At Capitol City on Sunday morning, we considered the ways God uses both encouragement and rebuke, within the context of his covenant community, to grow his people. Before departing from the topic completely, I wanted to sprinkle in the wisdom of Proverbs as we consider the profound (though unpopular) blessing of receiving rebuke from a Christian brother or sister.
Consider how Proverbs connects wisdom and prosperity to reproof and rebuke:
Whoever heeds instruction is on the path to life, but he who rejects reproof leads others astray. (10:17)
A person who fails to heed reproof is doubly endangered. Not only does he fail to come to his own senses, but he leads others into the same spiritual danger that has already ensnared him.
Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid. (12:1)
Loving discipline (from another – the way a parent disciplines or corrects a child) produces knowledge, while hating reproof produces stupdity.
A fool despises his father’s instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is prudent. (15:5)
On the other hand, those who are prudent listen well to the rebuke of others. They don’t consider reproof to be insulting, instead they see it as an opportunity for growth.
Whoever ignores instruction despises himself, but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence. (15:32)
It is self-hating to ignore the wisdom of a rebuke. Often we ignore reproof because we love ourselves – reproof is seens as a threat to our pride or our sense of self-sufficiency. But in the end, we wind up hating ourselves because we fail to give others the opportunity to shepherd us toward growth.
There is severe discipline for him who forsakes the way; whoever hates reproof will die. (15:10)
The consequences of ignoring reproof are severe. Reproof is intended to call us back from a dangerous path, but when we ignore that call, we easily can pursue a course toward our own demise.
Poverty and disgrace come to him who ignores instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is honored. (13:8)
Some respond to rebuke or reproof like it is an insult. However, in the end, they lead to honor.
Let’s not ignore the blessing of rebuke. Certainly there are wrong ways to offer rebuke, and we must grow in grace to receive rebuke well. But within the context of the people of God, between brothers and sisters in Christ who love the Lord enough to speak the truth in love to one another, rebuke can be a profound means of grace. In a sense, reproof presents a fork in the road for a sinful heart. Will we cringe at correction, like a curse? Or will we embrace rebuke as a blessing? Proverbs is clear: the path that sees the grace of God at work in rebuke is the path of life.