To Dream Of An Honest Rebuke

My teaching this past Sunday was short and to the point.  I was asked to preach on Matthew 18:15-20, regarding admonishing a brother and church discipline.  Malagasy culture, like America’s, flees from conflict.  “Leave my personal life alone, and I will leave yours alone.”  Obviously, regardless of how how uncommon it is in a culture to privately rebuke a brother or sister who is in sin, the word of Christ still stands and we are called to do it.  I was as convicted as anyone in light of Matthew 18:15-20, so rather than write my thoughts, I decided to include some passages from my favorite book recently, Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  It is one have read multiple times—a book where I start underlining something, and before I know it have underlined the whole page.  So if you have some time to think about Christian community and admonition, please enjoy the following:

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“When Christians live together, at some time and in some way it must come to the point that one Christian personally declares God’s Word and will to another…If we cannot bring ourselves to say the necessary word, we will have to ask ourselves whether we are not still seeing other Christians clothed in a human dignity that we think we dare not touch, and thus whether we are not forgetting the most important thing—that they, too, no matter how old or high ranking or distinguished they may be, are still persons like us, sinners crying out for God’s grace.  They have the same great troubles that we have, and need help, comfort, and forgiveness as we do…This realization gives our mutual speech the freedom and openness it needs.  We talk to one another about the help we both need.  We admonish one another to go the way Christ bids us to go.  We warn one another against the disobedience that is our undoing.  We are gentle and we are firm with one another, for we know both God’s kindness and God’s firmness.  Why should we be afraid of one another since both of us have only God to fear?  Why should we think that another Christian would not understand us when we understood very well what was meant when somebody spoke God’s comfort or God’s admonition to us, even in words that were inept and awkward?  Or do we really believe that there is a single person in this world who does no need either comfort or admonition?  If so, then why has God given us the gift of Christian community…

“When another Christian falls into obvious sin, an admonition is imperative, because God’s Word demands it…Words of admonition and reproach must be risked when a lapse from God’s Word in doctrine or life endangers a community that lives together, and with it the whole community of faith.  Nothing can be more cruel than the leniency which abandons others to their sin.  Nothing can be more compassionate than that severe reprimand which calls another Christian in one’s community back from the path of sin.”

-Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

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