Years ago I knew a man whose ordinary day turned to tragedy. As he drove along a quiet residential street, he passed a parked car just as a young boy bounded out in front of it, chasing a ball. He struck the boy with his car, and the boy died a few days later.
This very sad event reminds me of how many times we sternly warned our children “never cross the street without first stopping and looking to see if cars are coming.” We instructed them on many other dangers too—hot stoves, electrical outlets, strangers that seemed friendly—the list went on and on. Our warnings and discipline were not born out of a desire to make their life difficult and dreary. No, we disciplined them and held them accountable because we loved them, and because we wanted to protect them and see them grow to maturity. We wanted them to become all they could be.
In adulthood, accountability is both a choice and a discipline. We allow others to bring discipline to our lives, and we also choose to submit to it. Healthy accountability is not foisted on us; we voluntarily come under its care. We can choose to embrace it, resist it, or even walk away from it. But mature men know that it is through this discipline that we have the best opportunity of becoming all we can be and all that God wants us to be.
It is only in the context of safe, voluntary, and honest fellowship with other Christian men that we find the accountability and encouragement to live out the new life Christ wants us to live. Accountability sometimes involves loving discipline from those who humbly demonstrate God’s ways toward us. It is a process where we show enough love and concern for one another that we are willing to point out sins and shortcomings. We enter into this gladly and humbly, because we know it is one of God’s methods for refining and producing in us a good harvest—life from God’s Spirit.
When we experience the discipline of God, it is proof of his love for us. If he didn’t care, if we were not his children, he would have no interest in us, much as we have little interest in disciplining other people’s children. When we experience God’s discipline, we can consider this to be proof that we are his son—a child of God.
For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness… No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way. Hebrews 12.10-11 NL