Love Enough to Rebuke

“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.

Can the Bible Correct You?

I had a conversation a while ago with a friend who a Christian and is struggling through some difficult doctrines. In the midst of our conversation he said a few things I’ve been thinking about:

1. “I just don’t like it when people have an ‘I’m right and everyone else is wrong’ attitude.”

2. “I just don’t want to believe it.”

Ultimately, I think these comments come down to this question: Will you allow Scripture to correct your thinking. Here’s why I think this is the foundational question.

1. As Christians, we must be people who stand upon God’s revealed Word (the Bible) rather than our own opinions. 

2. When our opinion and God’s Word seem to be at odds, we need to be honest as we dig into Scripture to unveil the original intent (exegesis). Yes, there are cultural differences between our lives today and the culture of the Bible, but we need to be honest and have the integrity to resist merely saying, “Oh, well that was for them, not for us.” We need to honestly examine why it was for them and not for us and dig deeper than “Because that’s how I want it.”

3. When we refuse to believe what the Bible reveals, what we claim to believe about Biblical Authority and what we really believe are at odds with each other. It’s good to affirm the inspiration and authority of Scripture, but if we will not allow God’s Word to correct us then we do not really believe what we think we believe.

4. Truth brings joy. Yes, there are times when it is difficult and painful to believe some things in Scripture, and there are times when I wish I could believe differently because it would be a whole lot easier. But God’s truth brings joy… eventually. Once we see God for who He is and we understand what He has done and what He is doing then even in the midst of the difficulty of faith, we rejoice in who God is and what He has promised.

If you are wrestling with something in Scripture that you do not want to believe… that’s ok. I think we should all be in that position, because it shows that we’re being honest about our beliefs and our preferences and we’re bringing them before God.

A few tips on wrestling with Scripture:

1. Pray. Ask God to increase your faith in Him and not in yourself or in your own preferences. We need to be people who are finally and ultimately devoted to God. We may know that, but are we truly willing to be that kind of person?

2. Interpret Scripture through Scripture. That may sound confusing, but the best way to understand difficult things in the Bible is by understanding what other verses/portions of the Bible have to say about that same thing. Interpret what is obscure or unclear through what is consistently and clearly taught. This also means we should interpret the Old Testament through the lens of the New Testament (but that’s a whole other blog post for another day).

3. Dig Dig Dig. God gave you a brain, he wants you to use it. Study, research, and read what has been written. There are many sites online that provide free Bible Study tools (crosswalk.com is probably the most well known; GotAnswers.com has great Q&A type of articles too).

4. Don’t think you’re alone. You are not the first person to ask the question your asking or to study the passage you’re studying. Read what others have written, but also talk to other Christians about this. Maybe they’re wondering the same thing but think they’re alone… study it together.

5. Finally, have faith. There are some things we will simply never fully understand because we aren’t meant to. That’s not an excuse to avoid intelligently pursuing truth. Instead, it’s a call to remember that God is infinite and you are finite. God is mysterious, but He has made Himself known… in part. If you think you can explain everything about who God is and what He has done (and will do) then either your wisdom is infinite or you have made God finite. There comes a point where you may need to humbly say, “I don’t know everything I want to know, but I know enough to confidently trust God.”

One of the greatest ways we can honor God is by trusting Him when we don’t want to.

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
Hebrews 11:1

Tell Yourself the Truth (About Yourself)

Lies are dangerous.  But the most dangerous of all are the ones you tell yourself.

It takes courage to tell yourself the truth about yourself.  It takes greater courage to tell the truth about yourself to a trusted friend in order to seek help to change those things that need changing.  Sometimes, we also need someone else to watch our back to make sure we keep the good and healthy parts what makes you “you” going and growing.

When you read Scripture and seek God through prayer and when you experience the kind of biblical fellowship that involves a brother or sister speaking the truth to you in love… will you listen, or will you defend yourself even if it means believing a lie about yourself.

Godliness and humility lead us to being honest about who we really are.  When we talk about “Speaking the truth in love” we usually think about speaking the truth to someone else in love.  But make sure you’re speaking the truth to yourself in love too.