“A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding than a hundred blows into a fool.”
Receiving feedback is essential for growing and getting better. The necessary corollary is that it is necessary to give people feedback and hold them accountable. In the book of Galatians, Paul gives instruction and admonition about accountability in the body of Christ.
“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” (Galatians 6.1)
If we see a fellow Christian engaged in actions that are out of alignment with God’s standards, we should hold them accountable. We should not ignore their behavior; we should not gossip behind their back; we should not give up on them. We should engage them and hold them accountable to the standards of the kingdom.
This is simply person-to-person relationships in the Christian fellowship. You have a circle of Christian friends; you have Christian friends that you know and interact with on a regular basis; you see their attitude and behavior; you see the pattern of the way they live their lives. You should discuss scripture with each other, discuss issues with each other, encourage and support each other, pray for one another, have fun and laugh together ... and you should hold each other accountable.
Everyone needs a “noticer and truth-teller”. Life without accountability is dangerous.
Unfortunately, accountability among Christians seems to be on the decline. There is a tendency for many Christians to avoid holding their Christian friends accountable for their behavior, and there is an equal tendency for people to avoid being held accountable. One of the main reasons for the lack of accountability is that we avoid difficult conversations. Rather than do the uncomfortable work of challenging a Christian friend who is wandering, we stay in our comfort zone and avoid the conversation.
Don’t you think this is really a failure to engage in courageous love?
Note that Paul says “you who are spiritual.” In other words, effective accountability happens when we walk in the Spirit. If you follow the desires of the Spirit, you will love people and hold each other accountable. The motivation, strength, and wisdom for accountability comes from the Spirit. The old nature -- our natural self -- seeks comfort; it avoids the necessary and productive discomfort required to hold a friend accountable. Left to ourselves, we prefer the comfort of average friendship rather than the sometimes discomfort of true friendship and fellowship.
What Paul instructs us to do is engage with the person and “restore him in a spirit of gentleness.” The Greek word for “restore” in this verse is katartizdo, which is the term used for setting a broken or dislocated bone back into place. That is a clear picture, isn’t it? When a fellow Christian is living in disobedience, they are broken or dislocated from the body and need to be restored … that is, put back into place. The process of katartizdo, just like the process of setting a dislocated bone, can be painful, but it is a healing pain.
And we are to restore the wandering brother “in a spirit of gentleness.” The word for “gentleness” is the Greek prautes, a word we have examined in earlier studies. Despite what the translation says, it means much more than gentleness. As you will recall, this word carries the sense of "strength under control." It is strength properly focused and directed. Prautes is the condition of being calm, self-controlled, focused, and wise.
The reason why the virtue of prautes is critical here is that it provides the discipline of situational awareness to support wise and effective accountability. Prautes does not react impulsively to the Christian caught in a transgression; rather, it responds intentionally. It sees the situation with clarity, and then responds effectively. If the situation involving the disobedient person calls for gentleness, then prautes is gentle. If the situation calls for toughness, then prautes is tough. If the situation calls for patience and discernment, then prautes is patient and discerning.
Restoring a disobedient person requires wisdom. You can err by being too lenient, and you can err my being too harsh. That is precisely why we need “a spirit of prautes” in order to hold someone accountable. And as Paul says, in order to do this effectively we must walk in the Spirit.
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10.24)