In the age of the #MeToo movement1, men are being scrutinized more than ever—as they should be. No man is safe from his own deceptive desires and inappropriate choices. No one is immune. Paul tells us that sin dwells within (Rom. 7:20), yet few of us recognize that temptation to sin is like a roommate that will not move out.
I remember my pastoral counseling professor in seminary sharing about a study of men who had failed in their marriages because of sexual infidelity. Studies of hundreds of these marriages revealed that the one characteristic they had in common was that none of them thought they would ever be sexually promiscuous.2 When Solomon said, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Prov. 16:18, NKJV), some may never have considered it in the context of sexual fidelity, but it can certainly be applied. So, what safeguard can a man with appropriate self-distrust employ to avoid a sexual misstep? This was my story.
One day, as I was about to exit the bathroom at the hospital where I was a chaplain resident, I, being my friendly self, said “Hi” to a man washing his hands next to me. Some people find it strange being friendly with strangers in bathrooms; I do not. He introduced himself as “Pastor Jeff” and stated that he “did accountability.” I found that an odd way to describe one of the roles of a pastor: “accountability.” After chatting briefly, he asked me to take his number and stay in touch. I am not shy. I can make friends. But even I thought it was odd to share numbers after knowing someone only a few minutes. Yet something prompted me to pursue the friendship.
I texted him later, as promised, so that he would have my number. I said, “Hey Pastor Jeff, it was great to meet you (smiley face). Looking forward to connecting with you.” I received the fol-lowing reply: “Great to meet you today! I will be praying for you, bro! Any specific prayer requests?”
I did not really know this stranger. I reasoned, I can choose to be cold and distant, or I can choose to be open and transparent. I chose the latter. I shared something that had been burdening my mind. He replied that he would be praying for my request, and then he asked the question that changed everything for me: “Do you have an accountability partner?”
In the weeks and months that followed, Pastor Jeff taught me some very simple and very significant lessons. I came to understand that accountability is a willingness to accept responsibility for actions that I take, or refrain from taking, that affect those around me. It is the basic understanding that all persons must answer for their deeds and safeguard the commitments they have made to themselves and others. I have come to believe that biblical account-ability has the potential to radically enrich manhood—and even woman-hood, for that matter. Here is how it works.
The why of accountability
There is a biblical mandate for accountability, comprising several levels:
Confession to God. Accountability,involving confession to God, is a biblical mandate founded on 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (NKJV). Here, the apostle John gives clarity regarding how healing happens in accountability.
Some might ask, what sins should they share and what should they keep private? Many point to the advice that some sins should never be uttered to anyone but God.3 When it comes to habitual sins that have engulfed our lives, these need to be confessed to God, and then we need to seek the support of an accountability partner. The act of keeping those sins secret did not help make you a “bondservant of Jesus Christ” (Rom. 1:1, NKJV)—but rather a bondservant to sin. The goal is to become more and more like Christ as one becomes more intentional with thoughts, actions, and words.
Confession to each other. Accountability, involving confession to each other, is a biblical mandate founded on James 5:16: “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed” (KJV). Such confession is directed to the one who has been wronged by you. When we have confessed our faults and are fully exposed, we go to God in prayer. Pray for each other and plead the blood of Jesus’ death on the cross for each specific area. The absolutely amazing reality is that, after confession, forgiveness is ours when we ask for it.
Support for each other. Accountability, involving support for each other, is a biblical mandate founded on 1 Corinthians 12:26: “If one member suffers, all suffer together” (ESV). This accountability is an agreement to walk the Christian journey together (Amos 3:3). Solomon acknowledges that “a righteous man may fall seven times and rise again” (Prov. 14:16, NKJV). He does not get up by himself, however. It was the Preacher who said, “But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” (Eccl. 4:10, ESV). We must recognize that we are our brother’s keeper, called to “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2, ESV).
Former Los Angeles Lakers basketball star A. C. Green was known not only for his physical skills on the court, but for his moral strength off the court. “ ‘I get a lot of late-night calls from women. . . . I’m not saying I don’t get tempted. I’m human. I get weak. But I have my tricks.’ He says one is to call his closest Christian friends and have them talk him down, as it were.”4 These were more than friends; they were accountability partners. Green declared, “I keep myself accountable to my friends. . . . They are the pit crew to my race car, and they always get me back on track.”5
The what of accountability
Paul declares, “It was a beautiful thing that you came alongside me in my troubles” (Phil. 4:14, The Message). Partnership in accountability requires the following:
We are always truthful. Why ask persons to hold you accountable if you lie to them? The essence of the account-ability process is admitting who you are and what you have done—without masks. We do not confess our sins to be forgiven by a fellow human being, we confess our faults to become bonded in the support of one another’s weaknesses.
We are always confidential.Confession is “to each another,” meaning it is reciprocal, between the two of you. Trust is essential to this process, otherwise accountability falls apart. It requires enormous vulnerability. There is risk, but there is also reward. Being vulnerable to someone is something most of us fear, particularly in the area of our weaknesses. Yet it carries enormous freedom when we embrace that both of us are lost—“no one does good,” (Psalm 14:3, NLT)—and both of us need Jesus, the Listener and the Healer.
We are always accepting. We never judge each other. There is one Judge in heaven and many government judges on earth, but between two persons there is an equal playing field. No one is better than the other. Paul writes in Romans 3:23, “All of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory” (CEV; emphasis added). We may not have all sinned alike, but alike we have all sinned.
