In the middle of government orders to stay at home during Covid-19, many of us found ourselves alone in our homes with little human interaction. Aside from a roommate, a spouse, children, or parents, many of us were forced to see friends virtually through our phones and computer screens. Many of those coffee conversations, afternoon walks, talks in the church parking lot, and last-minute dinner plans came to an abrupt halt. When many of those face to face encounters were interrupted, so were those natural moments when we really step into the life of another. So I, like many, had to get creative with how I would make space for friends to continue speaking into the areas of life where I was visibly struggling and stumbling and hold me accountable to the truth of Scripture lived out in my life. A few friends and I committed to checking in with one another weekly, asking the hard questions, memorizing scripture, and praying together over the phone. It was not ideal, but it was necessary. It reminded us that even in the midst of such odd and limiting circumstances, the Christian life does not come to a stop. Sin is still tempting us at every turn, we are still in need of community, we are still called to honor and love Jesus in everything we do, and the pursuit of holiness must continue.
These kinds of relationships can be referred to as accountability relationships. You may hear this word used to describe a health coach who is holding someone accountable to health goals or an advocate holding someone accountable to his or her fight against addiction. This term is used in the context of the church as one Christian adhering to or exhorting the biblical admonition of another Christian. It is holding one another accountable to the truth of Scripture displayed through the way one lives. We see the biblical display of accountability in the New Testament when the disciples regularly met together, devoted to the teaching of Christ–praying together, admonishing one another in all wisdom, and stirring up one another in love in good works (Hebrews 10:24-25, Acts 2:42, Colossians 3:16). This was beyond a mere friendship but more so, a commitment to building up and encouraging one another toward the pursuit of holiness. We are called to this same type of commitment to one another today, and this commitment goes beyond our preferences, personal interests, and circumstances–it is rooted and grounded in the unbending truth of Scripture.
Accountability relationships require a humility and vulnerability that allows others to step into the good, the bad, and the ugly. These relationships require the development of trust and a mutual love for God's Word to be upheld in one another's life. This is why it is important that we are not just asking anyone for accountability but one who is willing to speak it into our lives, even when it is uncomfortable and hard. If sin is standing in the way of us truly loving and honoring God with our lives, we do not want someone who will coddle us into complacency; rather, we need one who will continually point and push us heavenward. Life is hard, and we all need help along the way. Establishing accountability relationships serves as a safety net for us. Proverbs 11:14 says, "without guidance, a people will fall, but with many counselors there is deliverance." There will be times when our judgement is off, our circumstances cloud our vision, or we feel weak in the fight against temptation. We need those accountability relationships to help us stand firm in the faith and keep us from wavering. We were never intended to walk this life alone, and we are much more effective fighting against sin together than on our own.
A true Christian love for one another cultivates accountability relationships that truly desire for one another to look more and more like Jesus. These relationships are not centered around "monitoring" each other or waiting around to identify faults to gossip about. Maybe you have experienced Christian accountability, and you can share in the fruit of its work in your life. But if you have not, I would encourage you to begin praying for women who you might ask to step into your life in such a way. Who are those who deeply love God's Word and desire to uphold it? Who can you trust and involve in the good and hard parts of your life? Consider how you can initiate accountability with them in the coming weeks. God has gifted us generously through the encouragement and exhortation of our brothers and sisters in Christ. May we take advantage of every opportunity He has provided for us to walk faithfully in community until He brings us home.