Accountability: Law or Gospel?

I am for accountability. Having your your tree planted in a garden full of other trees that are flourishing is essential. You cannot be a lone tree if you wish to grow. However, I wonder if our attempts at accountability tend to chop at the trunk of the tree instead of prune the branches. I wonder if our accountability is more law than gospel.

In many of the accountability groups I’ve been apart of, the conversations tend to center around setting hedges to protect against sin. For instance, if you struggle with pornography, an internet filter might be suggested. You might add your accountability partner to the email list. Internet filters are good tools. They can help with accountability.

But when the tool becomes the sole focus, it becomes law not gospel. Law centers on the hedge. It never moves beyond it. All you talk about when you meet together is if you’ve crossed the proverbial line. The law judges guilty. It waits for an opportunity to pounce. It thrives on the “Gotcha!” moments. The law apart from the gospel creates guilt, shame, and death.

That’s the law apart from the gospel. The gospel, on the other hand, gives life. You still install the filter but the gospel isn’t waiting for the “Gotcha!” moments. It’s not reactionary.

The gospel proclaims, “Run to Christ sinners. He’s better than your sinful filth. There’s more joy in him.” It’s decidedly proactive. If failure happens, it’s not guilt, shame, and death, it’s conviction, repentance, and life. It’s hope in Christ. As John Flavel said, Jesus says, “Poor sinner, either come naked and empty-handed, or expect a repulse.”

Next time you meet with friends for accountability, consider whether you are primarily creating “how-to” manuals for avoiding your particular sinful bent. Or whether you are pointing to Christ. Proclaiming his excellencies above all else. Proclaiming his worth. Proclaiming his eternal joy. Proclaiming his beauty.

Don’t stop with the law. Proceed to the gospel. “The law wounds, the gospel cures.” John Flavel