The who of accountability
So, why not pick an accountability partner right now? Whom you choose is important. It cannot be someone of the opposite sex; neither can it be someone with the same struggle as you. When I was in college, one of my friends told me that when he was struggling with the issue of premarital sex, he got a call from a friend who was supposed to be holding him accountable. They both had sex with their girlfriends that night.
Choose someone you trust and respect, possibly older and mature in the faith, even someone who has found victory over what you are struggling with. While it is great to be honest with a good friend, you want someone whom you can admire and who can hold you accountable to rise to a higher standard.
The how of accountability
Now the actual process of accountability begins. It is based on one baseline question asked six different ways in relation to the body: eyes, ears, mind, hands, feet, and mouth. “When was the last time your (insert one of the six) did something it should not have?” For example, “When was the last time your mind thought what it should not have?” Or “When was the last time your feet went where they should not have?” Each person asks the other all six questions. It can be intense, uncomfortable, and absolutely embarrassing; but it is utterly restorative.
Finally, ask: “Do you feel forgiven and cleansed now? Why or why not? Is there something else God might be asking of you?” Feelings are fickle—that is certain—and some things need to be understood without feelings, but there is a place for them. Pay attention to them after your time in prayer, because God can speak through them. For instance, if you do not feel any better, could it be because you need to take a stand on an issue you are dealing with, like apologizing, making amends, or some other thing God may be asking of you?
The when of accountability
Set a time to meet: weekly or biweekly. Some issues may even require daily checking in on one another. But regularity is key. Listen, dialogue, pray, and offer some Scripture to meditate on and memorize, encouraging transformation by the “renewing of your mind” (Rom. 12:2, KJV). Some people do not mind struggling for years on end with the same sin, but I want to grow more and more like Jesus, sooner and sooner.
While the practice of becoming more like Jesus may take a lifetime, change can be realized much sooner for those who yearn for it. I would rather have surgery sooner for a life-threatening disease than wait too long and die a premature death. Many are dying prematurely from bottled up stressors such as financial blunders, broken relationships with others, and a broken relationship with God. David writes in Psalm 7:12, 13, “If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword; he has bent and readied his bow; he has prepared for him his deadly weapons, making his arrows fiery shafts” (ESV). It is so much better to repent now and face the unfortunate consequences that may come from telling the truth—than to face God’s retribution and lose eternal life.
The where of accountability
The need for accountability can confront you anywhere, at any stage of your life. Some time ago, I met a friend at a Christian event. We had not seen each other since college days. He was married with children. I watched him laughing and holding his two children. I felt impressed to share with him about accountability and what God had done in my life. He did not seem interested at all, but I gave him a small sheet of paper with some of the guidelines, and we parted ways. I got a call the next day from him asking, “Filip, were you serious about what you said about accountability?” We spent two hours on the phone as he recounted his fall from grace, getting into a sexual affair with a coworker. What I found most fascinating was how, the morning that the temptation birthed into sin, he had had the most meaningful prayer time with God.
As strange as I felt that afternoon with that encounter with Pastor Jeff, that text message was what I needed. I knew it, Pastor Jeff seemed to know it, and God definitely knew it because I think He orchestrated that strange encounter. You see, at the time, I had fallen into making some choices I was not proud of, and I needed account-ability more than ever. “Pastor Jeff who does accountability” altered my reality in a way that I needed.
By the way, “Pastor Jeff who does accountability” is actually the senior pastor of an incredibly engaging church in the city that I lived in at the time. He hosts monthly meetings with the fire and police departments, other major nonprofits, and church leaders on how to make the city a better place. He regularly meets with the governor regarding social justice issues, is on the boards of various organizations, leads countless Bible and outreach programs, and preaches multiple times a week. Yet he has a heart for strengthening men along the way.
There are so many more essential principles one should follow, such as daily walking with Jesus, fostering a healthy marriage, and exercise. But one thing is certain, we need one another in this journey of restoration. We were made for community and healing. Who might God need you to be shepherding? Might you need your life altered by accountability? I discovered my need for an accountability partner. I hope you can say, #MeToo.
1 “The Me Too movement (or #MeToo movement), with a large variety of local and international alternative names, is a movement against sexual harassment and sexual assault.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Me_Too_movement
2 See J. Allan Petersen, The Myth of the Greener Grass: Affair-Proof Your Marriage; Restore Your Love; Recover Your Dreams (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale HousePublishers, 1984).
3 “Many, many confessions should never be spoken in the hearing of mortals; for the result is that which the limited judgment of finite beings does not anticipate . . . God will be better glorified if we confess the secret, inbred corruption of the heart to Jesus alone than if we open its recesses to finite, erring man. ” Ellen G. White, Our Father Cares (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 2013), 72.
4 Rick Reilly, “The NBA Player Who Has Never Scored.” Sports Illustrated, December 9, 1999. https:// www.si.com/vault/1999/12/13/271228 /the-nba-player-who-has-never-scored
5 A. C. Green, Victory: The Principles of Championship Living (Lake Mary, FL: Creation House, 1994), 52.
Sidebar: Accountability questions
When was the last time your ( . . . ) should not have?
1. Eyes intentionally looked for what they
2. Ears intentionally listened to what they
3. Mind intentionally entertained what it
4. Hands intentionally touched what they
5. Feet intentionally went where they
6. Mouth intentionally spoke what it