March 5th 2023
All Saints Crescent Beach
The Lenten Discipline of Seeking a rebuke (Proverbs 27:1-13)
By Rev. Dr. Ed Hird
Dreams are funny things. Last night I dreamt that I was doing substitute teaching, but left early without checking with the principal. Today, as I substitute teach for Bishop Peter, I will make sure not to check out early 😉
A great Lenten discipline can be to do prayer walking. As many of you know, I am in a Christian walking group that walks Mondays & Wednesdays on the White Rock Promenade and on Fridays at Crescent Beach. While we were walking, we discussed about President Eisenhower being raised JW before being converted to Christ by Billy Graham. Out of the blue, I saw two JWs standing by the Beecher street turnaround. I had a wonderful chance to share with them about Jesus being our Lord and God (John 20:28). We even chatted about the meaning of Proverbs 27, today’s passage.
I have a question for you related to today’s Proverbs teaching. What happens when politicians surround themselves with yes men? Have you ever noticed that it never ends well. What might happen if Putin or perhaps Canadian federal leaders surrounded themselves with people who could constructively disagree with them without losing their jobs or perhaps even their necks?
You may have noticed that those who always agree with us, those who celebrate our sinful, destructive behaviours, are not true friends. You will remember Bishop Peter’s excellent series on spiritual friendship. Genuine spiritual friends want the best for us. Real spiritual friends will even risk a friendship if it means saving us from destruction. Do you have a spiritual friend that you can trust to tell you the truth in love? Does anyone have permission to speak honestly into your life? Can any one disagree with you and even privately challenge you without losing your friendship? Without the rebuke of such spiritual friends, we can easily become dangerous, particularly if we are in positions of power.
Many Christians switch churches every time anyone gets close and speaks into their life. We are a culture on the run. So many even as Christians are in hiding, sometimes in plain view. Some husbands have been hiding from their wives for years, even when they are in the same room, perhaps hiding behind a newspaper, tv, cell phone, or video games. Instead of seeking, we are isolating and hiding from the Lord and one another.
Proverbs 18:1 says that “whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgement.” To isolate ourself against such friends robs us of life-giving wisdom. So many of us, even as Christ followers, are scared to death of vulnerability, of letting others speak into our lives. How many of you, as Proverbs 27:17 puts it, want iron to sharpen iron in your relationships?
You may remember when the prophet Nathan rebuked David after he killed Uriah. Who can forget Jesus rebuking his disciples in Matthew 18 when they bickered about who was the greatest? His rebuke was to show them a child. The least is the greatest. Jesus rebuked lovingly, kindly, and gently. Matthew 12:20 , quoting Isaiah 42, says of Jesus “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.” Jesus did not crush people with his words. Jesus’ rebuke is not rejection.
Be careful who you seek a rebuke or feedback from. Don’t go to gossips or bad tempered people to seek a rebuke. Go to someone who respects and loves you enough to tell you the truth.
You will also remember in Luke 9:56 when James & John, Zebedee’s sons of thunder, wanted to call fire down to destroy an unfriendly Samaritan village, and Jesus rebuked them. Jesus’ rebukes flipped everything on its head. Significantly, Jesus in Revelation 3:9 said to the Laodiceans, “As many as I love, I rebuke”. Proverbs 3:11-12 says: “Don’t resent his rebuke for the Lord disciplines those he loves.” Don’t harden your hearts to Jesus’ rebukes. When we receive his easier rebukes, then he won’t need to turn over our tables or rebuke us like he did when Peter forbid Jesus from going to the cross.
Proverbs 29:1 says that whoever remains stiff-necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed—without remedy.” How many of us have struggled with being stiff-necked? You may remember that the resurrected Jesus rebuked his disciples in Mark 16:14 for their slowness to belief and their hardness of heart. Has Jesus ever rebuked you? Do any of you want to share? (Pause)
Seeking a rebuke may feel very countercultural. We live in a cancel culture that so easily takes offense, and then cuts other people off. Have you ever felt like you have to walk on eggs shells around certain relatives or friends? What if we stopped resenting and despising other people’s advice? What if we admitted, as Proverbs 19:20 teaches, that we actually need their wisdom to live a more godly healthy life? No Christian is a solitary island. We need God’s family. Part of belonging to a Christian community is about learning about the Lenten discipline of seeking a rebuke. Titus 1:13 says that such rebukes will make us healthy and sound in the faith.
I first learned about seeking a rebuke from our first Anglican Coach Dr Gil Stieglitz who emphasized how key this was for husbands who want a healthy marriage. Gil suggested that for those who don’t like the biblical word ‘rebuke’, think of the word ‘feedback’. Ask your wife for feedback on how you can improve and grow. Your wife already knows what it will take. You just need to have the courage to ask her. If you non-defensively listen and apply her wisdom, you will be amazed how the intimacy in your marriage will increase.
As Proverbs 15:4 puts it, a Christlike rebuke, needs to be with a gentle tongue. Gentleness is a tree of life. Colossians 4:6 says that our speech needs to always be gracious and seasoned with salt. Galatians 6:1 calls us to restore people in a spirit of gentleness. 1 Peter 3:15 likewise calls us to gentleness and respect. 2 Timothy 2:25 speaks of gently instructing others. A Christ-centered rebuke is quietly and kindly spoken. It is not about yelling, accusing, or finger-wagging. The receiver would not necessarily realize that they had been rebuked. It is too easy to win an argument and lose the person. You will notice when Jesus rebuked and challenged people, he often used a question. You may remember Jesus’ probing question in Luke 9:41 when the disciples couldn’t heal the convulsing boy: “How long shall I stay with you and put up with you?” Have you ever noticed how patient Bishop Peter is with how slow we often are to get things? Have you noticed how from time to time, he will repeat key concepts like the importance of self-awareness, waiting for the penny to drop? Bishop Peter’s rebukes are very gentle. We often don’t even realize when Bishop Peter is rebuking us.
