Nobody likes to have their feathers ruffled. No, I’m not talking about actual feathers, although that’s probably also true. I’m talking about challenging the way somebody lives, acts, or thinks.
Early on in our marriage my wife and I decided to have what we called “grievance” conversations. It was our opportunity to talk openly with each other about things that frustrated us so that they wouldn’t still be frustrating us in twenty years. For instance, I can get a little frazzled when we don’t stick to a schedule, or when it looks like we might be a little late for something. My wife, however, is wonderfully relaxed about such things. But when I get tense, she feels tense. So it came up in a grievance chat.
Now this probably won’t surprise you, but when she brought it up I immediately took the defensive. “But this is who I am!”. As we talked it through, however, we came to the conclusion together that it wasn’t my desire to be timely that was bad, it was how I responded when things didn’t go the way I had planned. Really, my wife was offering a gentle rebuke against my sinful desire to be in control. Which of course I’m not.
I think no matter who you are, being rebuked (even gently) is never fun. And yet, when Paul speaks of the wonderful, life-giving, Word of God, he says that one of the things it is most useful for is rebuke.
You’ll probably have heard of 2 Timothy 3:16-17. It’s pretty famous. But it says this: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
“Training” I get; we’re being equipped for works of ministry! “Teaching” makes sense too; I certainly don’t know everything about God and His ways. Even “correction” I can understand; I’ve discovered many times that I’ve thought wrongly about God and needed to be set straight. But “rebuke”?! Being called out? Being challenged in the way I think or in the way I live?
Here’s what I’ve noticed about myself when I read the Bible. I often go looking for teaching and training, sometimes even for correction, but very rarely do I go looking for a rebuke. And yet Paul says this is critical in the equipping of any servant of God. Sin still clings to us, even after we’ve put our faith in Christ for salvation. So the Spirit of God works alongside the truth of the Word to sanctify us and make us more like Christ. This is a wonderful thing!
So here’s my encouragement to you. Take some time to think about the grace of God’s rebuke. That it is a wonderful gift from God that He would take time to work His righteousness into your character. And after you’ve given that some thought, try to give opportunity for the Word of God to rebuke you. Allow it to search through your blind spots and reveal your sin to you.
For instance, Philippians 4:6 tells us to, “not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Those two words, “with thanksgiving”, are for me a gentle rebuke when I find my prayers to be filled with requests for God’s help and not gratitude for the help He’s already given me. Or Romans 12:11 that calls us to, “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” Wow. I even needed that this morning as I write this article! How easy is it for us to lose our spiritual fervour in seeking after the Lord?
There are wonderful, meaningful, helpful rebukes to be found across the pages of Scripture. We’re just not prone to see them because rebuke is never comfortable and often we want to ignore it. But if we want to be thoroughly equipped for the work of ministry, then we’ll need a good rebuke now and then. So let’s receive the Word of God for all that it can do in our lives, even when it seems a little sharp.