In an age of effortless privacy, ubiquitous technology, and immediate gratification, there can be no doubt that accountability is important. As humans broken by sin and predisposed to worship idols of our own making, accountability is an essential part of living the Christian life.
This need has not gone unrecognized by the church (and parachurch organizations) at large and is often answered with a system or arrangement of accountability partners. Perhaps the scene is already entering your imagination: two people meeting at a coffee shop to discuss some area of spiritual weakness or perhaps even to study certain passages of Scripture together. They ask each other deep, probing questions while fidgeting with their chai lattes, occasionally glancing at their phones to cut any awkwardness that may arise. This awkwardness particularly arises when it is time to talk about issues of sexual purity.
This kind of accountability, though more effective and necessary at certain stages of life, is not necessarily the best kind of accountability. An accountability partner who only meets with you to discuss pornography is not the best accountability partner. The best accountability partner is a good friend.
A biblical friendship is a friendship that necessarily involves accountability and discipleship—and not just regarding sexual sin. A biblical friendship involves the whole of life, because its foundation is unity in Christ. Friendships built on Christ are friendships that last because they are fundamentally interested in the same thing: loving God and loving others.
Certainly these friendships have integrated into them common interests, hobbies, backgrounds, and preferences, and all of these things should be leveraged to cultivate honesty, mutual affection, and a certain level of vulnerability that shares deep fears, struggles, joys, and desires.
An accountability partner who only meets with you to discuss pornography is not the best accountability partner. The best accountability partner is a good friend.
You may find yourself in a particular setting or stage of life in which the best accountability partner is simply that—an accountability partner. And in those settings you should pour yourself out in accountability and provide accountability in as stable and effective a way as possible. But eventually those partnerships fade away or are relegated to semi-guarded spiritual conversations. So cultivate deep friendships that are, at their core, friendships based on Christ. These friendships, unlike many accountability partner relationships, take years to develop, so don’t be discouraged by the slow process. Enter into it prayerfully, willingly, and lovingly because in that kind of friendship you can effectively point others to Christ and you can be redirected to Christ for a lifetime.
Accountability partners defined by coffee shops, sexual accountability, and short-term viability have their place, but much better is a good friend who wants to love Jesus.