When I read about Jeremiah, I sympathize with him. “Don’t punish him!” I shout at the people in the text. The prophet brings Truth. He has no ulterior motive, and he’s not even concerned for his own welfare (Jer 26:14-15). “He’s just passing along what God has spoken! Listen! Obey! Repent!” I plead. Don’t hold it against His humble servant!”
Maybe you, as I, have a dim view of the towns of Judah—their priests and prophets. “Don’t kill the messenger!” you cry along with me. You may shake your head at the clearly misguided mob in the book of Jeremiah.
And yet: What if I am “the mob?” What if the Truth is shown to me—spoken to me in love—and I respond with anger, indignation, rationalization, or even reject it altogether? What if I’m afraid to take responsibility for my sin? Do I protect my precious ego by attacking God’s conduit of correction? When my sister in Christ gently rebukes me, might I thank her outwardly but inside ruminate, “What makes her think she’s so perfect? Just the other day I saw her…” I may not raise a hand to harm her, but I do not receive her—and God’s—wisdom. I insist that she should “mind her own business,” and that “[insert sin here] is between me and my God.” And yet Proverbs reminds me: “Better is open rebuke than hidden love” (Prov 27:5).
We need trusted friends, brothers and sisters in Christ, advisers and mentors. The Body is created to both bolster and admonish, and we need to learn to accept admonition. But it’s painful, as all correction must be (Prov 12:1, Heb 12:11). How, then, can we withstand the pain of our sins exposed? Psalm 131 gives us a hint: “Put your hope in the LORD, both now and forevermore.” If my hope is in my spit-shined appearance, impeccable work ethic, and great moral compass, I’m doomed to be dashed and ashamed. If my hope is in Christ, His love for me and His direction in my life, I will never be ashamed. I will accept godly counsel and humble myself before a gracious, omnipotent God.
Heavenly Father, time after time I read Your Word as an ambivalent third party—a hypocrite who fails to see her sin. Reveal to me the power and necessity of your correction. Allow me to accept words spoken with Your glory and my spiritual health in mind (Psalm 141:5). When I am tempted to become defensive, teach me to hate my sin as You do and accept Christ’s sacrifice for my transgressions. May I perpend upon Your Truth.
Trinity School for Ministry