I paced back and forth in the library of our home with the phone pressed to my ear. On the other end, a friend of mine was going through one of the most traumatic times in his life. This was about the fourth time this week that I had been on the phone for over an hour with this guy. We both cried and often there was yelling. It’s an odd thing though, thinking back on this time now, I find it to be one of the best times I have spent with this friend. It wasn’t a good time, but it was a meaningful time. I am closer to my friend now because of that time spent on the phone. He and I truly are accountability partners. An accountability partner has several distinct qualifications that should be noted. Below I have laid out four of these qualifications that I have come to understand.
- They are NOT your opposite gender:
- It won’t do to have you in a relationship like this and get distracted by sexually or romantically charged thoughts. This relationship is different. This is why your spouse should not be your accountability partner, as wonderful as I’m sure they are. There is also the point that the level of intimacy expected from this form of relationship should not be with someone to who you are genetically predisposed to be attracted. If you are married, this would be especially a bad thing, since it can lead to infidelity. If you are not married, you will just get distracted and the whole purpose of being accountable to this person is lost.
- Friendship is not the main goal:
- That sounds odd, doesn’t it? However, it is true. In an accountability friendship, friendship is not the main goal or purpose. It will most likely be a result of this relationship, but at the outset, it isn’t the reason you have it. The main goal here is accountability. This means that oftentimes, you will have to tell this person (or they will have to tell you) things you may not want to hear. Telling your friend that going to the movies with his female friend who is not his wife is a bad idea, could be met with some hostility. It’s not what he wants to hear. However, he needs to hear it. Your goal in this form of relationship is to hold the other person to a Biblical standard of living. Their goal is to do the same for you.
- You are to be Christ for this person:
- Jesus traveled with 12 other men. Throughout the scriptures we see Him teaching them and often, rebuking them. At one point, He even calls one of them “Satan”. That’s some rough language there, but why did He do it? To mold them further towards Himself. In 1 Corinthians 4:14–17 we see the Apostle Paul saying, “When he had ascended into Heaven, we see the disciples themselves doing this same thing. The bonds they form with each other are important. They act as Christ for each other. I am writing you this not to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children. Even if you should have countless guides to Christ, yet you do not have many fathers, for I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. Therefore, I urge you, to be imitators of me. For this reason, I am sending you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord; he will remind you of my ways in Christ [Jesus], just as I teach them everywhere in every church.” Notice he says he isn’t trying to shame them, but to admonish or warn them. Then he says to imitate him as he imitates Christ Jesus. He also says he is going to send Timothy to help them as well. Not hard to see this idea of an accountability partner being played out in the early church.
- It is not just the two of you:
- This relationship is meant to be a threefold relationship. You, the other person, and Jesus. Just as we might talk about marriage being threefold (You, your spouse, and God), the accountability partner relationship also includes God. This means that throughout the relationship, you should be in communion with Christ. Praying for the other person and asking God to lead you as you work to lead them is paramount. They will be doing the same. In this way, both of you rebuff each other to create a communal relationship that works to enhance and strengthen the whole community of God around these two who are in this form of relationship.
These aren’t meant to be an exhaustive list. They are meant to be a guide that can help you when talking with your accountability partner. What does that relationship look like? Does this relationship lead you both closer to Christ? I think within context, all of our life should be asking that question. Does this lead me closer to Christ?
D. Michl Lowe