Jesus commands those who correct others to look within themselves and deal with their failings first. Then they will be able to correct more effectively.
I have heard many people use Jesus’ words “do not judge” as a parry to any exhortation or rebuke to their lifestyle. But that is not what Jesus said nor was that His intent (Luk 17:3). Again, I think Jesus is going after motive and purpose. If the accuser has the intent of condemning or retaliation, they are clearly in the wrong. But if their purpose is for correction and restoration then they are following the “love your brother as yourself” principle (Luk 6:31). Introspection is the key to correcting sin in another’s life (Gal 6:1). As we see the log in our own eye, we are far less likely to attack a person for their short comings. When we consider our own failings we come with a sense of humility and compassion. This does not mean we cannot be direct but it does mean we should tell the truth in love (Eph 4:15).
But what about matters of restitution and punishment? These are matters for the assembly, not the individual. Jesus clearly outlines in Matthew chapter 18 how an unrepentant member of the Family of God should be addressed. We first appeal to them as an individual (Mt 18:15). If that does not work, we are to go to the brother with two or three (Mt 18:16). If they are still unrepentant, we are to take them before the assembly (Mt 18:17). The assembly, not the individual, determines matters of restitution or punishment (1 Cor 6.1-8, Mt 18:17, denial of fellowship).
As Disciplemakers, we will be involved in correction, exhortation, and rebuke (2Ti 4:2). How we go about delivering the message is just as important as the message itself. Two ingredients help us tell the truth in love: humility (Phil 2.5-8) and restoration (Mt 18:15). Looking in the mirror and reviewing our own areas of sin should help us with our attitude and approach as we correct. The goal is always restoration, never retaliation or revenge (Rom 12.17-21). The process is meant to be helpful, not condemning.
Tips for correcting a disciple
· Pray (and pray some more)
· Know the circumstances
· Go to the source (third party triangles will always get you in trouble)
· Ask questions
· Don’t accuse
· Help them understand and own their failure
· Give examples of the infractions
· Share your own struggles in that particular area
· Use Scripture when appropriate
· Be gentle (Chuck Wood’s definition of gentleness: using only the amount of pressure to get the object to move)
· Pick your battles wisely
· Earn the right to be heard
· Use encouragement more often than correction
If you have other tips or passages on correction or rebuking, I’d love to hear them.