To rebuke somebody is to tell somebody that they have done wrong. It is, figuratively speaking, a verbal spanking (Ps. 141:5)! A godly rebuke, one that honors the Lord, is to lovingly tell somebody they have done wrong with the aim of bringing them to repentance and restoration (Gal. 6:1). An ungodly rebuke, one that dishonors the Lord, is to angrily or bitterly tell somebody they have done wrong with the aim of tearing them down. The important point is this: if either rebuke, the godly or the ungodly, is true, then it is for the benefit of the Christian.
Think about it this way, surgery is one of God’s ordained means to heal a person from an illness, infection, or injury that’s wreaking havoc on the body. Generally speaking, if there was no surgery, then there would be no healing. In the same way, rebuke is one of God’s ordained means to a heal a person of a spiritual malady that’s inflicting harm on the soul. So if there is no rebuke, then there will be no spiritual healing.
This truth becomes evident as one looks at the Bible. Take David for example; David was languishing in unconfessed sin after he quenched his sinful sexual passions by having intercourse with Bathsheba, another man’s wife (Ps. 32:3-4). As David languished, the Lord mercifully sent Nathan to use the scalpel of rebuke in order to expose David to the spiritual danger that he was in (2 Sam. 12:1-5). Afterwards, David confessed his sin and found restoration and forgiveness (Ps. 32:5). Nathan’s rebuke proved to bring healing. As Proverbs says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Prov. 27:6).
Rebuke…..A Despised Thing
Though what I am saying is biblically accurate, I should let you in on something. Our sin nature abhors rebuke. Since we often times desire the approval of man, we don’t like giving nor receiving rebukes, and this is understandable. Giving a rebuke is kind of like doing surgery on somebody that is not under anesthesia. You can visibly see the pain that you are causing them, so you want to stop or even avoid the surgery. And receiving a rebuke is like being under surgery without anesthesia. You feel every bit of the pain.
Despite the fact that our sin nature is repulsed by both giving and receiving rebukes, we must remember that our sin nature doesn’t desire our spiritual well-being. Our Heavenly Father desires our spiritual well-being, and those who are his children must understand God’s ordained means for rebuke in the Christian life. It is clear from the Bible that rebuke is necessary if we want to grow spiritually. And it is clear from the Bible that the godly man both gives and takes heed to rebukes, and that the ungodly man refuses to both give and listen to rebukes (Ps. 141:5; Pr. 13:1; Pr. 17:10).
How To Rebuke
So how are we supposed to rebuke people? Here’s some advice:
- Examine yourself to make sure you aren’t in the same sin you are about to rebuke
- Make sure what you are about to rebuke is actually sin, and not merely some man-made standard you have for people
- Make sure the sin you are about to rebuke is actually deserving of a face to face rebuke
- Simply put, you can’t rebuke every sin that somebody commits. I mean, you could……people just wouldn’t hangout with you anymore
- Be as gentle and loving as possible when you rebuke
- Have useful Scripture
- One of the purposes of the Bible is to reprove and rebuke, so let the Bible do the rebuking
- Expect the person you are rebuking to get defensive (this will allow you to remain calm when they actually do get defensive…….because they probably will)
- Do not expect the person to appreciate your rebuke immediately
- Often times the person will come to appreciate your rebuke hours, days, weeks, or even months later
- Trust God for their repentance
- God is the one that grants repentance, so trust him for the other person’s repentance
How to Receive Rebuke
And here is how we can receive rebuke:
- Be in a constant pattern of repentance
- This produces humility and a spirit that is willing to receive rebuke
- Have friends that are willing to wound you
- Gather godly friends around you that are willing to rebuke you when it is necessary
- When rebuked, in either a godly way or ungodly way, weigh the rebuke to see if there’s any truth in it
- If the rebuke is valid, repent as soon as possible
- Thank the one that rebuked you, and tell them that God used it to bring you to repentance
- Memorize Psalm 141:5 which says, “Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it.”