Years ago I learned a valuable, but painful lesson about admonishing the ones we love. I had befriended a young businessman who aspired to the ministry, and for several years we ministered together in many ways. As we spent time together socially as well, I noticed a few “loose ends” in his character which I brushed off as minor issues. But even as these issues worsened, I failed to bring them to my friend’s attention. Eventually, he disappeared until I learned that these “minor” character flaws had landed this man in jail.
It was an agonizing moment when I realized that if we truly love someone, we must be willing to admonish him. Otherwise, our love is out of balance and incomplete.
We admonish for two different reasons. The first is to warn, caution or gently reprove someone – “Jack, you are not spending enough time with your wife.” The second reason is to instruct others with the truths of God’s Word – “Lauren, now that you have your first full-time job, let’s learn what the Bible teaches about financial stewardship.” Admonishing isn’t just reserved for when someone messes up. It can also be used for teaching and/or warning, but it is distinguished from rebuking, a harsher treatment that Jesus used against evil spirits, fever, the wind and on occasion His disciples.
Generally, we earn the right to admonish someone by first ministering the other “one anothers.” Our ministry is likely to be repelled unless we have demonstrated preferring, encouraging, comforting and accepting in the relationship. The apostle Paul spoke bluntly to the Thessalonians because gentleness preceded his admonition. The church received his rebuke because they were convinced of his love.
We had a similar situation in our church. One of our members wasn’t providing for his family because he would not commit to a steady job. I made a concerted effort to befriend this man, meeting for fellowship and prayer. After I was convinced that he knew I loved and cared for him, I admonished him in a kind but direct way to get a job.
On occasion, we may need to admonish someone when there is insufficient time for laying the proper groundwork, but those times should be infrequent. Nothing substitutes for a loving relationship.
When we admonish someone, we should be very careful how we do it. “Correct, rebuke and encourage with great patience and careful instruction.” (2 Tim. 4:2) I will continue with some practical suggestions in a subsequent blog. In the meantime, be thinking about times when you were admonished. What worked? What didn’t?
Don McMinn, Ph.D. (with Kimberly Spring)
Executive Director of theiPlace.org
The 11th Commandment: Experiencing the One Anothers of Scripture