Throughout this One Another series, we’ve been looking at some of the most well-known “one anothers” of the New Testament: love one another, honor one another, serve one another, etc. And we’ll see a couple more common “one anothers” before we end this series at the end of the month.
But this week, I want to look at a slightly less familiar “one another.” This one isn’t nearly as popular as “love one another,” nor as inspiring as “be devoted to one another.” Yet because God gives it to us, it is nonetheless important for us to do, even if we don’t say it (or wear it) nearly as much as the “regulars.”
As you can tell by the title, this week’s topic is “Admonish One Another” and it comes from Colossians 3:16, which says...
"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 (ESV)
I can think of at least three reasons why this “one another” isn’t nearly as well known.
We don't like this word. And who can blame someone for recoiling from this slightly-archaic word? According to the dictionary on my Mac, admonish means...
"to warn or reprimand someone firmly."New Oxford American Dictionary
Who enjoys being "reprimanded firmly?" Nor do we enjoy being around people who find pleasure in "admonishing." (If you have no friends, you might ask yourself if you are overdoing it with this biblical command!) No wonder we don't talk about this particular "one another" found here in the third chapter of Colossians.
Yet while biblically there is a corrective aspect to the word admonish, it is so much more than simply telling someone they are wrong or need to stop. In Romans 15:14 (told you we'd come back to this passage), the same word for "admonish" in Colossians gets translated "instruct." This is why you see Paul link "admonishing" with teaching in Colossians 3:16. To teach someone is to build them up with knowledge so they might be improved as a person.
This would explain why some Bible translations use the word "exhort" or "encourage" in place of the word admonish. To our modern, Western ears, admonish sounds like tearing someone down. (If this was the only definition of admonish, cable news and social media are experts at it!) But God isn't interested in just tearing us down. Any "destruction" He does in our lives is followed by "construction" into Christlikeness. Any admonishing warning is for our protection, not ruin.
But what does this actually look like?
Imagine you have a friend who follows Jesus. One day, this friend confesses they are planning to leave their spouse because they've fallen in love with someone else. In your shock, you ask some questions and learn their current spouse hasn't done anything wrong (they haven't cheated, there is no abuse, they actually seem to care about your friend, etc.). Your friend is just extremely attracted to this other person.
Rather than give your friend the common advice of "well, you just gotta follow your heart," biblical admonishment would strongly encourage them to not give in to their feelings. Rather, they need to figure out why they want out of the marriage and what they can do to be a person of their word and hold to their marital vows.
Yes, admonishment is hard and many times awkward. That's why Paul said in Colossians 3 that our admonishment and teaching need to come from a life where the word of Christ dwells richly within us, so that our encouragement and exhorting will be done with all wisdom, being full of grace and truth. But if you truly love your brother and sister in Christ, you will gracefully-yet-courageously fight through the awkwardness to teach and admonish them so they can find the better life God desires for them.
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