We just wrapped up a fantastic seven-week study on church discipline here at Mililani Baptist Church. Now I might be somewhat biased since I’m the one who led out in the study, but I felt it was a profitable experience for all who attended. We were able to come together and discuss the important role that discipline plays in the life of the church.
One of the themes discussed in the class was the relationship between discipline and being a disciple. Part of what being a disciple entails is being someone who is open to receiving both instruction and correction. Most believers that I encounter are open to receiving instruction. They are willing and ready to be taught how to live Christ-like lives.
However, I have also learned that many believers, if not the majority, have a much harder time opening themselves up to correction. They are not as receptive to being confronted in their sin. The scary part is that those who aren’t open to receiving correction from other Christians are usually the worst at correcting others in a God-glorifying manner.
Here are a few suggestions this month on how to give and receive correction in a manner befitting a disciple of Jesus Christ:
- Build relationships with other believers in which correction is a normal part of those relationships. In other words, be accountable to one another. Proverbs 27:17 reminds us that iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. Christians can only truly grow in Christ-likeness when they allow others to hold them to a holy standard of living. It is easy to form relationships with people who only encourage and flatter us. Make sure though that you are also surrounding yourself with those willing to speak biblical truth into your life in order to address any sin behavior they might see. Yeah, it can be painful to have our sin pointed out to us, but it’s also a necessary part of Christian maturity.
- Give correction tenderly and lovingly. Make sure that whenever you speak truth into someone else’s life that you are doing it in love (Ephesians 4:15). I’ve known too many believers that have been wounded by the careless words of other Christians. I’ve also known many well-intentioned believers who tried to confront someone in sin, but they didn’t do so in a very loving way. If someone seeking to confront you in your sin has hurt you, the appropriate response isn’t to shy away from accountable relationships in the future, or to avoid correcting others in their sin. Instead, you should take that experience and use it to go about correctly holding others accountable in love. Paul encourages us in Galatians 6:1 to restore those caught in sin with a spirit of gentleness. Please take this advice to heart: If you cannot confront or correct someone with gentleness and love, then you are not the brother or sister in Christ that should be holding that individual accountable. Try not to correct others unless you have their best interest at heart.
- Make sure that you are receptive to correction before you start correcting others. If you yourself are the type of person that can receive correction without getting defensive, then you are more apt to give correction in a God-honoring way. If you are grateful when someone loves you enough to speak out about some sin that they see in your life, then you know that God can use you to help others with the sin in their lives. Those who have difficulty accepting correction themselves are typi- cally the ones who don’t excel when it comes to confronting others in love.
Are you accountable to other believers? Are you receptive to correction? If so, are you willing to correct others in love so that they can more clearly reflect Christ in their lives?