“We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you.” (1 Thess. 5:12)
Sitting at the back of the auditorium, listening to the speaker focus on 1 Thessalonians 5:12, I had a wee laugh to myself: “Thank those who admonish you.” I thought to myself: There is no way that someone is going to say, ‘Thanks very much for kicking my butt, I really needed that!’
But actually, it has happened, and on more than one occasion. They might not have used exactly the same words, but the premise is the same. It’s a humbling experience.
Challenge/admonish/hold accountable/kick my butt. . . . Call it what you will, the question I want to ask today is simple: Why? Why don’t we admonish or challenge people when we know we should, or even when we know it would be good for them?
Challenge is Hard
No one likes to admonish people because saying the hard stuff is, well, hard! (I would seriously question the motives of anyone who says they love it or it’s a joy!).
When we love and care for someone, it’s hard to tell them the truth they don’t want to hear—but not but impossible. So, if we truly love someone and genuinely care about them, then why don’t we speak the hard-to-say words into their life?
“I don’t like to hurt them”, “I’m not confident enough”, “They might get angry at me”, “They might not speak to me again”, “They might tell other people I was mean to them” . . . Actually, I could come up with about 50 different answers (excuses) to this but, when we really look at what’s going on, it’s that I feel bad; I don’t want to risk face; I, I, I, I. . . .
At the heart of the matter is this: Often what is ruling us is too much love for self and not enough love for the other person. If we truly loved and cared for those around us as we are supposed to, we would out of care for them say the hard things that must be said no matter the cost to ourselves. Real friends tell you the hard stuff you need to hear. Fly by night friends tell you the lies you want to hear and stroke your ego.
Proverbs 27:6 Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.
What True Friends Do
We have all had someone at some point in our Christian walks say the dreaded “I have to tell you this in love”…and then proceed to bash you with a barrage of self righteous but very Christian sounding words (fuelled by some self-perceived injustice or slight they imagined happened three years before). This definitely isn’t loving, godly admonishment. I think many of us truly misunderstand what it means to challenge, admonish or hold accountable in a godly way. It can be seen as aggressive or confrontational, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s simply not letting something slide by, but instead speaking wisely and gently into someone’s life. If we truly love someone and care enough to move beyond our own best interests, then the likelihood is that you already care enough to humbly approach the conversation prayerfully, gently and with real compassion and love.
How Can We Challenge Well?
2 Timothy 3:16 “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness”
1. Check our own heart first
2. Prayerfully ask the Lord for:
- The wisdom. James 1:5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him”
- The right words to say, and for grace to trust Him
- The opportunity and setting to say it
- Trust the Lord and His leading
3. Point them to Christ
Matthew 18:15—“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.
Their response may be angry, may be tearful, there might even be harsh and painful words said to you. We must continue to pray for them. God willing, they take action and will eventually thank you for loving them enough to say the hard stuff. Both will grow.
But what if our words have fallen on deaf ears—Do we leave it there, at least you’ve said something? You’ve done your bit? Hands washed, conscious clear, it is time to walk away?
Matthew 18:15–17—But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
If you are still concerned, quietly approach the elders and share your concerns with them. Heed their prayerful and wise advice. Many may call this biblical response heavy handed but truly its biblical concern, love and care in action.
Lets love ourselves less, others better and God more.