"A refusal to correct is a refusal to love."
- Proverbs 13:24 MSG
When I was in my late teens and early twenties, I had a good friend who meant a lot to me. One day, she dropped by with a new boyfriend, and later that evening, she called to ask me what I thought of him. I remember saying something like, "He seems like a nice guy, but I don't believe he's right for you." Needless to say, she wasn't too thrilled with my response. Nevertheless, she married this young man, and they had two children. Eventually, their marriage began to unravel, and they ended up getting a divorce, which turned out to be a painfully messy one. Many times afterwards, my friend would say to me, "You were right about him, and I wish I had listened to you."
I've lived long enough to witness countless people I've cared about making devastating choices. They are some of the most painful experiences I've ever had. I began thinking about these things, and praying about them in earnest, after I read an email from a distressed mother this morning. This parent was frantic because her young daughter had begun spending time with a man she had met over the internet, a man who she knew could be real trouble for her child. I reminded this mother that she was not powerless. Besides keeping her daughter covered in prayer, she could issue some stern warnings, and even enforce some discipline, though her child was now a young adult. I assured her that if she took a firm stand against her daughter's actions, the Lord would honor her for it, and back her up somehow. Her attempts might not succeed, but then again, they might be the only thing that WILL succeed.
The Bible says, "A refusal to correct is a refusal to love." (Proverbs 13:24 MSG) God's definition of love, and ours, are very different. We often think that by doing our best not to offend others, or to hurt their feelings, we are showing our love for them. But in many cases, that's simply not true. When we see people we love heading for disaster in some way, we owe it to them to warn them. Jesus said, "Pay attention and always be on your guard [looking out for one another]. If your brother sins (misses the mark), solemnly tell him so and reprove him." (Luke 17:3 AMP) In God's eyes, we are "looking out for one another" when we confront others about their wrong behavior. And the Lord will reward us for it, even if our warnings go unheeded. Scripture says, "Blessings shall be showered on those who rebuke sin fearlessly." (Proverbs 24:25 TLB) On the other hand, if we refuse to care enough about someone the Lord wants us to confront, we may be held accountable for remaining silent. God's Word says, "Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in his guilt." (Leviticus 19:17 NIV)
What are some of the excuses we use not to do the right thing in these touchy situations? In some cases, we don't want to "rock the boat." We want to get along with everyone, keep the peace, and not start trouble. But the Bible says that in some cases, we might actually be causing more trouble by keeping silent. Proverbs 10:10 (NLT) says, "People who wink at wrong cause trouble, but a bold reproof promotes peace." The Message Bible puts it this way, "An evasive eye is a sign of trouble ahead, but an open, face-to-face meeting results in peace." There are times when, in order for us to be peacemakers, we need to do the hard work of confronting someone with their sinful behavior. Another excuse we use in these situations is that we don't want to lose or harm the relationship involved. But Proverbs 28:23 (NIV) says, "He who rebukes a man will in the end gain more favor than he who has a flattering tongue." When we are painfully honest with people, they may not always appreciate it at first, but in the long run, they will often respect us for it, and even be thankful for it.
The bottom line is this--in matters like these, we need to focus on pleasing God, and doing His will. We need to ask, "What would You have me do in this situation, Lord?" And we need to find out, not only what we should say to others, but when we should say it. As we sow seeds of love, concern, and correction in the lives of our loved ones--we will reap a heavenly harvest from a grateful and loving God!
Prayer: Lord, make me so sensitive and responsive to Your voice, that I'll know when to confront someone with their sinful behavior, and when to be silent. Teach me how to "speak the truth in love," and to always do so at the right time, and in the right way. (Ephesians 4:15) Thank You that as I follow Your lead in these matters, You will bless me with life-enriching relationships!
- J. M. Farro