THE ‘ART OF REBUKE’
Have you noticed lately how many people appear to be hypersensitive to the ‘rebuke’? Backs go up, we become defensive, we even lash out when someone dares to face us with something we have done wrong. Many parents have shared with me their adult children seem to lack the humility to accept correction graciously. It appears the ‘art of the rebuke’ has been lost but what has replaced it?
Those of us who have been following societal trends over the decades, have observed the ups and downs of social interaction – but then came political correctness. I am not going to share with you a diatribe on political correctness, but I do want to note this fairly recent social phenomenon has had a great impact on the ways in which parents teach their children the difference between right and wrong. Unfortunately, the impact has not been altogether positive.
For some reason, many parents are of the opinion that rebuking their children will damage their self-esteem and, particularly, make them vulnerable to abuse. For example, an article in Atlantic, a prestigious and highly subscribed journal of modern society, advises parents not to rebuke their children when they misbehave but teach them, in words, the proper behaviour. Unfortunately, the author of this article, Alice Walton, contradicts herself by earlier claiming children learn through modeling, not through being taught. Yes, there is a time for words; however, children learn more from what we do, than what we say. And this is where the ‘art of rebuke’ resides, in what we do.
In focusing on rebuke, let’s see what Yahweh thinks, through His Word. In the wisdom of Solomon, we find many teachings on rebuking, also known as reproof. In Proverbs 29:15, we read – The rod and rebuke give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame on his mother. Unfortunately, from the time of King James, the term ‘rod’ has come to mean beating. Ah, biblical concepts out of context create much confusion. The ‘rod’, in proverbs and elsewhere, refers to the shepherd’s rod or staff. The shepherd never beat his sheep; if he did, they wouldn’t last long. No, he used and still does use the staff or rod to guide the sheep, with a gentle nudge, or the hook to pull them around. But what does the ‘rod’ mean to us today? This is a metaphor for discipline. Correcting children or adults is a biblical way of helping them remain on the right path. This is a teaching of Adonai Yeshua, the Lord Jesus, as we read in Matthew 18:15 – Moreover, if your brother commits a sin against you, go and show him his fault — but privately, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won back your brother.
So how should we rebuke others, if our goal is to help them remain on the narrow path of righteousness? Moses teaches us something about this, as we read in Deuteronomy 1. In his address to Israel, prior to their crossing the Yarden into Cana’an, Israel’s leader shared with them the many blessings Yahweh had bestowed upon them. In doing so, he was telling them how much they were loved by their Supreme Leader, the Creator of the universe. This he did before he rebuked them about their propensity towards stiff-neck behaviour. And, in this process, he shares with us the ‘art of rebuke’.
All rebuke comes in three parts – the foundation, the rebuke itself and the correction. Perhaps the most important aspect of the rebuke is the foundation. This is the stage upon which the rebuke and correction are placed. The foundation is the relationship existing between the ones giving and receiving the rebuke. If the foundation is shaky, in either eyes, the rebuke may be counter-productive and the correction hollow. Ensuring the relationship is seen as being strong, through a hug, a gentle word or any other gift of love, will be enough to ensure there a strong foundation is reinforced before rebuking. Once more we turn to Scripture, to find Yahweh’s wisdom in these words, found in Proverbs 1:23 – Repent when I reprove — I will pour out my spirit to you, I will make my words known to you. Then we come to the rebuke itself.
Rav Sha’ul, the Apostle Paul, shares with us one approach to rebuking others close to us, as we learn in Galatians 6:1 Brothers, suppose someone is caught doing something wrong. You who have the Spirit should set him right, but in a spirit of humility, keeping an eye on yourselves so that you won’t be tempted too. Rebuking in a spirit of humility is being gentle yet firm in the rebuke. In modern terms, we need to focus on the behaviour, not the essence of the person. People are not easily able to change who they are, but they can change what they do. Labelling others as ‘lazy’ or ‘negligent’ will not help them focus on the change in behaviour they need to make.
However, one must be careful about whom they rebuke. There are those among us who scoff at rebuke. These often believe they are above and beyond rebuke, simply because they are believers. These are the ones whom we recognize as arrogant and self-righteous. Scripture speaks about these also, as we read in Proverbs 8:8,9 – If you reprove a scoffer, he will hate you; if you reprove a wise man, he will love you. Now let’s examine the correction.
Any strong, mature parent or teacher will advise us to involve the person being corrected in the correction. Using such language as, “What would you do, to turn this around”; “How might you correct this situation?”; “How can we/you make this better?”, are useful in helping to turn the admonishment into a positive solution. By being involved in the correction, the child or adult is invited to take ownership for the change, for the solution. This is success; this is the art of rebuke.
Beloved, the mature, wise brother and sister will use discernment and wisdom, when offering rebuke to others; however, even the most wise of us are human and, sometimes, emotion can overwhelm us. This is when the rebuke turns to anger and has the potential of doing more damage than good. Humility and love are the antidotes for even the cruelest of words.
CONSIDER: Have you found yourself in the position of giving or receiving a rebuke? How did you handle the situation? Reflect on what you might have done differently. Ask the Holy Spirit of the Living God to guide you.
ACTION: I urge you to follow the Word of Yahweh, the True Elohim, the Only and Very God, as found in Proverbs 27:6 – Wounds from a friend are received as well-meant, but an enemy’s kisses are insincere.
PRAYER: Beloved Abba, our Elohim, we ask for your guidance, leadership and love, through your Blessed Holy Spirit, when we are faced with a friend, a brother, a sister, in need of rebuke. Help us to exercise wisdom, discernment and humble love. In your Beloved Name we pray.
May the God of Avraham, Isaac and Jacob bless you richly.