Few of us have ever thought of rebuke as a gift. We hate hearing that we are in the wrong. For many of us, our skin literally crawls as we boil with anger. The reason we hate to be rebuked is because we are so prideful. The fact of anyone, friend or foe, telling us we are wrong conflicts with the little wanna be king called ME we put on the thrown of our hearts. However, for the spiritually mature, rebuke is not an act of cruelty but of generosity. Rebuke from wise godly Christians is an incredible gift of God that he has given us. In Psalm 141:5 David tells us of the gift of rebuke when he writes,
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.
You see in the eyes of David, the striking from a righteous man is a good thing. It is the ultimate demonstration of kindness. Yet so often we resist rebuke. The American virtue of self-autnomy resists this. In our minds there is no higher power or authority in our lives than ourselves. Rarely do we see rebuke as a kindness, rather we perceive it as judgemental, demeaning, an disresepctful. Yet this is not the Biblical understanding of rebuke. To be rebuked by the righteous is to receive a gift from God.
As David writes this Psalm, he knows rebuke is a gift to keep him from sin, yet he knows his heart will resist it when rebuke comes. Our puffed up heads resist the sweet annointing oil of God's favor. David prays to ask God to let him not resist rebuke in pride, but to receive it as a gift. Receiving rebuke from godly people in our lives is difficult, but something we must learn to receive with joy. There are times when a friend loves us enough to sit down and share with us hard truths. When that time comes we must be prepared to receive it as a gift. How do we do that?
Respond in Humility
Whatever is said, we must respond in humility. We understand that we don't have it all figured out. We are not following Jesus perfectly. We acknowledge that sin might be showing its ugly face in our lives even without our realization. When we hear rebuke, we must respond in humility knowing of our shortcommings and our desperate dependency on the grace of God.
Whether friend or foe, when rebuke comes we must listen carefully to perceive the truth. This means we reflect on the words we hear. We ask ourselves reflective questions.
"Is this person speaking truth?" "Am I wrong in this area?" "Where do I need to repent?" "Is the Lord trying to get my attention?"
Thinking through questions like this will help you respond to rebuke as a gift.
Trust in the Righteousness of Christ
One of the reasons we struggle with receiving rebuke is because we are so geared up in a performance religion. We think being a Christians means moral perfectionism. We want to be self-sufficient in our own goodness. When rebuke comes the disillusionment of perfect person we imagine in the mirror shatters. When we are confronted in our sin or failures we must trust in the righteousness of Christ. Rather than trusting in our own goodness, we must trust in the goodness of Jesus. We fail. Jesus doesn't. When we face rebuke we must be restored in the confidence that comes from being clothed in the righteousness of Christ.
Preparing your heart in these three ways will help you be ready when God brings a loving friend into your life to rebuke you. Respond in humility. Listen reflectively. Trust in the righteousness of Christ. Then like David, we will begin to see rebuke as a gracious gift of God to keep us from sin and protect us from our own idolatrous hearts. Then we will grow in maturity as the annointing oil of rebuke sanctifies and matures us in Christ Jesus.