There are two areas to consider when answering this question. First is the ATTITUDE in which we approach one another. Second we ought to consider the ACTIONS we take as we engage relationally. This blog is going to address the first, tomorrow I will address the second. These principles apply to both men and women in most instances but there will be gender specific issues addressed here for women (men I will address our attitudes in coming blogs – so wait patiently).
Don’t be judgmental. In the book, Sacred Marriage, by Gary Thomas there is an incredible statement, “- we want to bring God’s presence into the other’s life, not our own judgment. But pointing each other to God’s presence is certainly a fundamental spiritual discipline for spouses.”
I begin with this quote because this idea should be at the heart of accountability, any accountability. Thomas goes on to write:
A spiritually discerning marriage will be a tool of sanctification. As we look at our spouse, we are reminded of God’s presence and image. And in the presence of God, we long to become more holy (Hebrews 12:14).
It is no easy discipline, this cooperating in sanctification. My tendency is to hide my faults rather than work on trying to transform them. Every day I am choosing to either spend my energy covering up my mistakes and trying to create a false, glittering image, or I am repenting and cooperating with God to become a more holy person. Living with a woman, or man (italics mine) made in the image of God calls me to honesty and to growth in sanctification – provided I allow my marriage to remind me of God’s presence and his claims on my life.”
Accountability is a term that has become a popular buzzword of our day. Let’s make sure we have a good working definition: It is a relationship of permission established to uphold mutually agreed values with the goal of growing maturity (in the life of Christian this maturity is sanctification with the goal of Christlikeness being the end result – Philippians 1:3-11).
Marriage by nature includes accountability. So the question we must ask is, “How do we encourage and mutually enhance the maturity of our spouse in marriage?” And more specifically, “How does a wife encourage her husband in his maturity in her God-given role as helper?”
Mutually Submit. Men and Women, being created in God’s image and as image bearers, possess mutual equality. This means that there is grounds for mutual submission as those equal image bearers. So Guys and Gals, let me say that there is an appropriate aspect to submission for each of us that needs to be valued and practiced.
That submission is not:
- Agreeing with everything your spouse says.
- Leaving your brain or will at the wedding altar
- Avoiding every effort to change your spouse
- Putting the will of your spouse ahead of the will of Christ
- Obtaining your personal, spiritual strength primarily form your spouse
- Acting out of fear
(adapted from John Piper, This Momentary Marriage)
Submission is honoring and affirming the divine call of your spouse to fulfill his or her roles and responsibilities in marriage accomplished according to your gifts and roles.
John Piper specifically addresses wives:
It’s the disposition to follow a husband’s authority, and an inclination to yield to his leadership. It is an attitude that says, “I delight for you to take the initiative in our family. I am glad when you take responsibility for things and lead with love. I don’t flourish in the relationship when you are passive and I have to make sure the family works.”
But submission does not follow a husband into sin. What then does submission say in such a situation? What does submission say to a husband who is leading a wife into sin? It says, “It grieves me when you venture into sinful acts and want to take me with you. You know I can’t do that. I have no desire to resist you. On the contrary, I flourish most when I can respond joyfully to your lead; but I can’t follow you into sin, as much as I love to honor your leadership in our marriage. Christ is my King.”
The following are action points directed at the preparation and transformation of hearts and attitudes when accountability is necessary.
In particular there are a couple of key practices for a wife to institute as she trusts the Holy Spirit to appropriate change for her husband. First, PRAY for your husband and his transformation. Praying will align you to the work of the Holy Spirit in his life, produce humility instead of pride which often leads to nagging. Second, seek change by SACRIFICE. This is a mutual responsibility for both husband and wife. The sacrifice takes a different form – husbands give their lives up – wives submit to the husband.
So wives emphasize these values in your marriage (men this is also your responsibility):
- The Love of God
- The Love of Your Spouse
- Compassion and Forgiveness
I trust that a brief answer to the original question can be given without sounding too trite:
What does holding our spouse accountable look like in the helper role?
Wives fulfill your role as helper to your husband by Christlike submission to the Lord first and then your husband, esteeming the values of Biblical relationships in a manner that glorifies God and His transforming work, which is accomplished in you independently of and relationally with your husband, the church, and others.
Tomorrow – return to the blog to learn How to Engage in Accountability.