You and I are no strangers to fighting. Name-calling. Accusations. He said she said. And it’s outside the Church it’s not much worse! With that in mind, I have become concerned. Very concerned. Why does the Body of Christ rail against its members when we could rebuke instead? Are we not one body with many members?
A History Lesson
There was once an honest monk, seeking after the things of God. He joined the toughest order of monks: the Augustinians. And when sent on a trip to Rome, he came face to face with the Church’s abuse of power. So what did he do? He wrote down his concerns, nailed them to the door of his church, and hoped someone of consequence would take notice. That man was Martin Luther and he was one of the greatest reformers that ever lived. His rebukes to the Catholic Church sent shock waves throughout Christianity that we still feel today.
Luther was appalled by what he observed and sought to change it. But he did not rail. He didn’t accuse. He didn’t slander. Neither did he place all others who believed different than him in the category of not saved. He humbly, yet firmly sought to challenge them to truth. And although there are some aspects of Luther’s views that are not altogether savoury, we can still learn much from him.
The Angel’s Lead
Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, the Lord rebuke thee. (Jude 1:9 KJV)
The angels, the original sons of God (plural), who are more powerful than any human being ever to talk this earth, refused to rail against Satan, the accuser of the brethren and attempted usurper of the throne of the Most High. So where do we get off doing what the angels won’t even do to our brethren? Peter was abundantly thorough on the subject.
The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished: but chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, selfwilled, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities. Whereas angels, which are greater in power and might, bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord. But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption; and shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, as they that count it pleasure to riot in the day time.… (II Peter 2:9-12 KJV emphasis mine)
Because the Church is comprised of human beings, were are each proned to our individual imperfections. So when these “individual imperfections” start to get in the way, how do we handle them? We rebuke, NOT rail.
Disclaimer: 1 Timothy 5:1 tells us not to rebuke an older man so be careful who you rebuke!
I charge you…Preach the word….Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers… (II Timothy 4:1-3)
The Fivefold ministry is set up with the explicit purpose of governing the Church. Rebuking is a huge part of that. Slanderous accusations, character assassinations, and ignorant statements are not edifying. They’re divisive and destructive. And I think the Apostle Paul taught us best:
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. (I Corinthians 13:1-3)
To rebuke or rail? There is one deciding factor: love. If the agape love of God is your driving force, then you will rebuke your brother in truth and love. If not, you’ll rail against him with a loveless Word that kills. Love makes all the difference.