Posted by: reformbama | September 12, 2013

The Death of Christian Rebuke


Rebuke – the word itself just sounds bad.  An onomatopoeia of sorts.  Go ahead, say it slow.  Ree-buuke. If “rebuke” was a photo it would be one of those old ones where nobody smiles.  If “rebuke” was a food it would be tofu. If “rebuke” was a sport it would be soccer (I couldn’t resist).  Being part of a generation that prefers gray over black and white has instilled in me a craving to somehow speed up rebuke’s slow death.  After all, who doesn’t want a world that is free from those who cast the first stone.  Yet…


There is something biblically beautiful about it for the believer.  Sure, it calls us to lay our cards on the table.  Yes, it can feel like a cosmic killjoy and overlord. Absolutely, it demands our will and desires bow in submission to authority.  And oddly, the more I understand about the redemptive work of Christ, well, the more refreshing it becomes.


A recent debacle occurred in my hometown involving a student minister whose followers literally numbered in the thousands.  Long story short, he was arrested for impersonating a police officer twice, running from the cops, and has since been ordered to undergo drug testing.  None of the aforementioned surprise me.  17 years of ministry has a way of desensitizing the “shock and awe” of co-laborer fall-out.  Matt Pitt wasn’t above it, I’m not above it, and you’re not above it.


What did catch my attention was how his disciples lit up social media with whole hearted support. #notperfectjustforgiven.  Post after post and tweet after tweet all touting the same type mantra:  No one has the right to judge!  Who can cast the first stone?  Stop condemning and start praying.


Our generation’s theology is frantically whittling the spear to pierce the side of Christian rebuke. Matthew 7:1 is lobbed in the air as careless as a toddler would toss a live grenade.  The cherry picking of verse 1, “Judge not, that you may be not judged” results in gross misinterpretation of Christ’s instruction. The context necessarily includes verse 2 through 5, which actually result in us “seeing clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”  Christians are indeed to stand for holiness when judgment of sinfulness is required.  Even an elementary reading of Scripture reveals rebuke not as a Biblical option but as a directive.


•  James 5:20 “whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.”


•  John 7:24 “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”


•  2 Tim 4:2 “…be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort”


•  Titus 1:13 “…rebuke them sharply that they may be sound in the faith”


•  1 Tim 5:20 “As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear.”


•  Luke 17:3 “Pay attention to yourselves!  If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.”


•  1 Cor 5:12 “For what have I to do with judging outsiders?  Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?  God judges those outside.  Purge the evil person from among you.”


•  2 Tim 2:24-26 “The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil,correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.”


•  Matt 18:15-17 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone…if he does not listen take one or two others with you…if he does not listen tell it to the church…if he does not listen let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”


While salvation was always meant to be individual, growth was designed to occur in community.  To “bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ” is a GOOD thing.  At this point, my fingers want to type statements like:

• but rebuke quickly becomes a self-righteous act

• but the rebuke I see is largely non-redemptive in focus

• but rebuke appears largely graceless from pious a** holes

• but rebuke comes across as sharks teaming up on the injured swimmer


However, my heart reminds me of countless individuals who have rebuked me in genuine Christian love resulting in personal repentance over the years.  I am thankful for a wife who calls me to repentance over exasperating my son.  I am thankful for a UPS co-worker who called out my grotesque lifestyle when I claimed to be a believer.  I am thankful for a family friend who challenged me in the way I was married more to the church than my wife.  The list is endless.


The last thing someone caught in blatant sin needs is senseless, careless, ill-thought out, instantaneous embrace propagated as grace.  The result is a skewed view of both man and God.  It is void of the Gospel and even void of the Biblical grace it desires to promote.  Love with out truth is not love.  There are at least four benefits I can think of that occur with Biblical rebuke (and please let me know if you see more as I am sure this will one day be a sermonette).


1.  Rebuke helps us see ourselves with accuracy.  Getting knocked off our prideful pedestals renews our need for, and joy in, the Gospel of Jesus Christ.


2.  Rebuke shines the light on potential dangers.  Evil doesn’t masquerade itself with horns and a pitchfork.  It is beautiful, shiny, compelling.  We are drawn to it like a gnat to one of those blue zappers.


3.  Rebuke is an act of love motivated by truth.  We are so prone to overly grant ourselves grace that sometimes we need our Antinomian license revoked.


4.  Rebuke is ultimately after God’s glory.  The chief end of man is not to glorify man, as our American delusions of grandeur would insist.  Rather, the chief end of man is to glorify God and rebuke restores that perspective.


Rebuke – the word itself still sounds bad but so does”regorafenib”.  And if you find yourself diagnosed with colon cancer it is the EXACT thing you need in the battle for healing.  Perhaps we need examine Christian rebuke, clean it up, and come in line with Scripture but the last thing we need to do is bury it.

By Troy Nicholson


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