Friday, October 28, 2011

Rebuking Others – 1 Tim 4:11-12

Command and teach these things. Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. (ESV)

Command and Teach
That is a pretty strong opening. Here is the seasoned Apostle Paul telling the young pastor to command and teach. What kind of person do I have to be in order to command anyone else? It makes it sound very heavy handed and controlling. A couple of verses come to mind as I think about this.

1 Peter 4:11. Whoever speaks, let him speak, as it were, the utterances of God; whoever serves, let him do so as by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (NASB) There are certain conditions placed on commanding anyone anything. I would need to recognize that in this situation (being a pastor, leader, or teacher) if I were to command anything, I should consider it as speaking on behalf of God. Yuck, that sounds cultic or mystic. Cultic would be trying to control others and using God as justification. Mystic would be claiming to have a direct line from God that others don’t. This is really serious business. I don’t want to be anything like that. Therefore, I need to make sure that whatever I command lines up with what God has already said.
I think the Lord provided a wonderful balance in this when He instructed Israel in Lev 19:11-17. In these verses, He gave a lot of don’ts that expand on the Ten Commandments. Things like not stealing, lying, swearing, slander, and doing other things. He also provided a couple of things to do that deal with this topic of commanding and teaching. In verse 15, He said I’m supposed to judge my neighbor fairly. If I’m to judge fairly then the only way to do that is to judge according to His standard and not my own. If I command someone to stop or start doing something, then I better have all the facts and not work from hearsay. In verse 17 He says, “You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him.” (NKJV) This came after commands not to be gossips or hate others in our hearts. So what must I do if my brother slanders another or gossips? I must rebuke him. This is a command and not an option. If I don’t rebuke the person, then I am participating in the sin by letting it go.

By the strength that God provides, not in my own strength, I should command others. When I do that, God will be glorified. Commanding others out of a sense of control and executing personal power over them is certainly not going to bring glory to God. Commanding others to do things contrary to God’s Word and claiming it is will not bring glory to God either.
Youthful Example

So Timothy was a young guy. Have you faced this kind of situation? An older Christian (both in terms of age and years as a Christian), one who certainly should know better, says or does something that is clearly out of line. What do you do? How can a person who is younger in both age and years as a Christian rebuke an elder? It’s even harder if the person is a pastor or an elder in your church. This is really hard to do. I would like to avoid conflict and just let it go.
However, this isn’t the instruction that Paul gives Timothy and I should follow the same example.  The way I’m living my life sets an example for all to see and can’t be denied. This is a putting practical advice to Jesus’ instruction in Matt 7:3-5 where He tells the hypocrites to remove the log from their own eye before helping other. If my speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity are all of good report, then the older person should note that and consider it when I approach him. If I’m not an example of holy living, then the rebuke, no matter how right, will probably fall on deaf ears.

There are some other things to remember when I have to rebuke my neighbor, whether he is older or not. Some people are simply not going to accept it. Unfortunately, some of us tend to think we have it all together and any rebuke is nothing more than criticism, my opinion verses his opinion. In this case, I have to remember some proverbs.
Prov 9:7-9 He who corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse, and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury. Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man and he will increase in learning. (RSV)

I need to face the fact that I may very well end up on the person’s bad side. If the person was being rebuked for slandering another, then he may very well hate and slander me after I attempted to rebuke him. On the other hand, if the person is a Christian, I will first of all believe that he is a wise man and will welcome the rebuke and become even wiser. With this confidence I will approach him but also be prepared to be ignored or worse.
Rebuke hurts. Hopefully, it is hurting because I’ve grieved the Holy Spirit and I’m feeling the pain of knowing that I’ve failed to bring glory to my Lord. When I’m rebuked, I pray that I’ll be able to handle it correctly by repentance and thanking the person who brought it to my attention.

No comments:

Post a Comment