Will you ask why I write about admonishing?
I will reply that the answer is very simple: you and I don’t admonish as we ought. Sometimes we laugh at sin. Sometimes we pretend that we have not heard or seen it. At best (and that’s not very good), we turn our backs and walk away. Very seldom do we admonish against sin.
But God demands it! In Matthew 18:15, Jesus says to us, “If thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee thou hast gained thy brother.” And in Ezekiel 33:8, 9, God says to the prophet, “When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.” It is so important to admonish our brother, that if we fail to do it, we bear responsibility for that man’s punishment. Or, to put it very simply, if we do not admonish sinners, we sin, and become worthy of punishment.
But even faced with the command of God, and this warning, how often do we admonish? Too often we are afraid that we will be reminded of our own sins and weaknesses. Too often we are afraid that our friends will hate us, that they will no longer want us to be with them. So we ignore sin, turn our backs to it, or treat it as if it didn’t exist.
We must not forget that we, by the grace of God, will be and must be the means whereby the relationship of love between brothers is restored. If our brother walks in sin, can we have true fellowship with him? If our brother walks in sin, can the bond of love between us be whole?
But you will say, what if that sinner is not my brother? Our duty is the same. Look again at Ezekiel 33. The sinner may indeed die in his iniquity, but if we have not warned him, his blood is required at our hand.
So far I have considered admonishing only as a duty, a command of God. And it may well seem an odious duty: it is, after all, a very difficult thing to do, and it may not be very pleasant either. But it ought not be so. We should find joy in it, for we do it for love’s sake; first of all, of course, for the love of God but also for the love of our brother.
We admonish because we love God. We want to please God and we long to serve Him. We please and serve Him only by obeying Him. Therefore, when He commands us to admonish, we obey in love, and we rejoice in obeying. Secondly, we admonish because we cannot bear to see God’s name dishonored. When a man sins we are horrified. We see that the God whom we love is not being praised as He ought to be praised, and as we want Him to be praised. We love Him so much that we cannot keep silent.
We admonish also because we love the sinner. Our love, as I Corinthians 13 says, cannot rejoice in another’s iniquity. Rather we worry about the spiritual welfare of the sinner. We know that when he sins he hurts himself, and, because of our love for him, we do not want that. We want him to know God’s favor, not His anger. We want him to have the consciousness of God’s love; for we know that without that consciousness he is utterly miserable.
There is yet one more requirement. We must be humble when we admonish. We may not remind a man of his sin because we are angry with him. We may not try to get his goat or rouse his anger because we bear a grudge against him. We may not taunt him with his sin because we want to start a fight. Neither may we be proud. We may not exalt ourselves at his expense. We may not shame him before others. We may not pretend that we have some kind of authority over him. God forbid that we admonish, thinking ourselves in any way better than him.
We must be humble. “If there be any consolation in Christ, if any comfort or love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfill ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem the other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.” “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.” When we admonish we remember that we also are sinners. In fact, because we know our own secret sins and our own heart, and not his, we esteem him better than ourselves. We look on ourselves as greater sinners than he. And we look to his things rather than to our own. All our desires and feelings are unimportant to us. We forget ourselves. We don’t care that what we must do is hard for us. We don’t care if we are reminded of our own sins. We don’t care if our pride is hurt. We care only for the sinner, only for his desires and feelings and needs. We are so wrapped up in serving him that we forget ourselves.
Of course, this is difficult. It is not easy to admonish, and it is not easy to do it humbly and in love. That doesn’t matter. God and our love, both for God and for the sinner, demand it. Perhaps we will find it easier to admonish if we remember these things.
In conclusion let’s turn to Psalm 141:5. David prays there: “Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head.” If our brother receives us thus, what greater joy can we have? We have gained a brother.
May God give us grace to be faithful to Him, to love as we ought, and to seek our brother’s welfare before our own, to His glory.