And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” (Mk. 9:33).
When we think of accountability, it’s typically in a negative sense. “We need to hold him accountable.” “She has to have some accountability for this.”
We think of it in a negative sense, because that’s how we primarily use it—in regard to BAD behavior or decisions. But accountability, in and of itself, is not a bad thing, right? Why else would we speak of people needing it?
The trouble is no one seems to really like it. One of the hardest things for humans to do is admit when they're wrong. Part of the trouble, too, is we think accountability is only for OTHER people. But the fact is we all need it.
Take for instance the disciples in Mark 9. When they arrive in Capernaum, Jesus asks them, “What were you talking about on the way?” (v. 33). That seems like a harmless question, but look at their response: “they kept silent, for on the way they had discussed with one another which of them was the greatest” (v. 34).
Did Jesus not know what they had talked about? Of course He did, as the ensuing teaching proves (He gives them a lesson in humility). Yet, He still asks the question, just as He did in Eden: “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” (Gen 3:11).
He knew the answer. He knew what man had done. But He still confronts—He still demands an explanation. Why? Because He is unyielding when it comes to accountability. He demands a reason for behavior—some justification—not because He's ignorant of why we’ve done what we’ve done, but in order to teach us. BECAUSE He loves us.
Henry Ward Beecher once said, "It is one of the severest tests of friendship to tell your friend his faults. So to love a man that you cannot bear to see a stain upon him, and to speak painful truth through loving words, that is friendship."
Solomon said, “the wounds of a friend are faithful” (can be trusted) because they are meant to correct.
Better is open rebuke than love that is concealed. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy (Pro. 27:5-6).
Love that remains concealed and will not speak the Truth is not real love. For real love "does not delight in evil but rejoices with the Truth" however painful it may be to speak it (1 Cor. 13:6).
We must be on guard. Pay attention to our own character, to one another, to the doctrine taught. "Strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble" (Heb. 12:12). This is real work, but we desperately need it.
When done in love, humility, and according to the pattern, we all benefit. Failing to do so will lead to all suffering as a result. “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (Jas. 5:16).
Accountability is a gift from God. Be thankful for it, and allow it to help us be transparent. Don't resist it. Encourage it. Exercise it.