I live in t-shirts. They became my torso’s primary habitat during high school, the years when the word athleisure came into existence. Nine times out of ten, my friends and I could have gone straight from class to practice: we dawned leggings, sport shorts, sweatpants — and always t-shirts.
The shirts mostly hailed from Memory Lane. Think: old volleyball teams to elementary school summer camps to colleges that our parents attended. Often, they were baggier than a King Soopers’ checkout on a Sunday. But no matter how old, no matter how ill-fitting — our t-shirts were decidedly free of stains.
It wasn’t that we never stained our tattered t-shirts throughout the course of the day. High school cafeterias are jungles, after all. What I mean is, we told each other about amiss messiness. I never doubted that I could count on my like-outfitted friends to point out stains on my perfectly faded hand-me-downs.
One Reflection Counts
I wonder how much more Christlike we would have looked during those years, if only we had kept each other’s souls as accountable as we did our images.
Christian, perhaps your experience differs from mine. Throughout my life, I have both given and received shockingly little accountability. We point out cracks on the corners of iPhones. We whisper of smeared makeup beneath eyes. We tap on stains and say, “Right there.”
But when it comes to the real cracks, messes, and stains perceivable in ourselves and our friends . . . No one points. No one pulls anyone aside. No one says a word.
What even is Christian accountability? Trillia Newbell defines it as “a means in which God draws us, through the friendship and fellowship of others, to himself.” It’s a practical way to draw ourselves and our friends closer to Christ through things such as open confession of sin, group prayer, and — at the proper time — words of rebuke.
Why should we practice Christian accountability? Even when we have repented of our sins and set our soul’s gaze upon Christ, we are still capable of and prone to sin (Romans 7:15–20). So, as Trillia Newbell points out, one way God continues to draw us to himself is through the influence of other believers. Siblings see each other’s blind spots. The same is true for brothers and sisters in Christ.
Wound like Paul
Generally, I am willing to express my own temptations and sins. I don’t often bring up sin entangling other believers. I want to become better at lending gentle rebuke when needed, like when Paul called out Peter in Galatians 2:11. When Peter began to act hypocritically, sinfully, in Antioch, Paul rebukes him openly “because he stood condemned.” Paul confronted Peter not out of malice — but out of love. He cared for Peter. He didn’t want sin to shipwreck Peter’s faith.
Accepting rebuke in accountability isn’t easy, though. We are often blind to our own issues and prideful when confronted with them. It takes a great deal of humility to accept the loving criticism of a friend. Proverbs 27:6 tells us that the “wounds of a friend” are “faithful.” Meaning, though the words will wound, we can trust the advice that comes from those who care about our souls.
How much more precious is a soul than a t-shirt. Still, we are slow to point out the stains that matter. They could wreak havoc on a relationship with God. I hope that fellow believers value my soul above my shirts, above my iPhone, above my makeup. I hope that they steer me toward Christ when I falter. Lord willing, I will do the same for them — for you.