Admonition: An Unpopular Love Language

Admonition, or any kind of tough love, is a Christian responsibility and an often neglected evidence of the Spirit’s work within us. Perhaps for fear of coming across as judgmental, “holier than thou,” or insensitive, or perhaps out of fear of burning a bridge or just plain fear of man, we can neglect warning one another.

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Admonition Is Loving

But the Bible teaches us that admonishing or warning one another of the sin (or danger of sin) we see in each others’ lives can be a sign of deep love. In Psalm 81 we see a loving God admonishing his cherished people:

Hear, O my people, while I admonish you!
O Israel, if you would but listen to me! …
I am the LORD your God,
who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.
Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.
(Psalm 81:8, 10)

We often see this kind of loving admonition in Paul’s ministry as well. On his way back to Jerusalem, in an emotional final meeting with the Ephesian elders, Paul reminds them that “for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears” (Acts 20:31). And to the church in Corinth, after several chapters of correcting them for their divisiveness, Paul clarifies, “I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children” (1 Corinthians 4:14). His love for these people was so great that he would not neglect to warn them of sin’s presence and sin’s consequence.

Admonition Is Commanded

Admonition is not only modeled to us in Scripture, but is also clearly commanded:

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3:16)

And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. (1Thessalonians 5:14)

Paul commands admonition in these chapters because he knows that, as the author of Hebrews says, we are prone to being “hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” and therefore must “exhort one another every day” (Hebrews 3:13) if we are to endure in the Christian life. What may seem a difficult negative is actually a loving positive.

Although admonition can be an unpopular way of loving one another (because, really, who wants to be confrontational or negative?), Scripture tells us it is necessary for our spiritual health and progress and, therefore, provides us with helpful examples of it in action.