What Does Loving Accountability in Marriage Look Like?

For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

In marriage we see the good and the not-so-good in each other. When our partner sins and it hurts us, we may instinctively respond to him or her in an angry way. When we respond with an ugly heart, we are sinning too. Instead, compassionately holding our partner accountable is the loving thing to do and is pleasing to God.

As Christians, we know that,“The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). The forgiveness of our sins is an amazing gift. That we will enjoy eternal life in heaven is even more astounding, but this does not give us a free pass for behavior that is displeasing to God. Writing to the Corinthian believers, Paul said, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due himfor the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10). We are responsible for our actions and will have to give an accounting to God.

We often see the sinfulness in our spouses more easily than they see it in themselves. Understanding that we will all be held accountable for our actions, when we see our spouse stepping outside the will of God, the most caring response we can give is to correct our partner biblically. Accountability is crucially important in our battle against sin. Proverbs 27:17says, “Iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpens his friend’s countenance.” Who better to hold us lovingly accountable than our spouse?But it can be intimidating and difficult. Correction needs to be done in the right way and with the right heart. Here are some guidelines:

  • Make sure the action is biblically sinful, not just something you didn’t like.
  • Choose a time when you are both well rested and have time to talk.
  • Plan out your words carefully.
  • Pray before beginning your conversation.
  • Remember, you too are a sinner, so above all, approach your spouse in humility.
  • Give honest praise and encouragement.
  • Be prepared to offer a biblical solution in a respectful way.
  • If your spouse does not respond in a repentant way, then Matthew 18:15-17 gives further instruction,”If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along…If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church.” Your pastor can be a good resource in helping with these steps.

If you start by faithfully bringing your concerns before God, He will give you the grace to hold your spouse appropriately accountable. Not always, but most of the time, you can actually build greater intimacy in your marriage.If it does not turn out this way, have peace that you acted in a way pleasing to the LORD.

May God bless and keep you in His loving care!

Ed and Angie Wright

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