Giving and receiving correction well are vitally important, because we’re sinners! We sin against others, and others sin against us. These skills are necessary in marriages, families, churches, businesses—really any group or organization—that involves relationships, so they can be strong and healthy. Here are reasons giving and receiving correction well is so important!
First, the Bible Has a Lot to Say About Giving and Receiving Correction Well
I often tell the church I pastor that God does not waste words in Scripture. When He is repetitive, it is for a reason. God does not use highlighting, italics, underlining, or bold for emphasis, but He does repeat Himself when He wants to ensure we do not miss something. Since there are so many verses in Scripture dealing with giving and receiving correction, this point alone tells us it’s important. Consider the following verses just from the Book of Proverbs:
- Proverbs 12:1 —Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates correction is stupid.
- Proverbs 15:5—A fool spurns a parent’s discipline, but whoever heeds correction shows prudence.
- Proverbs 17:10—A rebuke impresses a discerning person more than a hundred lashes a fool.
- Proverbs 19:20—Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise.
- Proverbs 19:25—Flog a mocker, and the simple will learn prudence; rebuke the discerning, and they will gain knowledge.
- Proverbs 21:11—When a mocker is punished, the simple gain wisdom; by paying attention to the wise they get knowledge.
- Proverbs 25:12—If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.
NOTE: There are more examples from Proverbs throughout the rest of the post.
Second, Giving Correction Fosters Spiritual Growth
Correction is vitally important to our maturity. Sanctification is the Holy Spirit convicting – or correcting – us about an area that needs to be more conformed into the image and likeness of Christ. Often the Holy Spirit will use people in our lives to accomplish this. Those close to us identify blind spots we’ve been unable to see. Whether it’s because of pride or ignorance, there are some issues in our lives that require the help of others to recognize the change that’s needed.
Sometimes we respond poorly by getting upset, making excuses, or trying to turn the tables on the other person. All this does is shortchange our spiritual growth. This is why the Bible places so much emphasis on the way we respond to correction. There are positive or negative consequences associated with the way we respond to correction:
- Proverbs 13:18—Poverty and shame will come to him who disdains correction (negative), but he who regards a rebuke will be honored (positive).
- Proverbs 15:10—Harsh discipline is for him who forsakes the way, and he who hates correction will die (negative).
- Proverbs 15:31-32—The ear that hears the rebukes of life will abide among the wise (positive). He who disdains instruction despises his own soul (negative), but he who heeds rebuke gets understanding (positive).
- Proverbs 29:1—He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck, will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy (negative).
Receiving Correction Well Is a Possible Evidence of Salvation
Someone close to me was engaging in habitual sin. At best I thought he was backslidden, but more than likely I assumed he wasn’t a Christian. I spoke with him about his sin, explaining that when people are saved, their lives shouldn’t be characterized by sin.
Then I waited for a response filled with hostility and/or excuses, probably the words, “Quit judging me!” Instead, he said, “Thank you so much. I needed to hear this. I don’t want to live this way anymore.” Over the following weeks the person repented and made appropriate changes, which served as an evidence of salvation.
Third, Giving Correction Allows Relationships to Develop
When correction can’t be given in a relationship, it’s almost impossible to move beyond a superficial level. Relationships that can’t discuss hurts or offenses are completely shallow. A real friendship – whether in a family or in the church – should be able to see either of the following take place:
- “You shouldn’t have _______” followed by the response, “Thank you for pointing that out to me.”
- “It hurt me when you _______” followed by the response, “I’m sorry for _______, will you please forgive me?”
A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.Proverbs 19:11
This only applies IF we can do what the verse says and overlook the offense. If we’re still angry about something weeks, months, or – sadly even – years later, we need to go to the person.
Unfortunately, for every situation like these two, the opposite also takes place. People don’t have the humility or spiritual maturity to receive correction well. I’ll be the first to say this has been the case in my life too. When we see how much emphasis Scripture places on receiving correction well, how much effort should we put forth to respond well? Instead of pride and humility, we should say, “Thank you for telling me. I’m sure this wasn’t easy. I’m glad you cared enough about me to talk to me about this weakness of mine.”
Fourth, Giving Correction Protects Against Bitterness
When people sin against us, it can create an offense. We have to talk to the person that upset us. The alternative allows bitterness to develop, and it can have far-reaching consequences:
Lest any root of bitterness spring up causing trouble, and by this many become defiled.Hebrews 12:15b
Nothing ruins relationships faster than having an offense but not going to the person that offended you. The hurt festers creating anger and hostility.
We treat people differently when we’re upset with them, perhaps even unknowingly. The person who offended us will say, “You seem different toward me. Did I do something wrong?” We should share how the person hurt us, but we quickly respond in a dishonest way, “No, everything is fine.” We didn’t even know our offense had caused such a noticeable difference in our actions.
Fifth, Giving Correction Is Loving
The world says love means letting people do whatever they want whether it is detrimental to them or anyone else. Disagreeing with someone’s choices or lifestyle makes you at best unloving, and at worst hateful. This logic demands sitting back silently while people make destructive decisions.
The Bible, on the other hand, points out the logical reality that love demands correcting people:
Do not correct a scoffer, lest he hate you; rebuke a wise man, and he will love you.Proverbs 9:8
He will love you, because he has the wisdom to recognize you have done him a favor.
David saw it as an act of love to be rebuked by someone:
Let the righteous strike me;Psalm 141:5
It shall be a kindness.
And let him rebuke me;
It shall be as excellent oil;
Let my head not refuse it.
David invited correction, because he knew how important it was if he was going to live a life fully committed to the Lord.
