“One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, ‘Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.’ This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith…” (Titus 1:12-13)
Rebuke isn’t a word we use often today. It sounds… well… harsh, cold, unloving, and intolerant. While we do not want those above adjectives to describe us as people or as a church, there should be a time and place for rebuke in the church.
What is a “Rebuke?”
The Greek word which is here translated as “rebuke” literally means, “reprove, convict, rebuke.” To rebuke is to correct, to warn, to say clearly and specifically, “No, this is not true or right.”
How Should We Rebuke
And Titus is instructed to do this “sharply” or “strongly.” Not with kid-gloves, not in a wishy-washy kind of way. Rebuke must be clear, firm, and with the goal of sound faith. There must not be harshness on a personal level, but rather, we ought to come as a concerned brother or sister warning another brother or sister that they are in danger because of ________ (insert rebuke here).
If we are not prepared to clearly explain what is wrong, why it is biblically wrong, and what it should be biblically replaced with… then we are not ready to rebuke. Instead, we should do our homework, spend time in prayer over the matter (and especially for the person to receive the rebuke as a firm but loving warning rather than as a judgmental “I’m right, you’re wrong, be more like me!”).
When Should We Rebuke
I suspect that many today are opposed to rebuking because they’ve seen others rebuked (or been rebuked themselves!) over something that they really shouldn’t have been rebuked for. We should not rebuke people for conscience-issues, but only over issues of clear biblical teaching. This includes lifestyle issues that are consistently warned against in Scripture and foundational biblical truths/doctrines.
We should also use wisdom in discerning what is most important: If someone curses on occasion but believes that “good people” who aren’t Christians will still be saved. That person doesn’t need to be rebuked for having a potty-mouth. He needs to be rebuked for believing in an unbiblical Gospel. Keep the main thing the main thing.
The Goal: Soundness in the Faith
The goal is sound faith. What you believe matters. How you live matters. Authenticity matters too, but you can be authentically wrong. The great lie that so many are buying today is that God values sincerity above holiness. That’s just not true. There is nothing God values more highly than holiness. God’s love for holiness and his love for people is what drives the Gospel message.
Think about the difference between a bell that rings loud and clear, and a bell that thuds when it’s struck. Faith that is not firmly grounded in Scripture is a thud.
Love Enough to Rebuke
People today don’t need a soft church, and a cheap Gospel cannot save anyone (and, in fact, is not the Gospel at all!). If the Gospel doesn’t call for your whole life, then it can’t give you new life. Jesus wants your life… heart, soul, mind, and strength (see the Great Commandment).
If we refuse to rebuke people because we want to “love them into the truth” then the chances are… our silence will unlovingly give them over to lies.