How to Admonish Sinners & Bear Wrongs Patiently

3. Admonish the Sinner 

The next spiritual work of mercy is one that few of us like to engage in: “admonish the sinner.” This work of mercy is highly misunderstood and many of us do not know how to “admonish” in a Christian context.

Let us first look at the biblical roots of this work of mercy.

First, Jesus provides His own explanation:

"Jesus said, 'If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven'" (Mathew 18:15-18).

It is important to note that Jesus says we should first seek out our "brother" in private. If we are to point out a fault of our "brother" we should first do so one-on-one instead of plastering their sins on a billboard. Additionally, Jesus calls the other person "your brother." This highlights the fact that admonition is best done in the context of an established relationship. A person is much more likely to listen to a trusted friend or relative, than a street preacher.  While the message might be the same and true, it does not mean it will be effective.

Saint Paul echoes these words when he writes,

"If any one refuses to obey what we say in this letter, note that man, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. Do not look on him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother" (2 Thessalonians 3:14).

4. To Bear Wrongs Patiently

The fourth spiritual work of mercy is one that is simple, but difficult in practice. We all know how to be charitable and patient to those who are pleasant, kind and humble. However, our initial reaction is not "patience" when someone cuts in line in front of us after waiting for an hour at the DMV.

Jesus said,

"'You have heard that it was said, "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; and if any one would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well; and if any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.'" (Matthew 5:38-41)

Jesus’ instruction to "turn the other cheek" is radically different than what the world (and our own sinful hearts) want to do. We feel that when someone hurts us in some way we must "return the favor."

What is even more controversial is what Jesus said following this above passage. He goes on to say,

"'You have heard that it was said, "You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy." But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.'" (Matthew 5:43-48)

While in a certain sense "justice" appears to say that we should return evil for evil, God does not want us to base our actions on what the world says. He desires that we be "perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect." This means that we need to battle our inner tendencies and not "fight fire with fire," but seek the "high road" that leads to salvation. (As a note, there are times when self-denfense is warranted and legitimate, but the purpose of this article is to address the "lesser" offenses that happen on an everyday basis.)

One of the many saints who gave us examples on how to perform this work of mercy is Saint Thérèse of Lisieux. While in the convent her first "victory" consisted in "bearing wrongs patiently." She narrates in her Story of a Soul,

"A small jar, left behind a window, was found broken. No one knew who had put it there, but our Mistress was displeased, and, thinking I was to blame in leaving it about, told me I was very untidy and must be more careful in future. Without answering, I kissed the ground and promised to be more observant. I was so little advanced in virtue that these small sacrifices cost me dear, and I had to console myself with the thought that at the day of Judgment all would be known."

Similarly, Saint Thérèse was tested when a fellow nun annoyed her,

"For a long time my place at meditation was near a Sister who fidgeted continually, either with her Rosary, or something else; possibly, as I am very quick of hearing, I alone heard her, but I cannot tell you how much it tried me. I should have liked to turn round, and by looking at the offender, make her stop the noise; but in my heart I knew that I ought to bear it tranquilly, both for the love of God and to avoid giving pain. So I kept quiet, but the effort cost me so much that sometimes I was bathed in perspiration, and my meditation consisted merely in suffering with patience."

Going forward, let us learn from the example of Saint Thérèse and combat the sinful desires in our heart. We might want to strike back at someone, even for such a small thing as being annoying in the adoration chapel, but we must not let our fallen nature overtake us. We must allow God to penetrate our heart and transform it into something new.

Source: Fourth Spiritual Work of Mercy: To Bear Wrongs Patiently

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