“A reproof enters more into a wise man than a hundred stripes into a fool.” Proverbs 17:10
“Faithful are the wounds of a friend . . . .” Proverbs 27:6
Like most people, I welcome words of encouragement and affirmation so long as they are devoid of flattery. Yet looking back over my 40 years as a Christian, I realize I’ve especially thrived on words from older believers—words which were far from “affirming” in an obvious sense, words of correction or downright rebuke!
I’ve often been tempted to denial, and prone to flirt with self-pity, concerning a rebuke which seemed “unfair”. But the Spirit of God always manages to catch me and “stop me short”, as the saying goes.
The Indwelling Lord Jesus speaks to my innermost self in my moments of denial and self pity, saying “Listen! Contemplate the truth of the rebuke! It was allowed for a reason—for your good and God’s glory!”
Whether or not I thought I deserved the rebuke or correction, there was always a concrete reason for it which God has never let me ignore. I can mature only inasmuch as I heed God’s message through a rebuke.
There have been times when I spoke unwisely, causing pain to another person. Even if I had no intention of causing pain, misleading words were spoken—possibly reflecting a heart attitude of presumption or invasiveness on my part, which I may not have been sensitive enough to discern at the moment. Over the years I’ve learned that words are precious, and potentially dangerous. Those older, wiser souls who loved me enough to rebuke me taught me the infinite value of words.
I’ve been rebuked for actions as well as words, always involving sins of self-centeredness and self-righteousness on my part. Again, the “wounds of a friend” have been lifelines to me—and guidelines as well. I’ve learned that anger is never appropriate in response to a rebuke. Anger would separate me from communication with our Lord. Anger is toxic. It can only serve to harm others, as well as the one who is angry!
Whenever I’ve paused to contemplate the magnitude of my own sins, whether intended or simply unknowing, I’ve been reduced to a jelly. Remorse and sorrow are the only valid Christian responses to God’s working a deeper life in us through the rebuke of others. Remorse and sorrow are agents of reconcilliation with God, and with our fellow humans! Remorse and sorrow throw us upon God’s mercy—and that’s precisely where every believer belongs!
Whether or not we actually intend an offense does not lessen its potential damaging effect. Even if our heart attitude is innocent and our words or actions have been unfairly misconstrued, the words and actions stand as reminders that we’ve caused confusion and misunderstanding. The impact of words and actions is not diminished by the motive or lack of motivation behind them. What matters most is our sorrow for having caused the misunderstanding and pain, along with a desire to forgive and be forgiven. Forgiveness is the core of the Christian Gospel and life!
I’m eternally grateful for those faithful friends who have shown me the way of life, even through rebuke and correction!
“He that covers his sins shall not prosper; but whosoever confesses and forsakes them shall have mercy.” Proverbs 28:13
“Never allow a truth of God that is brought home to your soul to pass without acting on it, not necessarily physically but in will. Record it with ink or with blood. The feeblest saint who transacts business with Jesus Christ is emancipated the second he acts; all the almighty power of God is on his behalf.” Oswald Chambers, MY UTMOST FOR HIS HIGHEST
Margaret L. Been, ©2011
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