We meet every Wednesday at 10:00 a.m. The we being a small group of likeminded women who, week after week, month after month, and year after year, gather together to search out the biblical principles line by line found throughout the books we choose to study. Currently we are tackling the last few chapters of War of Words: Getting to the Heart of Your Communication Strugglesby Paul Tripp. By tackling, I mean to say we are unpacking the biblical call to understand that all words are God’s words, and therefore all words should fall within the boundaries of 1) glorying God and 2) edifying others. These are no small feats.
Exhortation and Rebuke
In fact, a recent chapter dealt with the challenging call for believers to love one another so much that they will, when needed, exhort and even rebuke one another in love. As we discussed the challenges inherit in biblically exhorting another believer away from sin and toward holy living, it became clear that none of us wanted the job. One by one, we shared stories about watching a beloved friend or family member become entangled in dangerous choices that became sinful patterns and eventually diminished their faith in Christ. To the point that they walked away from God, church, family, and friends. The stories were tragic and heartbreaking, especially because they involved dear friends.
After sharing how we attempted to draw our friends and family members back to obedience to Christ, there was silence. I think we realized that this often stressful and uncomfortable part of biblical friendship, undesired though it may be, is necessary for the safety of one and all. Why? Because every one of us has spiritual blind spots. And every one of us needs at least one good friend who loves us enough to point out our blind spots, to save us and not to injure us. That’s an essential part of the call to being a dear friend in a mutually edifying biblical friendship.
The Measure of Our Love
When I think back over the years, the dear friends of mine who were courageous enough to challenge my thinking, my attitudes, even my actions, were friends that I knew (and still know today) love me. The making of a biblical friendship means we embrace mutual accountability born out of love for Christ and one another. It is also a matter of obedience to God, because he expects us to rise to the imperative biblical call of being instruments of grace to fellow believers. Dear friends, we must embrace the iron sharpening iron mindset if we are to truly love and serve one another as Christ commands. “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17).
As we search through the New Testament, we find numerous references from the apostles addressing one another and members of the church as dear friends. When we read this endearing term of address, we often envision a robust, weather-beaten group of men who were passionate about Christ and equally passionate about their bond as fellow Christians. What we forget (or often ignore) is that the disciples were sure to have rubbed one another the wrong way and likely got on each other’s nerves as they tried to live out the mandates of their Christian walk. We tend to minimize or overlook the fact that these men were imperfect and even quirky, and that their fellow apostles had to contend with them like it or not. In short they, like us, had spiritual blind spots. They, like us, needed one another to step up and lovingly exhort and sometimes rebuke.
What We Need
Like us, the disciples needed daily growth in grace and the ongoing challenge to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22, 23). They needed regular reminders that “love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).
Truth be told, I want to live so that I never require loving exhortation and rebuke. And I would like never to be placed in a position where I need to provide loving exhortation and rebuke. And yet, dear friends, we know better. We know that if our relationships are mutually edifying biblical friendships, we will be on both sides of this command. Dear friends, I pray we all have such courageous, obedient, and dear friends in our lives.
Straight from the mouths of the disciples: words of greeting, encouragement, admonition, warning, exhortation, and love.
- Paul—Romans 12:19; 16:5, 8, 9, 12; 1 Corinthians 10:14; 2 Corinthians 7:1; 12:19; Philippians 2:12; 4:1; Colossians 4:14; Philemon 1
- Peter—1 Peter 2:11; 4:12; 2 Peter 3:1, 8, 14, 17
- John—1 John 2:7; 3:2, 21; 4:1, 7, 11; 3 John 1, 2, 5, 11
- Luke—Acts 15:25
- Jude—Jude 3, 17, 20
Michele Howe is an author, reviewer, and curriculum writer who lives in LaSalle, Michigan.