You Can Take It, But Can You Dish It Out?
John 1 says that Jesus “was full of grace and truth.” Grace means, “I’m going to love you no matter what.” Truth means “I’m going to be honest with your no matter what.” Most of us tend toward one or the other. I would suggest grace with no truth has no backbone. Truth without grace is a relationship with no heart. One without the other is actually harmful. Jesus was the perfect combination of both. We need to be “grace givers” and “truth tellers.”
I think we are going to respect the “truth tellers” more at the end of our lives. They had the courage to say what we didn’t want to hear. They helped us to get past the blind spots in our lives. I think my prayer that our church would be a place where all experience both “grace” and “truth.” Grow into Christ-likeness. We hurt those we love by not saying something that might be hurtful. The relationship gets stuck and never grows beyond that.
So, how do we confront others that our relationship needs to go to another level?
- Don’t rebuke if you are not willing to be rebuked. Who likes to be rebuked? No one. We have fragile egos, but over the course of time, God gives me help in this area. The people who rebuke me are the people who are going to get me to the next level spiritually. I was praying in a chapel at college when someone touched my back and took a “kick me” sign off of my shoulders. I am not suggesting that you place a “kick me” sign on your back, but I want you to have a soft heart to being rebuked. How you handle criticism is key. What do you believe and what do you ignore? Erwin McManus said, “If the error of criticism does not pass through the filter of scripture, don’t let it pierce your heart. If it passes through the filter, then you can hear it and repent.” The moment we get past the point of receiving rebuke, we are in trouble. An intern on my staff rebuked me because he saw an area of my life where I was prideful. I remember how humbling it was. I was grateful for that. I had so much respect for this kid. I want to live and grow from exhortation and correction. If you are not ready to be rebuked, you are not in a place to rebuke others. James Houston said, “Mature individuals do not resent correction, for they identify more with their long-range selves that profit from correction than with the momentary self that is being advised.” What’s important is at the end of the day, I become teachable. Proverbs is filled with verses that encourage us to heed rebukes.
- Pray for someone before you rebuke him or her. If you’re not praying for them, your heart is not right. Rebuke without prayer is spiritual laziness. Prayer sets the context for you to speak into their lives. Jesus could confront Peter because he was praying for him. “Satan wants to sift you as wheat, but I have prayed for you…” What’s important here is we are focused on what we want to see changed in the other person. What I would suggest is to ask God “What would God want to change in my heart through this?” We were purchasing a coffee house and were having trouble with the zoning commission. Some neighbors were on the internet questioning our intentions and us. I was furious! Every time I got mad, I prayed for them. A couple of months later, I went to the hearing and saw those who opposed us. I was able to look my opponents in the eye, and greet them. One of those people is a regular customer at our coffee house. Thank God for this pressure valve called prayer. As I pray for others, I have a platform to speak into their lives.
- Don’t talk about them, talk to them. Gossip is spiritual laziness. It’s a cop-out. Talking behind someone’s back instead of talking to someone’s face is wrong. Jesus didn’t express his frustration about Peter to John. “Can you believe Peter?” Jesus queried. Of course He wouldn’t do that. Talking to their face is the right thing to do. We have a motto with our staff that states “don’t internalize, verbalize.” It’s a good model for home, marriage and family, too. As an employer, I want to hear your issues. Come and talk to me. I want to hear them, not about them from someone else. Gossip never gets to the source of the problem for a solution. God has called us to a higher level of integrity than that. I don’t know whom you might need to rebuke, but here’s a clue. Before you confront them, you might confess your gossip to them.
- Don’t rebuke harshly. 1 Timothy states that we should treat older men like fathers, younger men like brothers. Proverbs 18:19 states that if we don’t rebuke someone in the right spirit, their defense mechanisms are going to go up, and the “fortified city” will place a “dividing wall” between you and them. The relationship is destroyed. Pray that God will give you discernment. I need to discern the spirit behind the rebuke. Sometimes it’s a terrible use of words, but I discern that the spirit of the person is right. I can accept that and process that. We need to be humble and gentle in the way we treat one another. If you rebuke harshly, not one is going to win here. Galatians 6:1 says that a person caught up in sin should be restored gently. But watch yourself because you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens. I want to carry some of the burden with you. How can I help you? This is the right spirit for criticism. In this way, we fulfill the Law of Christ. When we are with extended family at holiday seasons, we must solve unresolved issues with loving honesty. God can give us a “word of knowledge” or wisdom. The Spirit of God can reveal something to your heart and give you the ability to speak into some loved one’s life in an encouraging and affirming way to build them up. Before I have a meeting with folks, I try to pray that God will make it a time that counts.
- Don’t rebuke hastily. Don’t have a license to “run over” people. Can’t wait to go home, pick up your phone and “here we go.” No! Make sure you are not reacting. Parent can do this when they discipline their children. Speaking the truth in jealousy, frustration or anger is different than speaking the truth in love. Mark Twain was almost as famous for his temper as for his books. He eventually learned to control his temper by “sleeping on it.” He’d write a scathing letter to his critic. He would put the letter on his fireplace mantle for three or four days. At the end of the fourth day, he re-read the letter. If he was still angry, he figured his anger was justified and he mailed it. If it weren’t justified, he’d throw the letter into the fire. The 24-hour rule is a good idea. Don’t rebuke people in the moment. Let your timing be sensitive to the Holy Spirit.
- Tell them what they are doing right before you tell them what they are doing wrong. If you aren’t offering them encouragement, you are missing the boat. Jesus called Peter the Rock first before he gave him a rebuke. Give ten words of encouragement for every rebuke.
- Share your own faults before pointing out theirs. If you want a transparent relationship with people, then you put “your stuff” on the table. If you aren’t transparent, don’t expect others to be.
How many of you are stuck behind blind spots or facades? No one’s ever loved you enough to speak into that part of your life? I pray that we’d be Christians who have the courage to confess. Don’t let the Enemy win a victory over you because you are dying in that secret place. I pray we’d have the courage to confront. We would have hearts open to correction, rebuke and exhortation and may we have the courage to speak that into other peoples’ lives. Revelation 3:19, Jesus says “those whom I love, I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.” Max Lucado said, “Jesus loves you the way you are, but He loves you too much to leave you that way.” God is committed to who you can become in Him!
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