Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Tuesday, 8 June 21:
2 Corinthians 13:9-11 – “Your restoration is what we pray for. For this reason I write these things while I am away from you, that when I come I may not have to be severe in my use of the authority that the Lord has given me for building up and not for tearing down. Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.”
As Christians, we are called to hold each other accountable, but accountability must be done for the right reasons, at the right time, in the right way, and with the right heart. The goal of accountability is reconciliation and restoration, to build up, not tear down. Sometimes rebukes are required, but rebukes must be done in the spirit, not in the flesh. The message to the one being rebuked must be God’s message, not yours.
- 2 Corinthians 5:18-20 — All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
Today, Paul says that we should first “examine” ourselves and our integrity in Christ before we step out as His messenger of reconciliation with a rebuke. (2 Corinthians 13:5, 6) Next, Paul points out that rebukes are preceded by genuine prayer for the other person, truly desiring their faithfulness and unity in Christ. (2 Corinthians 13:7)
“…not that we may appear to have met the test, but that you may do what is right, though we may seem to have failed.” (2 Corinthians 13:7) Then, Paul points out that rebukes shouldn’t be delivered in a proud, self-righteous or boastful way, nor should the one receiving the rebuke assume the messenger is being self-righteous or hypocritical. Rather, the rebuke should be given and received constructively with a spirit of trust and mutual support.
When being rebuked by a fellow Christian, receive the rebuke openly, and “test the spirits.” (1 John 4:1) Don’t go on the defensive and start pointing out the other person’s flaws – “we may have seemed to have failed.” (2 Corinthians 13:7) Assume their goal is to help you grow in Christ, and if the shoe fits…. We all sin and fall short of the glory of God, but God calls us to challenge one another, from our imperfect positions, and improve one another as iron sharpens iron. We should rejoice, not resent, when another Christian has gained enough strength to challenge our weakness – “For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong.” (2 Corinthians 13:9) Hopefully, when they are weak, you will have the strength to encourage them in Christ. Speak the truth in love, and have a correctable, teachable spirit — “Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.” (2 Corinthians 13:11)
“…I may not have to be severe in my use of the authority that the Lord has given me for building up and not for tearing down.” (2 Corinthians 13:10) Again, as ambassadors for Christ, we have been given the authority to rebuke, but for the sake of reconciliation (2 Corinthian 5:18-20), for building up, not tearing down. Before you offer “constructive” criticism, examine yourself, and check your true motives and intent. Make sure you are truly serving as Christ’s ambassador and not representing your own interests or opinions. And consider the impact of your words – will they be constructive or destructive? Don’t use the Bible to beat others down. The right words delivered at the wrong time or in the wrong way can be hurtful – “Like a thorn that goes up into the hand of a drunkard is a proverb in the mouth of fools.” (Proverbs 26:9)
“Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.” (2 Corinthians 13:11)
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 8 June 21: Listen, listen, listen, and show true love by speaking the truth in love. TLS – Teach, Learn, Smile.