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Sattler Values: Accountability

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Sattler Values: Accountability

Accountability through Wisdom and Love

When the news of Ravi Zacharias’ sexual misconduct rocked the evangelical world last year, Christians were horrified and confused. It seemed impossible that a Christian with such a godly, admirable reputation could have been involved in sexual assault of that magnitude, and even more impossible that the truth hadn’t come to light sooner. The Board of Directors of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) touched on a key point that many Christians don’t consider. In their open letter, the board of directors wrote: “We regret that we allowed our misplaced trust in Ravi to result in him having less oversight and accountability than would have been wise and loving.”1 Not many Christians tie the idea of accountability with wisdom and love, but as I pondered this idea, I’ve come to believe that wisdom and love always need to be at the heart of accountability.

What is Accountability?

It is interesting to note the precise dictionary definition of accountability. The Miriam Webster dictionary defines accountability as the “condition of being accountable, responsibility.” Accountability means trying to be responsible and act with integrity while being honest and responsible for the consequences when we’ve made mistakes.

However, Ravi’s story reminds me that sometimes we aren’t strong enough to hold ourselves accountable. We need others’ input in our lives and their help holding us accountable. And like the Board of RZIM, I believe that helping hold others accountable is truly an act of wisdom and love.

Accountability is Wise

During this past school year, Mr. Clark Wray spoke at a Sattler “Tea Time” and used two ancient Greek stories to illustrate how we can avoid falling prey to sin and temptation.

First, he told us about Odysseus and the sirens. When Odysseus and his men were sailing home from winning the Trojan War, they met Circe who warned them about the sirens. In this tale, sirens were bird-like women whose song would be so tempting that it would lure sailors to their deaths. Circe explained that if Odysseus and his men heard the sirens, they would lose normal rationality and give in to the temptation of the sirens’ song. She advised Odysseus to plug the ears of his crew members to make them unable to hear the song. She also suggested that if Odysseus wanted to hear the song he must be tied to the mast to keep him physically incapable of giving in to the temptation and being lured to his death.

Odysseus understood the seriousness of Circe’s warning and took her advice to protect himself and his crew. When the sirens came and he heard their song, he struggled viciously to free himself, but he was securely tied and therefore safe.

Sometimes we as Christians believe that we are able to withstand temptation on our own and don’t need the help of others. Maybe we are too proud to admit that we have struggles and need help, or maybe we simply don’t want to waste other people’s time. It can be easy to make excuses for why we don’t want others to hold us accountable.

But RZIM realized too late that it would have been wise to create accountability structures for Ravi. No matter how good people may look or sound, we all have areas of susceptibility that make it wise to seek accountability from our brothers or sisters in Christ.

Accountability is Loving

In Galatians 6, Paul writes: Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:1-2, ESV)

Many people understand that when Paul is writing about this law of Christ, he is referencing the second commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself.” Paul indicates that we as Christians show love to each other when we help bear others’ burdens and struggles.

The second ancient Greek story Mr. Wray told to demonstrate how to avoid falling into sin was the story of Jason and Orpheus. Jason and his crew also had to sail past the deadly sirens. However, Jason and his crew used a different approach than that of Odysseus. Rather than binding up their ears so they would be unable to hear the temptation or tying themselves up so they would be unable to respond to the temptation, they commissioned Orpheus, a talented musician to play. Orpheus played so loudly and beautifully that the crew didn’t hear the sirens’ song, but merely listened to Orpheus’ music.

This strategy was effective because it replaced the temptation with something far more beautiful and wholesome. Just as Orpheus’ music was far more beautiful than the sirens’ call, Jesus and his Kingdom are much more beautiful than the lure of any temptation we face. We as Christians and Christ’s Church are called to love each other by helping others in their struggles and pointing each other to Jesus.

Accountability is two-fold: it involves setting wise boundaries, and it involves loving others enough not only to keep them accountable, but also to point them to something more beautiful than the lure of temptation. RZIM recognized that in some way they had failed Ravi and the victims of his actions. While it had not occurred to them that he needed accountability, they now see that they should have been more involved in helping to bear his burdens. When we take wise and loving measures to help each other, we can truly be accountable while pointing each other to Jesus.



Illustration: John William Waterhouse, “Ulysses and the Sirens,” National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia (1891) (

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