Skip to content ↓

Admonition: An Unpopular Love Language

Articles Collection cover image

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.

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.


  • How can you mumble

    How Can You Mumble?

    Some of my most meaningful moments of public worship have been in settings where I did not speak the language. I have stood with a congregation in rural Zambia as they’ve clapped and moved and praised the Lord in Bemba, a language that is utterly unknown to me. I’ve sat with a congregation in the…

  • A La Carte Collection cover image

    A La Carte (June 3)

    A La Carte: Life doesn’t always turn out like we thought it would / Hope for fallen Christians / AI as theological babel fish / Teenagers and parental hypocrisy / Is there a preferred Bible translation Christians should use? / Logos and Kindle deals / and more.

  • A Celebration of Friendship

    A Celebration of Friendship

    I may not be going too far out on a limb when I suggest that you have probably not heard the name Anna Laetitia Barbauld. For various reasons she has been largely forgotten by history, and this despite achieving a significant level of fame in the eighteenth century. Though at one time she was a…

  • A La Carte Collection cover image

    Weekend A La Carte (June 1)

    A La Carte: The desegregation of Dallas Theological Seminary / 12 things that happened on the cross / How can I be a Christian in my workplace? / Five questions for our skepticism / The sanction of sin / Never let a crisis go to waste: AI, statism, and the threats to free speech /…

  • Free Stuff Fridays (Redeemer University)

    This giveaway is sponsored by Redeemer University. Get $250 off your first course when you enroll in the online Not-For-Profit Management certificate with Redeemer University! Fill out this form to get updates and to be eligible for this special offer via Challies.com Do you work for a church, school, food bank, women’s shelter, mission, ministry…

  • New and Notable Books

    New and Notable Christian Books for May 2024

    While the month of May has already almost fully waned, it has proved to be a good month for Christian book releases. I sorted through the stacks that landed on my desk and arrived at this list of new and notables. In each case, I’ve provided the editorial description to give you a sense of…