Admonish or Judge…….

Latin admonere “bring to mind, remind, suggest;” also “warn, advise, urge,” from ad- “to” + monere “advise, warn”
Admonish: to caution, advise, or counsel against something; to reprove or scold.

We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.
1 Thess. 5:14

Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother. 2 Thess. 3:15

But they became disobedient and rebelled against You, And cast Your law behind their backs And killed Your prophets who had admonished them So that they might return to You…..
Nehemiah 9:26

I had a conversation with a young lady this past week about “judgmentalism”. She had felt very much convicted about her habit of judging others and was directed by the Holy Spirit to do a word study on the matter in Scripture. We talked about the difference between judging non-believers (which we are NOT to do) and admonishing believers (which we ARE to do.) Those who wish to act contrary to biblical principles will not make the distinction between the two, but it is clear in Scripture that we are to do the latter and that is, in fact, exactly what the Holy Spirit does, as well.

The point of admonishing is to correct and restore to godly thinking and conduct, not to drive one away or break fellowship. No matter what the intent, many who are being admonished will experience it as judgment and be offended, even when it is coming from a brother or sister in Christ who loves them.

When working with individuals who are early in their Christian lives and still reflecting attitudes of rebellion, resistance to truth, lying, theft, gossip, manipulation, etc., it can be difficult to express the latter without crossing the line into the former. Few wish to be admonished and will accuse others of judgment in an attempt to stop the correction in its tracks. If one loves another, she must be willing to let the unruly one walk away if that one will not repent of the behavior, confess, and be restored to fellowship with God and God’s people.

The young lady with whom I had this conversation was telling me about a wonderful three days of being “in the Spirit” right after she came to Christ. It was a time when all the world was seen with a new view of life. She was joyful and blessed. But something happened in her church with some people who disappointed her and suddenly, she was caught up in making a judgment against them because of her lack of mercy and not having the mind of Christ to love them as he loves them, in spite of their failings. That response to her disappointment, she suddenly realized, led to her sense of loss of the presence of God and she gradually fell away from the church and away from fellowship with the Lord. The Lord has worked in her life mightily to bring her to a place of loving with the heart and mind of Christ and grieving for the lost as well as grieving for the saved who are out of fellowship due to their disobedience.

It was a potent lesson in the necessity of mercy, understanding, love, and admonishment versus judging.
Yesterday in the sermon at church the pastor referenced Christ’s encounter with the rich young ruler in Mark 10: 17-31

The Rich Young Ruler
17 As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commandments, ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” 20 And he said to Him, “Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up.” 21 Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” 22 But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property.
23 And Jesus, looking around, *said to His disciples, “How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 The disciples were amazed at His words. But Jesus *answered again and *said to them, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 They were even more astonished and said to Him, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Looking at them, Jesus *said, “With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.”
28 Peter began to say to Him, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You.” 29 Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, 30 but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last, first.”

There are several very important points in Mark’s version of events:
1.) The man is RICH, YOUNG, and a RULER. He very likely takes a lot of things for granted. It appears he is not familiar with suffering or persecution or doing without. He is first among many, as a ruler. One of my former pastors would often say that those who are healthy, wealthy, and young do not realize how much they need the Lord. They have all that they feel they need.

2.) He ran and knelt before Jesus, a posture that suggests reverence, honor, deference to authority, and even worship. And he calls Jesus “good.” Jesus immediately focuses on that word. This seems to me to be a test of the young man’s true knowledge. His posture suggests worship. His reference to Jesus as “Good Teacher” (like “Good Shepherd”) suggests that he may know the truth of who Jesus is But, has Jesus’ identity truly been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit? Jesus uses this encounter as an example for his disciples, as he already knows fully well what is in the young man’s heart. His conversation with the young man affirms the value of knowing and keeping the law. But it also reveals that he does not really know Christ.

3.) Then we are told that Jesus felt great compassion and love for the young man, knowing that he really did not grasp the value of eternal life and was not yet ready to do the hard work of surrendering all to Christ. While he was noble in keeping the letter of the law, he could not yet understand and submit to the spirit of the law and give up all for the cause of faith in Christ and eternal life.

4.) Jesus does not judge the young man. He has compassion on him for his ignorance. He has mercy on him and lets the young man walk away without comment or judgment.

5.) But Jesus uses this moment to teach his disciples about the power of idolatry of possessions. Jesus is not condemning wealth. But he is demonstrating the danger of its power over one’s life.

6.) Peter points out that they have walked away from their belongings. Jesus proclaims that personal relationships and possessions can interfere with one’s pursuit of the really important possession of the Kingdom of God. But he also points out that when those personal possessions and relationships are surrendered, one gains access to possessions and relationships in much greater measure….As one becomes part of the Kingdom of God, houses are open to us through hospitality and many members of the family of God become our family. What a sweet picture of the church… and provision for all who are part of God’s family! Notice, too, however, that Jesus adds another thing that one will be sure to have as part of this new, larger Kingdom….persecutions. And ultimately such people who have their priorities properly oriented to the Kingdom will have eternal life!

7.) Like the rich young ruler who walked away, one who is privileged and first among many will be last in the Kingdom. But those who have chosen to surrender all that they have and are counted as last by earthly measures will be first in the Kingdom.

While all of these points are discerned in this scripture, it is Jesus’ mercy for and action toward one who thinks he is doing right but who hasn’t a clue what’s really important is what I want to focus on. If we have the Holy Spirit at work in us, if we trust God to bring others to understanding in his time and for his purpose, then we can love them even when we can see that they don’t know what they are doing. And we can let them walk away without judging or condemning them. Just because we can see their ignorance and wrong action, we are not compelled to admonish toward correction.

If it is a stranger who is also privileged, he is not likely to receive our efforts to show him the truth, particularly when legalism and position rule his life and the Holy Spirit is not at work in his life. But if, like Peter and the other disciples, it is a friend and someone who is meek and teachable and cooperative with the Holy Spirit, we have a responsibility to further instruct, warn, advise, and counsel! That’s what Jesus did with the Twelve.

When faced with what we view as someone’s error, we may judge.  We may admonish.  Or we may simply love them with compassion and trust that in time God will correct them.  Which we do will depend on our relationship with them, our ability to have mercy and love them as Christ loves them,  and our willingness to trust God’s work in their and our own lives.

In working with women in our residential program at Titus 2, I have accepted responsibility for discipling them.  I will choose to admonish and teach as a first choice.  But if they resist and will not learn, I will let them walk away. I will love them, but I will not attempt to do what is God’s work alone……changing their hearts.