Vol. 5, No. 10
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(Therefore Stand, Vol. 18, No. 7, July 18, 2002, 54, 56.)
Few enjoy being criticized, whether constructively or otherwise. The sting of rebuke is seldom pleasant (Hebrews 12:11). However, the wisdom literature of Scripture would point out to the discerning student the value of correction. Solomon wrote, "It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise than for a man to hear the song of fools" (Ecclesiastes 7:5). The wise man would also tell us, "Open rebuke is better than love carefully concealed" (Proverbs 27:5). And in the New Testament we learn that rebuke along with reproof and exhortation is a vital ingredient in the exercise of preaching the word (2 Timothy 4:2; cf. Titus 1:13; 2:15).
The question is, "How should we respond if someone rebukes us, or in other words, seeks to correct us?" Again, feeling the rod of correction is not often enjoyable. A real propensity exists for the one being rebuked to lash out at his critic. "How dare you say that to me…" or "What about you…" may be some of the things said by someone feeling the pain of discipline. But how should we respond when criticized constructively or in some other fashion? Consider, when on the receiving end of rebuke, the need to:
Listen objectively to what is being said (James 1:19). Ask yourself: "Is what my critic is saying true?" If it is true, then learn from it and let the person who helped you know how much you love them for helping you. This is a mark of true wisdom, "Rebuke a wise man, and he will love you" (Proverbs 9:8).
Keep the emotions in check. As already mentioned, the truth about ourselves hurts at times. Yet, we shouldn't strike out at the one who is trying to help us with his instruction. Even if the person rebuking has improper motives and he reviles us in the process, we must not revile in return if we are to follow the steps of Jesus (1 Peter 2:23).
Demonstrate an attitude of humility. None of us are too good to be corrected. In fact, when someone points out one of our personal shortcomings, we ought to be thankful that he doesn't know just how far we fall short in many other categories (Romans 3:23). Correction, looked at properly, can be a great tool for growth. Being made aware of our weaknesses can cause us to depend that much more on God's grace and mercy in our lives (1 Corinthians 15:10).
Readily admit wrong. If, upon reflection, we realize we have done wrong, then we must be willing to concede such and determine to do better. If we have sinned, then we need to confess that sin to God and to whomever we have injured (1 John 1:7-9; James 5:16).
Proper reasoning about rebuke is important. If we are to arrive ever closer to where the Lord would have us to be, we must be willing to accept our fallibility and make correction when necessary. We will close with the words of the wise man who said, "He who disdains instruction despises his own soul, but he who heeds rebuke gets understanding" (Proverbs 15: 32).