Saturday, July 15, 2017

Private Confession and Rebuke

A great deal of tension in Christian congregations would be eased if we obeyed this plain command of Jesus: “Go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.” Instead of having the courage to face a person with his fault, frankly but privately, we whisper behind his back and poison other people’s minds against him. The whole atmosphere of the church becomes foul. The best way to open the windows and let in some fresh air is to do what our Lord commanded: to go and tell him his fault privately, and otherwise to keep our lips sealed.

 

The following excerpt is from Confess Your Sins, chapter two, “Private Confession (to an offended individual).”

So far we have concentrated on the injuries we have done to others; what about the injuries which others have done to us? The Bible declares that we have a duty in this matter too. We have to confess and make restitution to those we have wronged, that they may forgive us; we have also to seek to bring to repentance those who have wronged us, that we may forgive them. This is a widely neglected duty. Most of us are as irresponsible as Cain in imagining that we are not our brother’s keeper.

The obligation to administer a rebuke to sinners does not rest only upon prophets like John the Baptist (Lk 3:19) or Christian leaders like Timothy and Titus (1 Tm 5:20; 2 Tm 4:2; Ti 1:13; 2:15); it rests upon all Christian believers (Eph 5:11). It is a ministry on which much valuable teaching is given in the book of Proverbs. The contrast which is drawn in this book between the portraits of the wise man and the fool is particularly sharp in this matter.

It is characteristic of the “wise son” that he listens to instruction, admonition, and rebuke, and heeds them (13:1; 15:31). He knows that this is the way to “gain understanding” (15:32; 19:25). He realizes that the reprover rebukes him for his good, out of love for him, and that “better is open rebuke than hidden love” (27:5). He therefore prefers rebuke to flattery (28:23), and even loves the man who reproves him (9:8). The “mocker,” on the other hand, refuses to listen to rebuke, and both hates and insults the one who seeks to correct him (9:7,8; 13:1). He is as stupid to reject reproof as the wise man is prudent to welcome it (12:1; 15:15), for in refusing reproof he goes yet further astray (10:17). Indeed, “whoever remains stiff-necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed—without remedy” (29:1); and “the one who hates correction will die” (15:10).

This teaching in the book of Proverbs is concerned largely with how to receive reproof; Jesus taught us how to give it. One of his instructions, which is more commonly disregarded and disobeyed than others, is found in Matthew 18:15: “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.”

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