Admonish One Another
Nineteen years ago, my family was vacationing in Sun Valley, Idaho. On this very day, we went to the outdoor ice-skating rink which was open…even though it was 92 degrees. The ice was covered with a sheet of water. I knew it probably wasn’t a good idea to be skating in those conditions. But what the heck! We were there! So, we laced up and began making our circuits around the rink.
At one point, I saw Cyndi and Cooper resting on a bench to the side. So, I decided to skate over real fast, slam on the brakes and spray them with snow. Ha ha ha. So…I headed for them at full speed. But instead of slamming on the brakes, my skates went right out from under me, and I fell, landing on the front of my face. I don’t remember anything after that until I woke up from a coma the next day. I had been airlifted to a Boise hospital. It was a head injury which one doctor described as “grave”…never a word you want to hear describing your physical condition. So…I’m grateful to be here!
Now…if someone had approached me that morning and said, “You know…it might not be the best idea to skate on a sheet of water” or “If you must skate on a sheet of water, it might not be the best idea to show off with a hockey stop”…that might have been helpful advice. I don’t know if I would have received it or not…but if I had, it would have saved me…and my traumatized family, from a very unpleasant experience.
It’s not always easy to tell someone the truth…especially if they don’t want to hear it. But if we don’t have the courage to speak the unpleasant truth, the consequences can be devastating.
We’re in a series on the “one-anothers” of the bible; 59 times in the New Testament we are instructed on how we ought to treat the members of our church family: Forgive one another, encourage one another, accept one another, honor one another, pray for one another, serve one another. This morning, it is: Admonish one another. Which is another way of saying, “Tell the truth to one another.” How much devastation…how much pain could we avoid if we cared enough and had the courage to speak truth to one another?
Our text comes from Colossians 3:16: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom…”
This…is a “like” bell. How many of you have heard of a “like” bell? This summer, I had the privilege of co-mentoring three summer interns. Every week we gathered, and they took turns leading devotions…and receiving constructive criticism on their talks. All three were smart, articulate, theologically sharp. I really enjoyed their devotionals…except for, like, one thing. Like, when they were talking, like, about every third word, like, they would, like, say, “Like.” Like…you know what I mean?
And I did not like. So…the next week…I put the “like” bell in the middle of the table. And guess what I did with it? Every time someone misused the word “like”…I rang the bell. That first week was painful. The bell got rung…a lot. But we kept at it. Last Tuesday was our final cohort. Guess what? Our devotional leader presented her entire talk…a really good talk…and not one ring of the bell.
Now, I could have ignored it. It definitely would have been less awkward and irritating in those early weeks. But…these young people are pursuing vocational Christian ministry. They did an internship because they want to improve their skills. And, like, saying “like” every other word is, like, not cool.
This bell…was an admonishment. The word for “admonish” means “gentle correction.” It’s not the same as “rebuke.” A rebuke…is harsher. When Jesus said to Peter, “Get thee behind me, Satan…” that was a rebuke. An admonishment is a kind, but clear correction. A warning. A caution. The Greek word for admonish means, literally, “to put in mind.” To admonish someone is to put a new idea in their mind. To help someone say, “Hmmm…I hadn’t thought of it that way before. You’ve given me something new to think about.” When Paul tells us to “admonish one another,” he’s saying, “I want you to have the courage to speak the truth to each other. Help each other think in a new way about some things.”
Last week, I got admonished. By one of my elders. He sent a note and said, “I’d like to meet with you to talk about something.” I thought, “Uh oh…I think I’m going to the woodshed.” He came at the appointed hour and, after pleasantries, shared with me his concerns about an action I’d taken without the input of elders. He told me why he felt it unwise and proposed a better way going forward.