14 April 2006

Reproof and Admonishment

A friend of mine is struggling with how to speak the truth in love and still remain friends with fellow Christians. Once again, Dietrich Bonhoeffer offers valuable insight from Life Together:
  • The more we learn to allow others to speak the Word to us, to accept humbly and gratefully even severe reproaches and admonitions, the more free and objective will we be in speaking ourselves. The person whose touchiness and vanity make him sprun a brother's earnest censure cannot speak the truth in humility to others; he is afraid of being rebuffed and of feeling that he has been aggrieved. The touchy person will always become a flatterer and very soon he will come to despise and slander his brother. But the humble person will stick both to truth and to love. He will stick to the Word of God and let it lead him to his brother. Because he seeks nothing for himself and has no fears for himself, he can help his brother through the Word.
  • Reproof is unavoidable. God's Word demands it when a brother falls into open sin. The practice of discipline in the congregation begin in the smallest circles. Where defection from God's Word in doctrine or life imperils the family fellowship and with it the whole congregation, the word of admonition and rebuke must be ventured. nothing can be more cruel than the tenderness that consigns another to his sin. Nothing can be more compassionate than the severe rebuke that calls a brother back from the path of sin. It is a ministry of mercy, an ultimate offer of genuine fellowship, when we allow nothing but God's Word to stand between us, judging and succoring. Then it is not we who are judging; God alone judges, and God's judgement is helpful and healing. Ultimately, we have no charge but to serve our brother, never to set ourselves above him, and we serve him even when we must speak the judging and dividing Word of God to him, even when, in obedience to God, we must break off fellowship with him. We must know that it is not our human love which makes us loyal to the other person, but God's love which breaks its way through to him only through judgement. Just because God's Word judges, it serves th eperson. He who accepts the ministry of God's judgement is helped . . . our brother's ways are not in our hands; we cannot hold together what is breaking; we cannot keep life in what is determined ot die. But God binds elements together in the breaking, creates community in the separation, grants grace through judgement.

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