Our culture does not teach us to take responsibility for each other. We are so individualistic that we consider religion to be a private affair. In the book of Genesis when God asked Cain where his brother was, Cain mockingly responded, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Anyone who reads the Bible seriously will know that God answers such a question, from Genesis to Revelation, with an unequivocal “Yes, you are!” A few years ago, I officiated a wedding for two of my students during which I challenged the bridesmaids and groomsmen to shoulder their responsibility for the couple. I told them that standing up at a wedding is not merely a time to get all dressed up for wedding pictures; it is a way of saying, “I will promise to be an advocate for this marriage, and I will hold this couple accountable for the vows they are making on their wedding day.” The Christian life is to be lived in authentic community, including mutual accountability. We really do need each other—this isn’t just a nice sounding phrase.
I have recently entered into a deeper level of accountability with a good friend. He texts me twice a week to tell me how he is doing with his marriage, describing sexual temptation whenever it comes in various forms. He has been brutally honest with me, sharing with me the times he leaves himself open to temptation—even when he doesn’t fall into sin. He is becoming skilled at recognizing his old patterns and rationalizations and confesses to me when he knows that he is “thinking about” doing something wrong. For example, the other night he sent me this text:
Last night at the hotel I checked to see what was on HBO. Fortunately nothing tempting was on and I didn’t check again. I wouldn’t have watched anything for long because of the possibility of my wife waking and seeing. My past M.O. would be to scroll through the channel to catch “innocent” glimpses. But it was an old pattern and my guard was down because of the long, exhausting fight I had with my wife that day. I am thankful I caught no glimpses, but I wanted to drag it into the light with you. It bothers me that I left myself open like that.
I love this brother deeply, and I will try to follow his example when I send him accountability texts of my own. One of the best questions that a partner can ask is, “If Satan were going to disqualify you right now, knowing your weaknesses, how would he do it?”
There is something very powerful about being in an accountability relationship that involves full disclosure. On the one hand, being fully known by another person can seem very risky; on the other, such a relationship can be one of the most freeing and empowering things in life. A deep friendship such as this is one of life’s greatest blessings. Life is too short not to discover the treasure of brutal, full disclosure in the context of deep friendship and mutual accountability.
REFLECTIONS: Do you have a deep friendship with someone where there is brutal, full disclosure and accountability? Ask the Lord if he wants you to go deeper in accountability with one of your current friends. Whenever you are a witness to someone’s wedding vows, take seriously your role of advocacy and accountability.
A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother