Words of Worth

Favor or Flatter

October 3, 2010

Have you been rebuked lately? Have you rebuked anyone recently?

Maybe you have been rebuked and found it agonizing to be on the receiving end of harsh feeling words. Perhaps you had to offer a rebuke and found it difficult on the giving end. We don’t even like to use the word “rebuke” in a sentence. It sounds painful and sort of ominous.

To be rebuked might mean I’ve done something wrong and if I don’t want anyone to point out my shortcomings or inconsistencies, I’m sure not going to do that to someone else. Basically, we just all want to get along. Otherwise, we might appear to be something even more dreadful: judgmental.

In relationships it seems we have moved toward the path of “least resistance” by guarding or tiptoeing with our words so as not to hurt feelings, but is this the most Godly way to be a true friend? A few years ago an acquaintance of mine and I realized we were becoming more than just “Hi, how are you?” pals. We were genuinely concerned about each other’s lives, we had common interests, and we both had a longing to walk the narrow path. She granted me permission to speak hard truth into her life. If she needed rebuking, I was the one to do it. Now she hasn’t needed any verbal reprimands but I have on occasion encouraged her by offering some thoughts regarding a wayward direction I saw her life taking. It was, in a sense, a rebuke. And because of the trust we had built and the purity of her heart, it was well received. Whew! (It still wasn’t easy – I’m a bit of a hedgehog when it comes to any sort of confrontation)

Proverbs 28:23 confirms the value of rebuking a friend in need of sound wisdom.

“He who rebukes a man will afterward find more favor than he who flatters with the tongue.”

Interestingly, the word flatter means to “divide”. When I gave that more thought, I could see that not offering a guiding word (in love) at the right time actually divides my own belief and witness. Refusing to rebuke might be interpreted as permission, which could lead to a later compromise in my own life. Not speaking truth in love can weaken the bond between the closest friends. Better to rebuke and afterward find the favor of a deeper relationship.

Looking for more words? Read Colossians 4:2-6 and Ephesians 2:14-16. Even though the word rebuke is not specifically mentioned here, how do these passages support the idea speaking truth in love? What will be the result for the body (church) of Christ?

%d bloggers like this: