There’s an unspoken vow that you make on your wedding day. Right in there among the sickness and health, richer and poorer, is the commitment to be accountable to your spouse. You walked into the church separate people and walked out one flesh, and that means that for the rest of your lives, as Ricky Ricardo quipped, “you got some ‘splaining to do.”
I don’t mean that you now have a nanny watching over you, or a dad figure. I mean that now you are bound to help each other grow in Christ, to help each other kill sin, to support each other through the muck and mire of sinful behavior and attitudes. It’s a tough job that requires a tender heart and a humble spirit, not an iron Bible to crack over your spouse’s head.*
So, what does godly accountability in marriage look like?
First, it is concerned with the spiritual well-being of the other person. This means that you aren’t trying to catch your spouse in sin so that you can pretend like you’re superior. You aren’t trying to be “right” or to teach your husband or wife a lesson. Godly accountability comes from loving your spouse so deeply that you don’t want to see him or her get hurt by sin.
It is slow to speak. It’s always better to pray first. Attacking your spouse in anger or haphazardly making emotional accusations can have lasting negative effects on marriage. Think it through. Consider exactly how you want to bring up the issue. In some cases, you shouldn’t bring it up at all, but pray continually that your spouse will see the error of his thinking or the folly in her actions.
It is humble. As difficult as it can be when you’re angry or feeling justified in your self-righteousness, remember that you sin in all of your own particular ways, too. Reverse the situation in your mind and imagine how humiliated you would be if your spouse confronted you with your own sin. It will make you more gentle and understanding.
But, helping each other recognize and work through sin issues isn’t the only job of an accountable spouse. And, this second aspect of accountability is really the biggie.
You are accountable to help lead your spouse away from sin, and not toward it.
This is probably one of the most challenging things about being married. It’s easy to act Christian when you’re out among the world. But, when you come home at the end of the day and you’re tucked safely away behind closed doors, it’s not so easy to live out the kind of faith that you would like for your spouse to emulate.
It’s so easy to lead each other into sin. Christian men introduce their wives to pornography. Christian women gossip and stir up trouble until their husbands are bitter and resentful toward people who love them. There are countless ways that husbands and wives encourage each other to live like the world instead of spurring each other on to deeper faith and a more pure mind.
If you wonder why your marriage just can’t seem to get its spiritual footing, it could be because you are leading each other away from the goodness of God’s purity and holiness. With humility, encourage your spouse in godly endeavors, and your marriage will reap the benefits.Even something as simple as the kind of television shows you watch is a factor in spiritual growth.
In Luke, Jesus said that it would be better for us to be thrown into the sea with a huge stone tied around our neck than for us to cause one of His little ones to stumble and sin. We should always be working to help our spouse become more like Christ, not more like the world. That’s godly accountability. Start with each other and watch the spiritual effects ripple throughout your family and for generations to come.
Read part four of this series here.
*I need to insert a disclaimer here that if your relationship has become abusive or scary, accountability doesn’t mean that you have to stay and pray them through it. Some situations in marriage can’t be dealt with without outside help–counseling, law enforcement, etc.