A while ago I wrote an article about Rob Bell and his stance on homosexuality. Rather than agreeing or disagreeing with him on this topic, I discussed ways to deal with people that we don’t agree with.
What do you do then?
Can’t we correct them somehow?
“Moreover, if your brother commits a sin against you, go and show him his fault — but privately, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won back your brother. If he doesn’t listen, take one or two others with you so that every accusation can be supported by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to hear them, tell the congregation; and if he refuses to listen even to the congregation, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax-collector.” (Matthew 18:15-17, CJB)
Let’s say that Rob Bell thinks that Batman is a giant wimp and Superman could beat him in a fight, any day of the week, twice on Sunday. How do I go about telling Rob the truth, that Batman is the best?
The first principle that we need when correcting anyone is proximity. You need to be close to the person that you are giving correction to. This could be argued to be the most important, and most lacking quality in telling anyone they are wrong. “…if your brother…”, Jesus is talking about someone that you have a relationship with, someone you are close to. This isn’t limiting your ring of correction to blood relatives, but recommends you know these people well.
Without proximity, without being physically and emotionally close to someone chances are that whatever you have to say, as true and as biblically accurate as it may be, will be going in one ear and out the other. This reality is seen on the Internet. Everyone telling everyone how they are right and how their truth is the best one, how Batman is better than Superman. As much as Rob Bell might think Superman is the greatest, my telling him how he is wrong, while living outside a northern Canadian city…it probably won’t register or matter on his radar all the way down in Los Angeles.
If you are going to correct someone, tell them who is the greatest superhero, or something of biblical and real life importance, you need to check your relationship with them. How close are you to them?
The second thing to keep in mind is, don’t be loud. Try to keep all your correcting down to a regular decibel level.
“..go and show him his fault – but privately…” says the Scriptures.
Correction is a delicate issue. Being told you are wrong can be humiliating. And sometimes what is being corrected is a big deal, bigger than Batman or Superman. It could be serious life choices or doctrinal opinions or a host of other things. This shouldn’t be flashed in front of people, but don’t blow a small mistake into a national crisis.
It should be said before moving onto number three that privately doesn’t mean that you do it alone. Sometimes you need to take someone with you to correct a friend. Jesus knew that sometimes just one person talking truth wasn’t going to do it. “If he doesn’t listen, take one or two others with you so that every accusation can be supported by the testimony of two or three witnesses.” When people don’t listen to the obvious truth, like Batman is better than Superman, having a friend or two there is beneficial. This is not to gang up on the person believing falsehoods, but for your support and for another voice expressing and explaining the truth. While Jesus doesn’t mention it, I would advise that the other person you may bring into a correcting instance be someone that is mutually respected by all parties. It makes rebuking or correcting an easier process.
The third and last principle for correcting someone when they are obviously wrong is the most important one. It is bigger than the whole issue. “…treat him as…a pagan or tax collector…”
This verse can be read two ways, the wrong way and the right way. The wrong way sounds like this. Treat the man that does not take correction like a tax collector or pagan. Treat them with contempt. Treat them with malice, hatred. Treat them as the outsiders and degenerates that they are. If you didn’t think of that when you read tax collector or pagan, you may not understand ancient cultures and how they thought of these two people groups.
The right way was the one way that Jesus was teaching not only here, but in all of his words and actions. Jesus called not only his disciples but all people to do more than hate and avoid those that did not receive correction or rebuke. He called them to love. Treat them like you would a tax collector or a pagan with love, with respect. Even though, they may believe that the Last Son of Krypton may be better than the only son of the Wayne family, treat them with mercy and grace. Don’t let their rejection of the truth stop you from treating them the way that God does, with unconditional love. Always.
When Jesus was asked what was the most important commandment, Jesus said first, Love God, and then secondly, with equal importance, Love one anyone.