This week my kids have been memorizing Colossians 3:16. Which means I'm (re)memorizing it too.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another; in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
Let me tell you, people, it's all in the punctuation.
When I had previously memorized this verse it was...
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom.
teaching and admonishing one another (no pause)
in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
Well, that rather changes the meaning of the verse, now doesn't it?
We can read it as teaching and admonishing with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs or as teaching and admonishing with the word of Christ.
Depending where that semi colon falls. (or doesn't fall, as the case/translation may be)
Both are great applications.
But, both have unique nuances.
In our modern day culture, the clarion call for all occasions is judge not. Matthew 7:1 has supplanted John 3:16 as the most well known verse in the Bible.
We are conditioned to not speak forth any opinion that could be construed as judging. Because judging is the ultimate sin.
But, whether our culture likes it or not, there is an absolute standard of right and wrong. It is based on God's character, and it is found in the Bible.
The word of Christ is a legitimate alternate name for the Bible.
Christians are commanded to let the word of Christ dwell in us richly.
Richly would imply abundance. Not stingy. Very obvious and present. A lot of.
We should be immersing ourselves in the word of God. Reading it. Studying it. Thinking about it. Letting it fill our hearts and minds.
In all wisdom. Cicero said that wisdom is the application of knowledge. Letting the word of Christ dwell in us richly in all wisdom is not just gaining tons of head knowledge, it is letting that knowledge overflow into every aspect of our life. The application and living of that knowledge we've gained from the Bible would change our lives.
To dwell or live with someone or something, is to get to know the good, bad and ugly. God's word sinks into our hearts and reveals what is in the deepest recesses.
As the word of Christ richly dwells in our hearts and minds, changing our actions, we are called to teach and admonish each other.
Funnily enough, admonishing is very similar to what we'd call judging. Admonishing is to warn or reprimand someone firmly; advise or urge (someone) earnestly; to warn of something to be avoided.
Admonishing is not a nice idea. It is not comfortable. It feels like the supreme offense of intolerance.
Yet admonishing is a scriptural idea. More than just an idea, it is our responsibility. It is our responsibility to be completely engaged with the teachings of the Bible, to allow them to sink into our hearts and change our lives. It is also our responsibility to then humbly use that resulting wisdom to teach and even admonish other believers.
Galatians 6:1-2 says, "Brothers, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such a 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."
(Important side note: With unbelievers we focus on sharing the gospel, not correcting morality. The gospel radically changes lives-we don't have to. Admonishing is focused on fellow believers. Restoration is to return to the original condition-like a piece of furniture.)
Even Matthew 7 goes on to talk about being measured with the measurement we measured with. It talks about removing the beam in our eye before we remove the speck in someone else's.
We'd like abdicate our responsibility to do the uncomfortable work of admonishing. We even get our underwear in a bunch when a pastor or teacher is too specific in naming sins. But God doesn't let us off the hook. We are instructed to do this work humbly and meekly, with an end goal of restoration.
Not scorched earth, but thriving Christians. That's what we are working towards.
We don't do this work of admonishing haphazardly. We don't do it in a spirit of judgement and condemnation. It is not based on our agenda or our preferences.
We don't shy away from admonishing through fear of offending. That would be doing each other a disservice.
Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. (Colossians 3:12-15)
We admonish in love, because Christ loves people, and we follow Christ's example. We admonish in humility, extending grace, knowing that we are sinners too. We admonish firmly and unapologetically because the unchanging truths of Scripture are our basis.
We admonish only after we've put in the work of letting the word of Christ dwell in us richly in all wisdom.
Consider this an admonishment...=)
Edited to include: I read this passage in my devotions this morning (12-15-2016). This thought of admonishment is not just a one verse anomaly. We are not Paul or Titus, but this is the Bible. And the truths in it apply to us today.
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you. (Titus 2:11-15)