But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” – Matthew 22:34-40
Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
– James 5:13-16
John Wesley, to whom the honor of “Founder of Methodism” is given, was, by all accounts, a bright, dedicated, headstrong, and straightforward young man who sought to escape sin and pave a road of righteousness across Colonial America. Sadly, he had not the humility to truly engage the Native Americans, nor silver tongue enough to charm the colonists – many of whom had come to America to escape from such authorities in their life as the Church of England. John was not the greatest preacher, nor the finest bible scholar, although he was certainly adequate at both. He was well-read and wrote books of his own, although most were forms of correspondence or instructional, rather than theological treatises like many of the former and latter theologians wrote. In many ways, he was just your average, young preacher.
The thing that set John apart from others was his determination to rid his life of sin. Few others in history can boast of the attempts at living a life totally committed to God, a life that reflected the words of John the Baptist when he told his disciples, “He (Christ) must become greater; I must become less.” (John 3:30) Even before he truly understood the depth of God’s grace and forgiveness, and the power of the Holy Spirit, John had a firm grasp on God’s holiness and an unquenchable thirst to live a life worthy of God. How frustrating it must have been for him at times, as it is for ourselves, when we want to do what is pleasing to God, but instead find ourselves doing just the opposite. What John Wesley is perhaps best remembered for, and perhaps what he gave most to the church, was the means for Christians to overcome temptation in their lives with Koinonia.
What is Koinonia? Koinonia is a Greek word that translates loosely into “fellowship” or “community”. However, it is used particularly of the Church to indicate a joining together of people of all backgrounds, by the power of the Holy Spirit, and the transformation of those people into a holy family, recreated in the image of God. They are the wearers and bearers of God’s love. How do you spell Koinonia? John Wesley spelled it A-C-C-O-U-N-T-A-B-I-L-I-T-Y.
Accountability is might best be described as watching each other’s backs or looking out for one another. It is not fault-finding or criticizing one another. It is not done so that we might feel better about ourselves after finding things wrong in those around us. True accountability is motivated simply by love. As we begin to understand that sin is not so much a fault or blemish that we have, it is a hand that the enemy has upon us, love compels us to free our neighbors from the bondage of sin, just as we ourselves desire to be free. Accountability is also voluntary and never forced. John wrote a letter to the early Methodist groups, reminding them to ask their members to be sure they were willing to hear “the plain truth” about themselves, given without reservation, before they entered into an accountability group. Once in the group, the members were to be completely open and honest with one another, answering questions such as:
- What known sins have you committed since our last meeting?
- What temptations have you met with?
- How were you delivered?
- What have you thought, said, or done, of which you doubt whether it is sin or not?
Accountability is essential for us to grow spiritually. John Wesley encouraged people to gather together for prayer and to hear one another’s confessions and receive encouragement, so that we would not be divided and conquered by evil, but overcome evil with the goodness of God’s love instead. Those early Methodists got very personal with each other, not to be nosy or mean, but because they understood that sin thrives and spreads in the darkness, but withers and dies in the light of truth. While the sin in us may kick and scream as we usher it into the light of day, we can rest assured that we will not find condemnation, but rather forgiveness, and power to overcome such temptation in the future – especially when we realize we are not fighting our own battle with sin alone, and, while the enemy may know our own weaknesses, he cannot account for the variety of strengths we exhibit when we stand together and fight for one another.