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.
(Colossians 3:16 NIV)
. . .admonishing is not just rebuking or warning but entails that kind of instruction that reminds and reveals and rebukes (or warns) and gets someone’s mind in proper shape . . . (Scott McKnight, The Letter to the Colossians [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2018], 331.)
It wasn’t according to the letter of the law but it wasn’t immoral either. But my friend felt that it was better that I kept to the letter of the law. In the end we achieved what we needed to do. It took a bit longer but my friend felt that if you’re only for expediency and don’t follow the law you would be walking down a path but that would see more serious compromise down the road.
Have you ever had an experience like the above before? Were you at some crossroads in your life and a friend guided you back from a wrong decision? Have you provided such guidance for a friend wandering down a wrong path? I am grateful for friends who keep me on the straight and narrow and who admonish me at such points of temptation because they care for me and believe this is a key thing that friends do for each other. They admonish one another when they see them about to go down a path that is not according to the ways of God.
Friends are admirably suited for this role. Friends have walked together and have proven their love for each other in many ways. Therefore we know their admonishment comes from love. Friends know each other’s lives. They know the stress points when they appear. Followers of Christ are called to be holy. God gives us His Word to show us what is right and wrong. He gives us His Spirit to give us the moral power to say yes to Him and no to sin. But we also need friends who would speak into our lives when we need it.
This is not the most comfortable of ministries. We run the risk of hurting our friends and being misunderstood. We run the risk of even losing a friendship. But if you really care for your friends you will speak up when we need to. Of course clarification must be sought and we may find that we misread a situation. If true this calls for apologies. And a friend may or may not respond properly to an admonishment. Our responsibility is still too admonish and pray that a friend will respond redemptively.
Every so often we hear of a high profile Christian leader whether in public office, church, or marketplace, who has fallen into serous sin in the usual areas of money, sex, or power or some combination of the three. The first thing that comes to my mind is — were they following Jesus in the company of friends? Were there friends who loved them, who knew them, and who asked them tough questions, and admonished them when they were embarking on wrong roads in life? I fear many of them were tired and lonely and it is partly our fault. Often we are keen to use such high profile leaders to endorse our initiatives. They are in so high demand that they have no time to rest and to cultivate deep friendships.
Paul’s injunction also reminds us of a key prerequisite for such friendship accountability. Col. 3:16 tells us to let the message of Christ dwell in us richly. Friends in Christ need to be saturated with the message of Christ, with the Word of God. When we admonish we are not just sharing our personal opinions or expressing our personal biases. Col. 3:16 tells us to let the message of Christ dwell in us richly. We are agents of Christ for each other. Col 3:14 tells us to put on love. Truth and love — these are the two main ingredients for spiritual friendship especially when we need to give each other loving admonishment.