friendship. If you think of yourself and your needs, you would want to have the best possible friend in the world. Now go and be that friend. Be a Jesus friend.

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