Self-Inflicted Accountability

Much is made of the idea of accountability. To be held to account – to be responsible for words and actions; a place of answerability – by someone or something is an important concept. Accountability should not be preventative as much as it is to be proactive. There is risk involved with being accountable. One must admit guilt when necessary. One must carry the weight of burden for one’s words and actions. Where there is accountability there is also liability. Institutions (including the Church) have superimposed various fail-safes in an attempt to, if you will, force accountability. The legal system, with its civil and criminal laws, is a perfect example. But one cannot be forced to be accountable. One cannot be held accountable if that one wishes not to be. Certainly I am not suggesting we suspend the civil/criminal laws, but I am calling into question the notion of forced accountability (the statistics give evidence that prison, though instituted as accountability, is penal and nothing more for most individuals).

Without “Self-Inflicted Accountability” an individual will not allow him/herself to be held accountable to anyone or anything. Take, for example, the Decalogue. The Jews utilized the Ten Commandments for the purpose of accountability. This accountability has no control over the intent, but only the actions of a person. Because it tells me not to steal it does not necessarily follow that I do not still have the deep seeded desire to do so. The so-called accountability simply becomes a deterrent because I don’t want to be caught and becomes penal if I do, and in actuality causes me to attempt to find a way around the accountability or excuses my action by sheer manipulation. Perhaps, even worse, forced accountability causes me to do my deed in secret because, after all, “no one can tell me what to do.”

Without Self-Inflicted Accountability, the marriage covenant is nothing but relative to my desires. The legal system of civil and criminal law is only something to avoid if I am not under Self-Inflicted Accountability. As a pastor in the UMC, I will not be accountable to my D.S. and Bishop, but only resentful, without Self-Inflicted Accountability. Accountability does not come because they are the D.S. or Bishop, or because of some superimposed supposed accountability, but it comes when I self-inflict accountability that gives me the means by which to be held accountable to and by them.

Self-Inflicted Accountability demands that the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. It means to live in the Spirit and put to death the things of the flesh. It necessarily means that I experience the killing power of the cross of Christ and the life-giving resurrection power of the risen Christ. It insists that Jesus transforms my intent so that my actions change. It is part of the sufferings of Christ. It demands that a human-made religion is inferior to the faith in and of Christ. Instituted accountability by design points to and presupposes a Self-Inflicted Accountability; otherwise, it is only another form of penal system with no hope of transformation.

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