It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise than for a man to hear the song of fools.
“I didn’t enjoy hearing it, but I really needed to hear what you told me. Thank you.” This was the response of a man whose boss had told him he wasn’t getting a promotion. His boss explained the reasons the man had been bypassed, and instead of reacting defensively, he listened, accepted the truth, and made changes in his life.
One of the chief marks of maturity is the ability- in fact, the desire- to hear correction. Far too often, we pursue friendships with people who tell us only what they think we want to hear. They tell us that we’re brilliant, gifted, and right, and if anybody(like a boss or a spouse) tries to correct us, our “friends” take our side and tell us we’re victims of injustice.
Nobody likes to hear correction, but think of it this way: when we’re sick, we take medicine to make us well. Only a fool would insist he doesn’t need it! In the same way, when our hearts are sick, we need the medicine of truth from a “wise physician of the soul” who speaks truth to us. If we listen, we take steps on the path of health and hope.
If what they’re saying about you is true, mend your ways. If it isn’t true, forget it and go on and serve the Lord.
H. A. Ironside
Two kings had failed and committed acts of sin and disobedience. Both of them were fortunate to have a prophet friend in their lives who cared enough for them that they were willing to take the risk and confront them with their wrong behaviors. In both cases the prophets exhibited selfless love for their king. Only someone who truly loves will risk a relationship by speaking corrective truth when it becomes necessary to do so. Anytime anyone speaks correction they risk the anger, resentment, and even the severing of the relationship. In the case of the two prophets they took the greater risk of losing their lives.
In the first case, we read about King Saul and his prophet friend, Samuel. It seems that Saul had received instructions through Samuel from God. He was to completely wipe out a city and to spare nothing including the animals. Off to battle he went and won a victory. Ignoring his instructions, he keeps the livestock and spares the king to bring home as trophies. I’m sure there was a celebration but in the middle of it Samuel comes. He confronts Saul by asking the meaning of the cows mooing and the sheep bleating and who was the stranger in the midst. Saul begins to make his excuse by saying the cattle were brought for a special sacrifice. He then blames the people for his actions, saying that they had pressured him to make the decision. The sparing of the king was excused away as a custom of the day. Everybody was to blame except Saul and that day saw the end of his kingdom and his close relationship with Samuel. I wonder what the outcome would have been had Saul acknowledged his failure and took responsibility and sought forgiveness. Instead he went immediately on the defensive and engaged in the blame game. How do you respond when someone brings something to your attention that needs correction? Do you deny, blame others, get angry with the person who brings it to your attention, or walk away and continue down the same path? Do you seek out those who will listen to “your side” and give you affirmation that your are the victim of being judged by the friend who loves you enough to offer correction? Do you insist that you’re right and they’re wrong? That’s how Saul responded and his life ended in disaster.
In the second case, we read about King David who had messed up royally- pun intended. Staying home from leading his men into battle, he became involved with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah. She became pregnant and David tried to cover it up, finally resorting to setting up the murder of her husband. Thinking he had got away with it, he went about life as though nothing was wrong. But Nathan the prophet, his friend, showed up unannounced and confronted David by telling him a story. It seems there were two farmers and one of them had a lot of sheep. The other only had one little lamb. When the first farmer had friends to dinner, instead of using one of his sheep, he took the little lamb. When David heard the story, he became angry and demanded to have the man brought to justice. And his friend Nathan pointed his finger at him and said, “You’re the thief.” What love and what courage Nathan exhibited for his friend King David. David’s response is amazing. He doesn’t excuse himself, he doesn’t blame anyone else, he doesn’t try to wriggle out of the accusation. Instead, he breaks and repents and confesses his sin. Nathan has to tell him that he will suffer the rest of his life as a consequence but he has received the forgiveness of God. God’s response to David is also amazing. Sure there was a price to pay, but because David received correction with a spirit of humility, his throne was established forever.
When we consider the two cases, they represent in a large way the things we experience as we go through life. We have a choice to make whenever those who care for us bring something to our attention that needs correction. We can respond like Saul, but if we do we will usually lose whatever we’re trying to hold on to. We may think that we can cover up our failures and bury them so deep no one will ever notice but scripture says that we can be sure our sins will find us out. We just think we can get away with our sins and never reap any consequences, but we’re fooling no one except ourselves. If we’re fortunate to have someone in our lives who cares enough to offer corrective advice, we are truly blessed. A spiritually mature person is one who recognizes that they aren’t right all the time and so they seek advice, counsel, and correction consistently. I don’t know about you but I need those people in my life so I don’t get off the path of righteousness.
I hope you have at least one person in your life and your relationship with them is so good they can call you out and even in the pain and embarrassment of the moment you can find the honesty to thank them for caring that much.
Those who surround us and agree with us all the time aren’t the best friends to have. As a matter of fact, they really don’t care for us. No true friend will let us continue with destructive behavior and remain silent. They will speak up and speak out for they care for us more than they fear rejection from us.
May I also mention that no parent who loves their child will shy away from speaking and when necessary enforcing needed behavior change. No boss will fail to correct an employee when it is necessary. No pastor will fail to speak truth and when necessary correction it they truly love the people church.
We often sing “What a friend we have in Jesus,” but never let us forget that this loving, caring, accepting Friend also corrects us, redirects us and changes our direction when we’re headed the wrong way.
I hope you have such a friend in your life.
Dr. John Thompson