Ministry of Rebuke


Better is frank reproof, than love that will not speak, faithful are the wounds of a friend.
Proverbs 27:5-6


It is possible in our day that rebuke is going the way of the ten cent ice cream cone. The mood in society is against it. It's not nice, not politically correct or maybe you just have a problem with anger. I'm OK, you're OK.
This proverb sums up a great number of incidents found throughout the word of God, in which people in a caring community stood eye to eye, toe to toe, heart to heart, didn't run away, but administered candid rebuke.
A few years ago, an athlete went with the fellowship of Christian athletes down to Daytona Beach Florida. It was during spring break, and students from colleges and universities all over assemble at Daytona Beach to have a party, one long party, as part of spring break. One morning as this athlete was walking along the beach, he saw a college student standing with a blue sweatshirt on with his arms crossed in front of him. The athlete stopped and said, "Oh, uh...University of Virginia?" The guy somewhat sheepishly unfolded his arms and on the front of his sweatshirt was the slogan, HELP STAMP OUT VIRGINITY. The athlete shrugged his shoulders and started to walk away, and then the student, his conscience touched a bit said, "what's the matter man, don't you like it?" And the athlete stopped and said, "Well, it certainly caught my eye." He said, "you know, I've got a suggestion for you. When this week is over, I suggest you get that sweatshirt dry cleaned, and then put it in a plastic bag and hang it in your closet. You're a good looking guy and I'm sure that in the months to come you'll meet someone and get married, and you'll have children, and perhaps you'll have a daughter. And when that daughter of yours gets to be about 16 or 17 and she's about to go out on her first date, I'd suggest you take that sweatshirt from the closet and give it to her and urge her to wear it." The student responded, "Man, if my father had talked to me like that, I wouldn't have worn this thing.

Better is open rebuke than love that will not speak.

And yet it is often in the name of love that we remain silent. It is often because we feel that we care so deeply about the other person that we do not want to speak rebuke. But it may be that we do not care too much, it may be that we do not care enough. One difficult thing for a friend to do for a friend, is to administer reproof. Enemies do it far more easily. Enemies can be profuse in their compliments to you when they are talking face to face, but they can cut you behind your back. The Romans had a proverb that said, "For a man to be safe, he needs either a faithful friend, or a bitter enemy." because a faithful friend will admonish but a bitter enemy will criticize.
One thing is certain, love that will not speak, when it needs to speak, will make no moral difference in another persons life. And it is only love that can really do that well.

Rebuke is not the first word in a relationship, it's not the last word (or shouldn't be), it's not the only word, it is not the prevailing word, but at times for the sake of God, for the sake of love, it is a necessary word.

Father, thank you for the acceptance that we have enjoyed in a caring journeying community. For the touch and the embrace of love. For those who have seen our faults and have seen through our faults, to see our need. And thank you for those friends who, because they love us, at the right time and in the right way, spoke a word of rebuke. As a spiritual community that is not perfect, grant that we shall be supportive of one another, concerned for one another, and in those times when love and principle conflict or come together, may we speak the word of love that can make a moral difference in someone else's life.

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