Jesus says in Matthew 7:1, “Do not judge, that you may not be judged.” From this statement one might conclude that judging is prohibited, but in the next verse the context helps us understand that the passage is not a prohibition. Rather it is a warning: “For in the way that you measure, it will be measured to you” (Matt. 7:2).
Luke 6:36-37 records a similar statement by Jesus: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. And do not judge and you will not be judged, and do not condemn and you will not be condemned. Set free and you will be set free.”
The starting point here is following the Father’s example of mercy, and a sound standard of judgment. A few verses later, Jesus reminds His listeners to beware of the log that is in their own eye rather than trying to remove the speck from someone else’s eye.
The pastoral scandal in Hammond has sparked many conversations about why these disasters keep happening, what the phenomenon says about independent fundamental Baptist (IFB) churches and ministies, and what ought to be done to fix whatever exactly is broken. The idea of accountability has figured prominently in several of these conversations.
But if IFB and other branches of Christendom1 are going to use accountability effectively, we’ll have to arrive at a clearer understanding of what accountability is, what it’s limitations are, and where its real value lies. My aim here is to make a small contribution toward that end.
For some, accountability has an almost magical power to keep all bad behavior from happening. Whenever some kind of shocking sin comes to light, their first and last response is “we need more accountability.” In these cases the term “accountability” tends to be defined vaguely if at all. At the other end of the spectrum, some argue that accountability is only something that occurs in response to wrongdoing and that has no power to prevent it (see the conversation here, for example).