7 He that reproveth a scorner getteth to himself shame: and he that rebuketh a wicked man getteth himself a blot.
8 Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee: rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee.
9 Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning.
The way we receive correction, give correction, and respond to those who refuse correction are important things to consider as Christians.
How should we receive correction?
If we are doing something wrong or if someone is concerned about us in the faith, we should try to listen to the correction of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Sometimes we don’t want to hear it. Maybe we aren’t in a receptive mood at the moment, or maybe there was something about the delivery of the correction that was off-putting, so we shut out ears. Maybe we don’t think we were at fault, so we don’t pay any attention to what we are being told.
In any instance, I think it is always better to do our best to be receptive than it is to shut people out who care enough to correct us. It isn’t easy to correct people. If someone is willing to risk that uncomfortable conversation, we should love them for it and do our best to hear them.
What if someone approaches us in anger?
In these instances, we can gauge the situation and decide if we should handle the matter right away or ask to visit the situation when everyone is calm. If we have hurt someone, they have reason to be angry and we should offer a sympathetic word that lets the person know we hear them, and we want to make things right.
How should we give correction?
The scriptures teach us to offer correction in the spirit of meekness, which means we use restraint.
Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted (Galatians 6:1).
We should monitor our heart towards people. If we are feeling self-defensive, vengeful, afraid, or self-righteous, then we are not going to handle the matter in the most productive way.
It’s better if we can try to put ourselves into the shoes of the person we are approaching, so that we can find a place of compassion for them. How have we sinned in a similar way? How would we want to be treated if someone were to correct us?
It is always better if we deal with our own sin first, because that provides us with the insight and heart to help a person who struggles in like manner. This is what it means to “get the beam out of your own eye before removing a speck out of your brother’s eye.”
If we are blinded by our own sin, then that is not good. We are acting in hypocrisy and though we judge others, we really judge ourselves.
Judge not, that ye be not judged.For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again (Matthew 7:1-2).
Christians and unbelievers alike like to say, “judge not.” Jesus talked about judging righteous judgment. We are supposed to judge. We are supposed to rebuke, but we are supposed to do this in an effective way with a heart of love for others. It is not love to leave a person in sin and self destruction. To say judge not is a cop out from having a difficult conversation that we would rather not have. To say judge not is to love ourselves and not others.
Most things can be handled gently, but there are times for sharp words too. Sometimes you cannot sugar coat things. Sometimes you must be direct and firm. It depends on the severity of the matter and if the person we are talking to would benefit most from a direct and sharp approach.
What if no one else will speak up?
Sometimes people are too afraid to speak up, so you don’t know if you should. In these cases, we have to judge whether it is the person’s best interest to let the matter go or to speak up, even if we do so alone. Some people are enabled by others to continue in harmful patterns of behavior, and it is not love for us to join in that enabling.
In all things we seek Jesus, and He will direct us on how to best deal with others.
In all cases, we should think about how we would want to be treated and approach the person in like manner. For example, if we are doing something wrong, we appreciate it if a person talks to us directly instead of talking behind our back. See the next scripture.
What if someone doesn’t receive correction?
15 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.
16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.
17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.
18 Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven (Matthew 18:15-18).
If we have spoken to a person one-on-one and in the right spirit, and the person refuses to hear us, then we can get another witness to speak to the person also. When dealing with a brother or sister in Christ, the next step would be to tell the matter to the church. If the person continues to refuse correction, they are to be considered an unbeliever.
That is a stark reality, but I think most people would accept correction before it got to that point.
What if we do not belong to a church? As Christians, we should have some form of church even if we do not belong to an organized form of church. Maybe our church is other Christian friends or family members. In any case, we should try to offer ample opportunity for a person to turn away from their wrong-doing before we turn away from them.
Can we give up on people?
We do not have to continue with people forever. There is a time to walk away.
If a person refuses to be honest about their wrong doings, shifts blame, justifies themselves, or refuses mercy towards others while displaying entitlement towards receiving mercy for themselves, we are not bound to continued association with this person.
We can consider them an unbeliever, because a believer in Jesus will feel conviction of sin and repent. If they repent, we receive them back again and gladly, because we have regained our brother or sister in Christ.
In any case, even if we walk away, we should find peace by submitting the matter to Jesus, and we should try to hold hope for everyone.
What if an unbeliever refuses correction?
If a person who is not a Christian refuses correction, we can bring in another witness to the transgression. We can also setup interventions with loved ones for a person who is destroying themselves or others. We should always do our best to pull people out of the destructive things they do, but most importantly, we should lead them to Jesus.
Correction without leading to Jesus is not ideal, because if we correct without Jesus then we are little better than The Accuser.
Whether we are dealing with believers or unbelievers, pointing the person to Jesus is important. We lead them to His teachings if they are Christians, and if they are not then we lead them to the gospel.
Are there times when we should not give correction?
We can learn how to judge these things. Sometimes we know that the person who is doing wrong will not hear us but will only do us harm or harm others in retaliation.
Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you (Matthew 7:6).
Maybe we have enough experience with a certain person that we know our correction is not wanted. Maybe we consider the situation and decide that now isn’t the time because the person is not in the right mindset.
In all things, we can seek Jesus and try to do what is best, but we should not use this scripture to deceive ourselves as an excuse to avoid an unpleasant conversation.
This has been a long article, and there is a lot more we can consider. There are so many scenarios about receiving and giving correction, and we can reflect on times when we fell short. I know I have. When we make a mistake, we should try to make things right. If a person will not receive us after doing so, then let it go.
People tend to hold a double standard for forgiveness and mercy. They want it all for themselves but do not show it to others. Jesus warns against this. Those who do not show mercy are at risk of finding Jesus to be without mercy towards them.
If we are going to have double standards, let them be in favor of others and against ourselves, and Jesus will look favorably on us. We do not always deserve to be forgiven, but we should forgive others so long as they are honest, repentant, and strive to be gracious to others.
If not, we can consider the starker judgments we are authorized to make—always remembering that we are judged by the same judgments, so we should use caution and do our best to wield mercy instead. However, if we are honest about the harsher sides of being a Christian, there are times to wield judgment too.
Do you have thoughts about correction, mercy, and judgment? I’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment, send a message, or send an email if you want to chat.