The most effective questions are not usually angry why questions, but rather observational who, what, where, when and how questions.
While doing my doctoral thesis, my professor asked me two breakthrough questions: Have you ever thought of including a glossary? Have you ever thought of including colour pie charts for my data results? On both occasions, I defensively deflected, saying that it wasn’t needed. The rebuke was a very gentle “you might want to think of it.” The gentleness stopped me in my tracks. Why was I so resistant? I decided to do both changes which became the two most complimented parts of my thesis.
Matthew 18:15 suggests that privacy is key, initially just between you and him alone. One of the most loving things anyone can do for you is tell you when you’re wrong. A true friend tells you the truth, even when it hurts. A loving friend will help you identify and remove any logs in your eyes.
How many of you love the Bible? Is it really only full of warm fuzzies? Have you ever heard this verse from Woke 3:16? “Thus says the Inclusive One, I’m ok and you’re OK and that’s Ok. Go and sin some more.”
2nd Timothy 3:16-17 however says “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (…)” Is it okay for the Bible to not only affirm us but also rebuke and correct us? As 2 Timothy 4:2 puts it, correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.
In our highly secular culture, we have lost sight that a Christ-like rebuke is an act of great love that may turn us back from a destructive path. How many of you have ever embraced a rebuke as a blessing?
How defensive are you? Can you welcome a rebuke? Are you willing to seek one from a trusted friend? It takes humility to receive a rebuke.
Proverbs 1:23, 10:17, & 15:10 both teach that correction and rebuke are actually the way to life.
Proverbs 5:12-14 tells us that those who spurn correction will soon be in serious trouble.
Proverbs 6:23 says that if we repent at God’s rebuke, He will pour out his spirit to us.
Proverbs 9:7-9 says that rebuking mockers is a waste of time because they will hatefully insult and abuse you. The wise however will love you when you rebuke them, and become even wiser and learned. How many of you today are willing to learn how to love being rebuked? This has to come through surrendering our will to the power of the Holy Spirit.
Proverbs 10:17 teaches that those who ignore the rebuke of correction will lead others astray from the way of life to death. Seeking a rebuke is actually a life and death Lenten discipline.
Proverbs 12:1 teaches that those who hate the rebuke of correction are stupid.
Proverbs 13:1 teaches that mockers do not respond to rebukes.
Proverbs 13:8 says whoever heeds the rebuke of correction receives honour. Few people make a positive correlation between seeking a rebuke and being honoured.
Proverbs 15:5 teaches that whoever heeds the rebuke of correction shows prudence.
Proverbs 15:32 teaches that those who disregard the rebuke of correction actually despise themselves. Self-hatred cripples us from becoming more self aware & Christlike.
Proverbs 17:10 teaches that a discerning person is actually impressed by a rebuke.
Proverbs 25:12 poetically tells us that like an earring of gold or an ornament of fine gold is the rebuke of a wise judge to a listening ear. Have we ever turned a deaf ear to God’s golden wisdom?
The book of Proverbs teaches again and again that the wise welcome a rebuke. Fools however despise reproof while welcoming flattery.
In this key passage of Proverbs 27:5-6, we are told that “Better is open rebuke than hidden love.
Some people deeply appreciate and value you, but they will never tell you. It is hidden love.
Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.”
The more open and honest, the more effective is the rebuke. Enemies wound you to hurt you. It takes a genuine friend to wound us in a way that heals and brings greater Christlikeness. A healthy rebuke is like healthy surgery.
Proverbs 28:23 teaches that “whoever rebukes a person will in the end gain favor rather than one who has a flattering tongue.” Flattery initially feels very pleasant. Proverbs 26:28 tells us that A lying tongue hates those it hurts, and a flattering mouth works ruin.
Proverbs 29:5 says that those who flatter their neighbors are spreading nets for their feet.
Romans 16:18 says that divisive people deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting with smooth talk and flattering words.
How many of you remember the unctuous clergy William Collins in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, who was always flattering and buttering up Lady Catherine De Bourgh?
The well-known evangelist DL Moody said that there are more people ruined by flattery than by telling them their faults. The Holy Spirit never flatters, but convicts us of sin, and that is the reason, said Moody, that many don’t like Him.
Psalm 141: says that for a righteous man to rebuke us is kindness like oil on our heads. How many of us today are willing to seek such a kind anointing?
Let us pray.
Proverbs 27:1-13 NIV https://bible.com/bible/111/pro.27.1-13.NIV
1. “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.
2. Let someone else praise you, and not your own mouth; an outsider, and not your own lips.
3. Stone is heavy and sand a burden, but a fool’s provocation is heavier than both.
4. Anger is cruel and fury overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?
5. Better is open rebuke than hidden love.
6. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.
7. One who is full loathes honey from the comb, but to the hungry even what is bitter tastes sweet.
8. Like a bird that flees its nest is anyone who flees from home.
9. Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice.
10. Do not forsake your friend or a friend of your family, and do not go to your relative’s house when disaster strikes you—
11. better a neighbor nearby than a relative far away. Be wise, my son, and bring joy to my heart; then I can answer anyone who treats me with contempt.
12. The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.
13. Take the garment of one who puts up security for a stranger; hold it in pledge if it is done for an outsider.”