Variations of this theme—Jesus wanting others to do the right thing—are seen in Jesus' rebuke of the Pharisees’ hypocrisy and Peter’s ignorance. Jesus is less than nice because people are often wicked and foolish, and they need to be jolted out of their stupor. Simply put: “The Lord disciplines those whom he loves” (Heb. 12:6).

Such confrontation is more than helping people do the right thing. It's also about deepening our relationships with one another. Thus Paul tells the church in Colossae, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom" (Col. 3:16), in the same passage in which he urges them, "Clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony" (Col. 3:14). There is a deeper unity, an intimacy that Paul longs for in the church, and that intimacy is brought about by a variety of behaviors such as "compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience" (Col. 3:12) but also by the courage to "admonish one another."

Married couples know when their relationship moves into a deeper intimacy: it's when they start arguing regularly. Indeed, many arguments have nothing to do with love, but a lot of them do. They often begin when one spouse has the uncomfortable duty of telling the other spouse, "You have done something wrong."

This can be said in the nicest tone, but it rarely feels nice hearing it. And so it usually leads to a "conversation" that becomes less than nice. The spouse who starts this whole thing has to have a lot of courage, which is why most couples don't do it until they are some distance into the relationship, when they are pretty sure the other is not going to walk out on them. They are willing to risk arguments because they know that unless the relationship moves into the not-nice stage, their love will never deepen.

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