With all the self-flagellation and bitterness and vilification already in the air today, it seems scarcely necessary to summon Christians to revive the ministry of rebuking. Yet the Apostle Paul, in Colossians chapter three, suggests that this is just what we need. Rebuke has come into ill repute because of its misuse. The remedy, however, is not to avoid it but to practice it rightly.

Paul tells us we are to seek and to set our minds on “things that are above, not … things that are on earth” (vv. 1, 2). It doesn’t take us long in our Christian lives to realize that the attitudes and practices condemned in verses 5–11 (especially 11!) and those commended in verses 12–15 do not come automatically with conversion. That’s why Paul exhorts us to seek them. But how do we do it?

We can hardly expect success in exhibiting the Christian virtues if we do not follow the means that have been prescribed. Paul tells us first to be thankful. Then in verse 16 he exhorts us to let the word of Christ dwell in us richly in all wisdom. We are to go beyond merely knowing His word to letting it make its home in us, not as some occasional visitor but “richly.” We are reminded further that this intimacy with God’s word is to be in “wisdom.” Paul makes it clear that for this to take place we need one another. We cannot develop the character that God wants by ourselves. We need to teach one another, informing our minds. We need to sing with one another, involving our emotions. And, just as importantly, we need to admonish one another, appealing to our wills.

We have a way of justifying our behavior, of always making excuses for ourselves and blaming other people. So we can think ...

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