Friday, September 27, 2013

Who Does She Think She Is?

Constructive criticism.  Advice. Reproof. Correction.  Instruction.  We have a lot of words, both Biblical and secular, to describe this process of correcting an erring sister. Yet despite all the language surrounding the issue, I wonder how much of it is actually going on?  Of course, if reproof is being done correctly, I would never know if someone else has been corrected because it would be private (Matthew 18:15).  Yet no one outside of my husband has ever taken me aside to reprove me, and I'm positive I've needed it through the years.  I'm inclined to believe that this kind of loving, patient correction has become rare in the church.

Rage face
It isn't hard to see why.  If I'm honest with myself, then I know that if someone did provide me with some reproof, my first thoughts would not be "Thank you for saving my soul from death" (James 5:20).   I would probably think "Mind your own business," "Don't judge me," or "Who does she think she is?"  While I don't want to project my sin onto others, I wonder if it is fear of that kind of response that keeps Christians from gently correcting their brothers and sisters? 

Why do we respond this way?  I expect it's because we don't like to feel foolish.  When someone else has to point out our sin, we feel stupid.  Like we should have seen the sin ourselves and corrected it before it became obvious to someone else.  When we feel foolish, we tend to lash out.  But the Proverbs tell us that if we don't listen to advice and heed reproof, we are being even more foolish! "The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But a wise man is he who listens to counsel" And "A fool rejects his father's discipline, But he who regards reproof is sensible" (Proverbs 10:8; 15:5).

Sensible and wise.  Those aren't exactly exciting adjectives.  They sound like words to describe Grandma.  It's hard for me to want to strive to be "sensible." So let's turn it around.  Instead of working to be sensible, perhaps I should try to avoid all the consequences that come from not taking advice and correction.  

Proverbs 10:17: He is on the path of life who heeds instruction, But he who ignores reproof goes astray. (NASB)  The English standard version actually says that one who ignores reproof leads others astray.   So which is it? According to the Hebrew, both meanings could be correct; both are used in the Bible depending on context. Many times in the Bible, one phrase actually does mean multiple things. I think that could be the case here.  One who ignores reproof not only goes astray herself, but can lead others astray as well. I've seen it happen.   I've seen the teenage girl who wants to do her own thing.   She won't listen to her parents correction, and she goes down the wrong path.  All while little sister watches.  Soon little sister is making the same mistakes. 

Proverbs 13:18: Poverty and shame will come to him who neglects discipline, But he who regards reproof will be honored. This scenario isn't hard to imagine.  If there's one thing I don't want to hear about, it's how to use "my" money.  We've been on the bad end of not taking money advice and suffering for it.  In fact, I'm thinking of some advice I've been given by multiple people about future spending that I may need to reconsider in light of these verses. 

Proverbs 15:10 Grievous punishment is for him who forsakes the way; He who hates reproof will die. If going astray, leading others astray, and poverty weren't scary enough, we see here that those who don't accept reproof are in for a worse fate.  Grievous punishment and death.  Not hard times, not discomfort.  Death. Maybe being "sensible" is not enough incentive to listen to advice and correction, but staying alive certainly is.

I've been guilty of lashing out when I'm corrected.  I want to change that, but how can I let people know that I want their advice now?  I think the best place to start may be to start asking for advice and even correction from my brothers and sisters in Christ.  Once they know that I genuinely want to hear what they have to say, perhaps they will be more likely to give me needed reproof when they see sin in my life.  I'm not suggesting I go forward during the invitation asking everyone in the building to come tell me all my sins.   But I do have close Christian friends whom I love and respect that I could talk to.  I bet you do too.

It will take practice.  It's hard to overcome a lifetime response of putting up a wall when someone corrects us.  Judging from what I've seen in the Proverbs and lived out in the lives of people around me,  accepting reproof well is a practice that will be well worth the effort. 
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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