While on vacation with three of my children and their families (there were 20 of us), we were staying at a rental house on the beach in Frisco, on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Because of the effects of hurricane Teddy, the surf was extremely treacherous. Warnings about riptides were posted on the Weather Channel and it was obvious when you walked into the water, that the postings were legitimate. We arrived at the house on Saturday afternoon and the wind was incredibly forceful and relentless. It was in the 60’s and not conducive to a visit to the beach. Then Wednesday arrived and having been watching the forecast on the Weather Channel app, we were looking forward to spending a good deal of time sitting in the sand and watching the surf but not going in it. The adults were standing near the surf line as the children mimicked the sandpipers by running away from the surf as it came up and then following the surf as it receded back into the ocean.
I was sitting in my beach chair enjoying the children playing in the sand and playing with the foam that each wave left on the sand. As the sun grew hotter, I decided that I would get wet by walking into the shallow surf and splash myself with cool saltwater. So, I got up and gradually walked past my son and son-in-law, who were diligently overseeing the children. I slowly walked into the water and as I carefully took a step or two deeper into the inches of water flowing up the bank, I would stop and check my balance. I felt that I was being quite sensible in the way I was facing the treacherous waves in front of me. I had no thoughts whatsoever of venturing into danger. I was confident that my cautious actions were going to keep me safe.
Then, I heard my son yell, “Dad! What are you doing? Dad, come back!!” All of a sudden a bigger wave broke a good distance from me, but the water generated from the wave rushed toward me and knocked me off my feet and washed me toward the shore. Mark got to me and grabbed my arm and helped me get up. I was not hurt, embarrassed a little, because the whole family watched the dramatic scene, but I slowly walked back to my chair. Mark and J said that they were asking each other “What is he doing?” as I ventured deeper into the surf. They saw the danger before I did because they had been observing the surf for quite a while as they watched the children. Their call was a warning of impending danger, but I was confident that I was in control of my actions. Their motivation was a loving concern for my well being as well as the incredulous thought that I was doing something foolish. They knew something I didn’t realize until it was too late. Fortunately, all turned out well. I learned a lesson and so did the rest of the family as they watched the adventure. That will probably be a memory that will be repeated many times in the future.
You know, that incident reminded me of the fact that we are members of a family which is much larger than our physical families, the family of God, the Church. Each of us become members of God’s family when we are born again spiritually, having believed in the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins and the gift of eternal life. As members of that family we are to be watchful for one another as we experience life together. Some of us will be in the position of observing the others who may be a little too adventurous and willing to take risks because we have false confidence in our own strength and abilities.
Some of us may be foolishly testing the waters of pleasures which appear harmless or controllable. Some of us may have observed that same or similar water and have seen or experienced the consequences of false confidence. When we see a brother or sister blindly moving in the direction of a foolish action, we are obliged to warn them out of our love for them. Then we should be there to rescue them and minister to them.
Paul told the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:31, ”Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears.” The term “admonish” means “to warn”. As Paul was ministering to the believers in Ephesus, he was warning them about the dangers facing them. He also told the Corinthians that he was admonishing them, too. “I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children” (1 Corinthians 4:14). It is the responsibility of those who lead and teach others to warn their disciples of the dangers facing them. It is also the responsibility of fellow family members to admonish one another as Paul wrote in Romans 15:14, “And concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able also to admonish one another.”
Out of love for one another, let’s watch out for each other. If we see a brother or sister getting too close to a dangerous situation, let’s lovingly admonish them. Let’s warn them with a gentle word that they are approaching danger. If they don’t heed our warning, let’s be ready to help them recover and restore them.
Bill Olsen, Elder