When someone is sinning, correcting is what a friend does. Silence – or worse encouragement – is what an enemy does:
Open rebuke is betterProverbs 27:5
Than love carefully concealed.
Faithful are the wounds of a friend,
But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.
Rebuking is better or more loving than “love” that remains silent when it should speak up. A true friend will hurt you at times. Someone who praises or compliments when a rebuke should take place is not just unloving, but is an enemy because of the selfishness of supporting or encouraging a destructive behavior. Here’s the same truth:
It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise,Ecclesiastes 7:5
Than for a man to hear the song of fools.
Comparing Ecclesiastes 7:5 with Proverbs 27:6 it is better to be wounded/rebuked by someone wise than kissed/sung to (or praised) by a fool/enemy.
A Biblical Example of a Loving Friend
Nathan the prophet was a faithful friend to David. When David’s son Adonijah rebelled against him, two of David’s closest friends – Joab and Abiathar – tragically joined him (1 Kings 1:7). Nathan stayed faithful to David though. He warned David about the betrayal through David’s wife Bathsheba (1 Kings 1:11-24).
Was this the greatest example of Nathan’s friendship? I don’t think so. I think the greatest example took place years earlier when Nathan confronted David about his sins of adultery and murder. David refused to repent. He tried to hide his sin, and for almost a year he had been able to do so. But then Nathan visited David and told him a story about a man who acted very wickedly. David didn’t know the story was about him. Nathan revealed the truth:
So David’s anger was greatly aroused against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this shall surely die! And he shall restore fourfold for the lamb, because he did this thing and because he had no pity.”2 Samuel 12:5-7
Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man!
When was Nathan a better friend to David? When he stood by David or when he confronted him about his sin? I would say when he confronted him, because that’s when Nathan risked the most, even his own life.
If you want to know who your real friends are, think of the people who have been honest with you even when they knew it would hurt. If you want to know the people who really love you, think of the people who corrected you even when they knew it might damage the relationship. Of the friends we have, these are the ones who love us enough to put our best interests ahead of even the friendship itself.
What About, “Judge Not, That You Be Not Judged”?
Second only to John 3:16, Matthew 7:1 might be the most well-known verse in Scripture, and the most misunderstood and misinterpreted. There are people who have never opened a Bible, but if they’re corrected they’re going to respond with Jesus’ words.
When Jessica Simpson received criticism from the Christian community she said:
It didn’t really surprise me because I grew up with a lot of that backlash. That’s why I didn’t end up going into the Christian music industry. I think that if they’re really good Christians the judgment wouldn’t be there.popdirt.com: Jessica Simpson Not Surprised By ‘Dukes’ Backlash
That pretty much sums up the attitude of many people. This is the mentality in the world, and unfortunately it can even be a mentality that creeps into the church.
Some people love to throw out Matthew 7:1 as though you can never say anything is wrong. But there is a real inconsistency – and even hypocrisy – with these people. Those who condemn others for judging do plenty of judging themselves. If you asked some of these people, “Is it wrong to murder, abuse children, or steal from others?” unless there is something wrong with them, they’re going to say, “Yes.” In answering in the affirmative they are judging.
You might be quick to say, “They’re only judging the action, not the person and that’s different!” Then imagine asking, “What do you think of Hitler, Stalin, Jeffrey Dahmer, or Charles Manson?” Are they going to say, “Who am I to judge? They were just following their hearts. I can’t say what they did was wrong. They were simply doing what they thought was right!” Again, they’re going to judge by recognizing the wicked actions of these people. The real irony is people who claim we shouldn’t judge get upset when others judge. They are judging people for judging.
People who criticize others for judging do plenty of judging themselves.
Scripture Commands Judging
A few verses after Matthew 7:1, in Matthew 7:15-20 Jesus discussed good and bad trees that represent people. Twice He says “you will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16, 20). The fruit represents the “produce” from a person’s life. The process of looking at fruit to determine whether it is good or bad is judging.
Consider these verses:
- Eight times in Matthew 23:13-29 Jesus said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees.” Each time this was followed by a condemnation – or judgment – of their actions.
- In John 7:24 Jesus said, “Judge with righteous judgment.”
- Philippians 3:2 says, “Beware of dogs [and] evil workers!” We can only obey this verse if we have judged some people to be dogs and evil workers.
- Titus 3:10 says, “Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition.” The only way a divisive man can be rejected is if his actions have been judged as divisive.
- 1 Corinthians 5 discusses a man who was in gross sexual immorality. In verse 3 Paul said, “[I] have already judged [the one] who has done this deed.” Paul had no problem telling the entire church he judged the man’s actions.
Judging Is a Sign of Maturity
Mature believers have the discernment to distinguish – or judge – between good and evil. Immature believers or unbelievers do not have the maturity to discern – or judge – between good and evil:
The mature…have their senses trained to discern good and evil.Hebrews 5:14
Mature Christians can discern – or judge – between good and evil.
Those who are spiritual judge all things.1 Corinthians 2:15
The word “spiritual” is synonymous with “mature.” These people evaluate everything around them:
- How many fathers wouldn’t judge a young man interested in their daughter?
- What parents don’t judge the actions of their children’s friends to determine if they should let their children play with them?
- Who doesn’t judge the behavior of people around them to determine whether they’re trustworthy?
And when we judge something is sin, we have a responsibility to correct that person.
- How do you respond when people correct you? Do you care enough about others to give them correction when it’s needed?
- Can you share a time you or someone else responded well to correction? Perhaps a time you or someone responded poorly?
- What steps can we take to make sure we receive correction well?
- Can you share about a time you were judged/corrected? How did you respond?
- Can you think of examples of judging harshly or incorrectly?