Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone.
1 Thessalonians 5:12-14 (NIV)
Read: 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28
Consider: In the last post we thought about how we can use words to encourage and strengthen people in their faith. You may remember that the believers in Antioch were being told by some Jewish believers that in addition to believing in Jesus they must also be circumcised and conform in all respects to the Jewish law. The apostles and elders in Jerusalem clarified this and told them the things they should avoid in their daily walk with Christ.
Have you noticed that it is much easier to speak encouraging words, than to have to challenge people about their lifestyle. This is just as true in the church, as it is in society. In 1 Thessalonians 5:12-14 Paul uses words like ‘admonish’ and ‘warn’, as well as ‘encourage’, ‘help’ and ‘be patient’.
We don’t hear the word ‘admonish’ being used much today. In fact the word ‘admonish’ is only used twice in the Bible and in both cases it is in Paul’s letters (refer to Colossians 3:16 and 1 Thessalonians 5:12). So is this not just Paul being needlessly tough on people and not being loving? To appreciate what is being said, we need to understand what is meant by this word. Looking at the dictionary it gives the following meanings:
– reprimand firmly;
– advise strongly;
– warn someone to avoid something.
To many this would seem incompatible with the need for Christians to always show love for each other. We live in a society where everyone must be encouraged to achieve their best and no-one should be told that they are under-achieving. But is this biblical? I would contend not! Paul understood very well that it is indeed important to encourage others, but he also understood the need to face up to difficult situations where Christians are not living in the way God wants them to live.
Looking at Colossians 3:16 it says: Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. While the passage from 1 Thessalonians 5 could arguably be understood as it being the church leader’s responsibility to admonish the believers, it is clear from Colossians 3:16 that it is the responsibility of every believer to be prepared to teach and admonish their fellow believers. Of course it is necessary that any criticism of a fellow believer is undertaken prayerfully and in love. What Paul envisages is a body of believers who encourage and help each other, but who also are willing to hold each other accountable for their spiritual walk with Christ.
Pray: Father, may we be real encouragers, but also help us to see that it is not loving to ignore it when a fellow believer has fallen into sin. Give us the wisdom to know how to confront these issues in love. Amen