I think, in theory at least, we can agree that being able to accept correction is a valuable skill. We might even be able to say we appreciate feedback and constructive criticism, or modestly say that we’re big enough to acknowledge our faults and change when needed.
But even though we can learn to appreciate criticism and correction that helps us improve, hearing such things isn’t always easy. In fact, I’m not sure it ever gets “easy,” though it can become easier. Most of us have a tendency to get defensive and feel some degree of resentment when people offer a critique or dare correct us. This is especially true if we haven’t asked for feedback but they offer it anyway. Such criticism might also pull us toward depression or make us feel like giving up.
As Christians, though, we’re suppose to be open to correction. Primarily, we have a duty to listen to correction from God, which comes through His word and His spirit. Godly correction can also come through people who are guided by the Lord. This sort of correction is often harder for us to hear because we might feel like other people haven’t any right to judge us.
Correction From The Lord
Before we get back to the topic of people correcting us, let’s talk about correction from God. If anyone has a right to tell us how to live our lives, it’s the one who created us, the universe, and the Laws that govern both. When we commit to following Him, we also commit to living our lives the way He tells us to and changing when/if He points out that we’re doing something wrong.
My son, don’t despise Yahweh’s discipline, neither be weary of his reproof: for whom Yahweh loves, he reproves; even as a father reproves the son in whom he delights. (Prov. 3:11-12, WEB)
We’re reminded of this truth in the New Testament as well, so we can’t make the mistake of thinking God stopped correcting people after Jesus died for our sins (Heb. 12:1-11). Jesus’s sacrifice makes reconciliation between God and man possible and saves us by grace. As we talked about in last week’s post, we’re supposed to let his salvation change us and actively bear good fruit in our lives. To that goal, which involves making us more like Him, God will continue to correct and instruct us.
Scripture and Brethren
The key way that God corrects and instructs us is through His Bible. We’re to use scripture to correct ourselves, and when we’re in the Word and listening for God’s guidance He also convicts us directly through His spirit.
Every Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:16-17, WEB)
We’re also supposed to accept correction when God uses other people to set us on the right path based on His word. This method of correction is easier to resent or ignore, because we can say that’s just their opinion and not really a message from God. But if someone is speaking from God’s word and under the inspiration of His spirit, then it isn’t really coming from them. It’s coming from God.
Listen, Don’t Resent
One of the primary responsibilities of those in teaching and ministry roles is to entreat other believers to follow God in truth. When we’re being taught things we agree with everything’s good. But when your pastor or an elder (or whatever name your church gives people in teaching positions) starts saying something you don’t like, then you need to pay close attention. If his teachings don’t line-up with God’s word you don’t follow it, of course, but if they are preaching faithfully from scripture then maybe they’re sharing a correction you need to hear. They could be following the instruction Paul gave Timothy:
I command you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at his appearing and his Kingdom: preach the word; be urgent in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with all patience and teaching. (2 Tim. 4:1-2, WEB)
If someone is faithfully attending “to reading, to exhortation, and to teaching” and listening to the Spirit of God, then God can use them to exhort, reprove, and correct us when we aren’t lined-up perfectly with His way of life (1 Tim. 4:13-16, WEB). We might resent it when “authority figures” in the church start correcting things that we or others are doing, but if they didn’t they would be neglecting a responsibility that God places on them (1 Tim. 4:6-7; 6:3-5; 2 Tim. 2:14-16, 23-26, Tit. 1:10-11; 3:9-11).
Learning To Love Correction
We need to pray for discernment to recognize when someone who’s correcting us is speaking from their own perspective (which may or may not be accurate) or speaking from God’s perspective (which is always right). To do that, though, we need to make sure we don’t automatically dismiss correction but instead consider it carefully and ask God to reveal what He wants us to see about ourselves.
I often wonder if the Bible passages that we least want to hear or which we don’t think relate to us are actually the ones that we most need. If we’re opposing or resent scripture-based teachings, then we need to set ourselves right with God and accept correction that aims toward making us like our heavenly Father.
Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid. (Prov. 12:1, WEB)
Solomon writes in Proverbs that we actually ought to love correction. We need to change our perception of correction and see it as a valuable thing. To refuse correction is to despise your own soul, but listening to it gains you understanding, knowledge, wisdom, and honor (Prov. 13:18; 15:32).
He is in the way of life who heeds correction, but he who forsakes reproof leads others astray. (Prov. 10:17, WEB)
Having a humble, teachable heart is an essential part of our Christian walk. We need to listen for God’s voice and accept correction that comes through His word and His spirit, whether inside us or through His people. May we all learn to love the correction that comes from God and not follow anyone (including ourselves) who would lead us away from how God wants us to live. Rather, let us listen to God and accept with thanksgiving correction that He gives to make us more like Him.
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