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Communication, Jesus-Style: Rebuke
by Mark Waltenbaugh
Confrontation is one of the most difficult forms of communication to initiate and master. Very few people feel comfortable speaking to someone when they need to address a sensitive issue. And theres nothing more sensitive in the life of a believer than sin. Although Christians would all admit that theyre still sinners, it becomes much more personal when confronted with a specific sin especially if weve been in denial about its hold on us.
Jesus had a very unique perspective on peoples lives. He knew what was in someones heart even when his or her outer actions didnt give it away (Luke 9:47, John 6:15, etc.). But he also reacted to what he could see and know based on what people said and how they acted (Matthew 16:21-23; 21:12-13, etc.). Jesus wasnt afraid to rebuke someone when he knew there was a need. As with so many good things, the practice of rebuke has fallen prey to the pendulum swing of human behavior. At times it has been abused. Arrogant and self-righteous people have lashed out at others in an effort to prove themselves correct and show their superior spiritual knowledge. In doing so, theyve left a trail of wounded and hurting people that may never recover. On the other hand, there is a tendency by some to ignore sin when they see it or hear it in an effort not to offend or judge. Jesus did neither rebuke was one of his many communication tools. If he used it to communicate Gods will, we need to as well.
Perhaps if we could begin with a couple guidelines, we might find a good balance between the two extremes above. The following is certainly not meant to be an exhaustive list... but I hope it will be a valuable beginning.
First, examine the situation to be sure sin is involved, and not just personality issues. Then, when rebuke seems to be in order, get yourself right:
Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself or you also may be tempted... If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions. (Galatians 6:1-4, NIV)
Second, go. Dont jump at the chance to get in someones face, but dont procrastinate so long that more damage will be done. Sin kills (James 1:13-15). Helping someone see and deal with sin in their lives is a life and death matter (James 5:19-20). Jesus rebuked people in a timely manner. Dont wait so long you talk yourself out of helping!
Finally, always approach those you need to rebuke in love and patience (2 Timothy 4:1-2), using the Word of God for your only authority (2 Timothy 3:16). Rebuking is meant for helping, not harming.
May God help us all reflect his character as we help one another through this life!
Father, may we be your instruments as we walk through this life. Help us as we teach, love, encourage and rebuke that your will would be held as the highest goal and standard for all we do. Give us wisdom to know the difference between our emotions and your desires! In Jesus name. Amen.
Title: "Communication, Jesus-Style: Rebuke"
Author: Mark Waltenbaugh
Publication Date: November 16, 2002
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