On the Corner

Responsibility and accountability

by Bob Docter –

We don’t know the exact date of this remarkable and historic exchange between Jesus and his disciples in Matthew 16, but it must have been about this time of the year—a few weeks prior to Passover. It happened in Caesarea Philippi, a town located well above the Galilean lake and a little east of the early tributaries of the Jordan.

I suspect he wanted to get some indication of the public’s perception of his role, his reason for being here. He needed to assess the population’s readiness to recognize him as Messiah. He had come to earth, born of a woman, accompanied by great celebration and in a manner that fit prophecy articulated centuries earlier. He had accepted the responsibility of his mission to clarify his Father’s desire to reveal clearly how mankind gained citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven.

He knew well in advance of the eventual suffering and sacrifice required of him during a Passover period.

In Caesarea Philippi, in the shadow of Mount Hermon, he inquired of his disciples the crucial question of his ministry.

Who do people say the Son of Man is?

They answered with several names of key figures of Jewish scriptural history.

But what about you? He asked. Who do you say I am?

Peter, a Hebrew man, answered immediately: “You are the Christ the Son of the living God.”

Jesus replied:

Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven.

In this passage in Matthew 16:17-19 Jesus gave Peter “keys of the kingdom of heaven.” I believe the “keys” are meant to open up something previously locked. Peter used these keys on the day of Pentecost when he announced that the door of the kingdom was unlocked to Jews by repentance and faith (Acts 2:38) and later when he acknowledged that it was also opened to Gentiles when he said, I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right (Acts 10:34, 35).

Therefore, my interpretation is that God provided Peter, and those who embrace his belief system, with the means, the skill, the motivation and the responsibility to unlock minds and open up souls.

It’s possible to delegate responsibility. It can be shared. Jesus delegated to Peter responsibility for “his church”—that which would spread his teaching, his orientation to interpersonal relationships, and his sonship with God. Jesus delegates to each of us responsibility to Go into all the world and preach the saving power of Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

One cannot delegate accountability.

It is acceptance of the cross by which Jesus demonstrated his accountability.

As representatives of The Salvation Army, we can be held accountable and held to account for actions or non-action when we see needs and ignore them. We have a moral responsibility to present ourselves in the manner we make ourselves public. We must practice what we preach. We are accountable to that public and to God in the manner that we fulfill these responsibilities.

I wonder if we have worked hard enough on developing a “culture of accountability”? This is crucial for leadership from the soldier in the corps to the officer at every level. We need to work harder on becoming more transparent. As soldiers and as officers we need to hold people accountable for the actualization of self-set goals. As officers, we need to be able to define clear results based on the organization’s identity and general image with the public. Acceptance of the advisory boards as representatives of the general public, as well as partners in ministry, helps to strengthen relationships.

We need to be open and transparent in relation to corps, division and territorial finances. The corps council is responsible for holding the corps officer accountable in relation to those finances. We need to recognize the overuse and inadequate use of privilege in communication. The organization must not be a gossip machine. The only way we can do this is through greater transparency. Knowledge of results is essential in holding someone to account.

So the way to start being accountable is through the establishment of generalized goals supported by very specific measurable objectives. This keeps you knowledgeable about what you’re trying to accomplish.

Try it. You’ll like it.

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