On the Value of Loving Rebuke

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I am convinced that one of the sweetest and most valuable expressions of God’s grace in the life of a Christian is that of good, godly, truthful friends. The second wisest man ever to have lived seemed to agree when he said: The sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel (Prov 27:9).

Some of the most beneficial conversations in my life have been the hardest conversations I have ever been a part of.  On many occasions throughout my life, it has taken the honest and loving rebuke of a good, godly, and truthful friend to help me see some way that I need to change; and nearly every time, what my friends have had to point out in my life have been things I would have never seen with my own two eyes.

This is a why the Scriptures speak so often of the value of loving rebuke and correction. Consider what God says about the value of truthful, loving rebuke…

Better is open rebuke than hidden love (Prov 27:5).

Whoever rebukes a man will afterward find more favor than he who flatters with his tongue (Prov 28:23).

Like a gold ring or an ornament of gold is a wise reprover to a listening ear (Prov 25:12).

It is better for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise than to hear the song of fools(Ecc 7:5).

The value of good, godly, loving rebuke is why David prayed to God and preached to his soul: Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it (Psa 141:5).

What’s the big point in all of these verses?  The point is that although it hurts, truthful and loving rebuke is something that all of us need.

We need rebuke, and yet seldom are we looking for it.

Our Troublesome Pattern

Some of us read the Bible, scanning it for all the things we like and overlooking all the things we don’t. We forget that two of the main things the Bible is good for, are “correction” and “rebuke” (2 Tim 3:16-17).

Some of us only become friends with people who will tell us what we want to hear and we run away from people who are willing to tell us the truth about the Lord and about ourselves.  We forget (or deliberately ignore) the fact that the wounds of a friend are faithful and the kisses on an enemy are filthy (Prov 27:6).

However, we all have blind spots, don’t we? This is why good, godly, truthful rebuke is so valuable. Without it we miss things about ourselves, things about God and things about others that we really need to see.

So, let me ask you: When was the last time you were rebuked or directly corrected and actually received the rebuke or correction as an act of love and as something that you need?  When were you last rebuked or corrected by someone regarding something significant and walked away respecting and appreciating that person more than before they gave their rebuke?

Do you have a friend who will hit you between the eyes when you need it? If not, you are really missing out. I would actually say that if you don’t have at least one friend like this, you don’t have one single true friend.

For some of us, the reason we don’t have any friends like this is because we simply don’t think we need friends like this. You get angry when someone confronts you or corrects you on the smallest of issues. You don’t want anyone getting up in your grill.  You have granted no one the right to correct you. You seem to think that the definition of wisdom is “freedom from the need of correction and rebuke.” Rebuke to you is like tofu to a cowboy.

Why We Need Truthful Friends

But here is the problem with that: You do not know everything and what you do know you do not always live according to.  You do not know everything there is to know about God.  You do not know the Bible as well as you should.  You do not know the hearts of other people. You do not have all the answers and if you think you do, then you are probably wrong on most of the answers you give. Think about all the things in the universe you do not know about. You don’t even know enough to know most of the things you do not know about.

Furthermore, much of the knowledge you do have, you do not live according to. Take the truth of God’s sovereignty, for example. Most Christians have some kind of confidence that God is in control. Yet, think of the last thing that made your heart rate rise, aside from exercise. Think of the last time you got really angry. Think about the last time you were stressed out. Even though you may know God is sovereign and in control, that knowledge doesn’t always work its way into your life, does it? This goes for all of us in many different ways. We often live very inconsistently with what we know to be true.

Consider also that your heart is plagued with sin and will lead you astray. Jeremiah, the prophet, spoke these words directly from God: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer 17:9). Following your heart actually gets you into trouble! Who’s going to help you keep that heart of yours in check?

So, Christian, humble yourself and let people in!  You’re certainly not any wiser for keeping them away. The difference between a foolish person and a wise person is not that one needs rebuke and the other doesn’t; it’s that the wise man receives rebuke humbly and changes his life according to it, and the foolish man rejects it (Prov 9:8; 19:25). It is no sign of wisdom to only have friends who agree with you at all times.

Perhaps you’re reading this, thinking: “I’d love to have a friend like that, but I have no idea where to start.” If that is you, I have a challenge for you.

Pick a friend that you would really like to grow closer with, go out to coffee or have him/her over for dinner one night and ask him/her: “Is there anything in my life that concerns you, or that you think needs to change?” The only way to develop a friendship like this is to open yourself up and be vulnerable. Keeping people on the outside doesn’t accomplish anything. That simple question may prove to be a great investment for your friendship, and your walk with Jesus.

The bottom line is simple.  You and I need rebuke. There are times, many times in our lives when the very thing we need is a good, godly, truthful friend to give it to us straight. Going without friends like this may keep us comfortable, but it will not help us grow. Sometimes we need our toes stepped on. Sometimes we need to be corrected. Sometimes, a pat on the back is the worst thing you could receive from a friend.

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Zach Putthoff

About Zach Putthoff

Originally from Tonganoxie, KS, Zach, serves as pastor for preaching at Shepherd's Community Church, in Lafayette, CO. He received his B.A. in Biblical Studies at the Moody Bible Institute and put in a few years of graduate level study in biblical counseling at The Master's University. Zach is happily married to his best friend Noelle, and has three awesome kids.